Lord and Lady Bearsted of Upton House and Gardens

Old Photograph of Lord and Lady Bearsted

The acquisition of Upton House in 1927 by Walter Samuel, the 2nd Viscount Bearsted, coincided with the Great Depression. Unemployment and deprivation ran high, not least in the local village. Lord Bearsted wrote to the local community announcing that “Any man who presents himself at my house at 9am on Monday morning shall find work there.” And so it was that the local community had an early taste of the fortune and philanthropy which characterised their new neighbour.

Fortune

His fortune, which came from his father, a co-founder of the Shell oil business, was fabulous by any measure.
 
It enabled the Lord and Lady enjoyment of a main London residence, a grouse moor estate, a holiday villa on the French Riviera and, of course, Upton, a place in which to house his large collection of art, entertain friends and enjoy Warwickshire’s hunting country.
 
 

Philanthropy

Lord and Lady Bearsted recognised that great wealth brought great responsibility. They both made regular and substantial donations to a range of charities from hospitals and children’s societies to seaman’s missions, from cancer charities to Jewish schools.
 
Walter gave the grounds surrounding his father’s estate in Kent to the people of Maidstone. Lady Bearsted supported the Bearsted Maternity Hospitals there (founded by the1st Viscount) with donations, and during the Second World War personally helped with supervision and management.
 
 

The consequences of war

The War formed the backdrop to Walter’s efforts on behalf of German Jews. Jews fleeing to Britain were expected to be independent of the state.
 
Wealthy Jews accepted the need to help their fellows, and Viscount Bearsted pledged more than £500,000 to the fund he helped create.
 
 
 

A love of art

Walter Samuel enjoyed art and created one of the nation's finest private collections of the 20th century. He acquired for personal satisfaction rather than ostentation, and the subject matter of his collection is a testament to his sympathy for people and his concern for the human condition.
 
Walter gave money to the National Art Collections Fund and donated paintings to national collections. He served as chairman of the board of trustees for the National Gallery and was a trustee at the Tate for a time as well as Chairman of the East End’s Whitechapel Gallery.
 
 

Empathy and acumen

Following his death in 1948, the New York Times obituary succinctly captured the man: “Rich in possessions, Lord Bearsted spent unostentatiously and wisely, and shrewd in his judgments he maintained a happy balance in his life between sympathy and recreation"
 
 

Share their zeal

Upton House and Garden still bear the stamps of both Lord and Lady Bearsted. Find out more about Walter's art collection and Dorothea's influence on the gardens on your visit.