The H. G. Wells connection

Portrait of H. G. Wells as a young man

The famous science fiction writer H. G. Wells spent some of his youth at Uppark, after his mother became the new Housekeeper in 1880.

She wasn't entirely new to Uppark, having worked here before. As Sarah Neal she'd been a Lady's maid, but as it was frowned upon for servants to be in relationship, she'd resigned in 1853 so she could marry Joseph Wells, the gardener.

H. G. Wells' mother worked as a maid and housekeeper at Uppark
Photograph of H G Wells' mother, Sarah Wells
H. G. Wells' mother worked as a maid and housekeeper at Uppark

Their youngest son Herbert George, or Bertie, would later become the famous author H. G. Wells, but when Frances Fetherstonhaugh offered Sarah a job as Housekeeper, Bertie was allowed to stay with her at Uppark.

" During my mother's thirteen years' sway at Uppark, and thanks largely to the reliefs and opportunity that came to me through that brief interval of good fortune in her life, I had been able to do all sorts of things."
- H. G. Wells

He filled his days poring over books in Uppark's well-stocked library or star-gazing through his telescope from his attic bedroom. One year, bad weather forced him to find other means of entertainment.  He recalled: "there was a great snowstorm which snowed me up for nearly a fortnight, and I produced a daily newspaper of a facetious character, The Uppark Alarmist - on what was properly kitchen paper - and gave a shadow play to the maids and others, in a miniature theatre I made in the housekeeper's room."

However, it seemed his mother was not terribly well suited to her new position:

" She knew at least how a housekeeper should look, and assumed a lace cap, lace apron, black silk dress and all the rest of it, and she knew how a housekeeper should drive down to the tradespeople in Petersfield and take a glass of sherry when the account was settled."
- H. G. Wells

As time passed, the reality of the situation became obvious to others: "It dawned slowly upon Miss Fetherstonhaugh... it was manifest from the first to the very competent, if totally illiterate, head housemaid Old Ann, who gave herself her own orders more and more. The kitchen, the laundry, the pantry, with varying kindliness, apprehended this inefficiency in the housekeeper's room."

In fact, Mrs Wells' own diary revealed she did not enjoy her job. On December 6th 1892, she recorded:

" Today Duke of Connaught arrived. Oh, such a fuss and work, how I wish I was out of it."
- Sarah Wells, Housekeeper

Miss Fetherstonhaugh and Mrs Wells were increasingly regarded by H. G. as "two deaf old women at cross-purposes" and when "the rather sentimental affection between them evaporated," Mrs Wells was dismissed in 1892.