Upton recreates bank that beat the Blitz

The double terrace and balustrade, and the garden in front of Upton House, Warwickshire

The clock has gone back to 1939 at Upton House where visitors can discover what life was like when the historic mansion was a wartime bank. The Bearsteds moved their family-owned city bank into their country home for the duration of the Second World War.

Driven by the need to protect bank staff and key assets from the worst of the London air raids, the Bearsteds moved merchant bank M. Samuel & Co to the safety of the Warwickshire countryside when war was declared. The family moved out and 22 bank staff took over the elegant house.

Reimagining life at the country house bank

To mark 70 years since the end of the Second World War, staff and volunteers have presented a compelling picture of what life was like at the Upton House bank. Bank staff slept in shared dormitories and ate meals of rook pie in the Long Gallery, while secretaries typed surrounded by treasured works of art.
Twelve rooms have been recreated with their wartime look thanks to historical research by 80 of Upton House’s volunteers.
Thousands of original objects, from ration-book toothpaste to wartime toilet rolls, were sourced to create an authentic 1940s feel alongside period fashions and interior styling.
'The war provides the backdrop for the story of how a group of ordinary people from London came to live and work in this most extraordinary of settings,’ says Rachael O’Connor-Boyd, house and collections manager.
'We’ve researched and used their own words, and those of the family, to bring this remarkable story to life.’

Threats from the skies

The wartime atmosphere continues outside with sand bags piled up and an Anderson shelter in the garden, while heritage vegetables are being grown in an allotment. During the war land girls tended the gardens and lived in the stables while armed servicemen guarded prisoners of war working in the grounds.
By 1941, when an airfield was built near to Upton House, Lord Bearsted no longer felt that his painting collection was safe. As part of the bank recreation, visitors will discover how 40 of the most precious art works were sent to a special storage facility in a Welsh slate mine with the National Gallery collection.
‘We’ve tried to capture the intrigue, ingenuity, courage and classic make-do-and-mend that characterized this fascinating moment in Upton House’s past,’ says Rachael. ‘We hope all our visitors will enjoy this journey back in time.’
Upton House will be banking for victory until late 2016. Entry to the house is by timed tickets (visits to the gardens aren’t timed) available at reception or online.

More places we look after with links to banking:

  • Peckover House and Garden – purchased by Quaker banker Jonathan Peckover in the 1790s
  • Nymans – purchased by banker Ludwig Messel in 1890
  • Berrington Hall – estate purchased by the banker Thomas Harley in around 1775, he commissioned Henry Holland to design him a new house
  • Blaise Hamlet – designed by John Nash on the Blaise Castle Estate purchased by Quaker banker John Scandrett Harford in 1789
  • Mussenden Temple – built in the 1780s as a gift for Frideswide Bruce when she married banker Daniel Mussenden
  • Newark Park – purchased by cloth merchant and banker James Clutterback in 1769
  • Stourhead – house and gardens created by the founders of Hoare's Bank in the 18th century