Meet Tony at the Ministry of Information
House Host, Upton House & Gardens
Tony welcomes visitors to the Banking for Victory story in the 'Ministry of Information'. He gives a short overview of Upton's wartime role before visitors enter the house.
What's your role?
My main roles are House Host and Tour Guide, although I am also a volunteer recruiter and have helped with things like the children’s Cubs and Beavers ‘search and find’ evening in the gardens.
What are you involved with at the moment?
As part of the Upton 1940s theme I’ve been delivering one of the special evening Blackout tours. As an extension to the WW11 story I am putting together a piece on Shell Oil's role during the war and how it fits in with Upton, The Samuel Bank and Viscount Bearsted. When given as a "Spotlight on" talk in the Banking Hall it will, hopefully, add to our current story and demonstrate just how wide ranging Viscount Bearsted’s influence was in the war effort.
What made you want to start volunteering with the National Trust?
I have been a Trust member forever. For most of my life, history has been a passion, in particular people, what they did and why they did it. I love talking to anyone about anything historical, indeed there are many who would say, left to my own devices, I would talk forever! Volunteering with the Trust was an obvious decision and coming to Upton was an even better one.
What's the best part of volunteering?
For me volunteering is about talking to visitors, not only us talking about Upton but also listening to the visitors' many and varied experiences. The present 1940s theme presents opportunities for everyone to share their experiences with young and old alike to get the most out of their visit. If a visitor leaves the property having had an interesting and enjoyable visit and I have contributed in some small way to that then I go home happy.
What's your favourite part of Upton?
I think the Inglenook downstairs and, perhaps surprisingly, the bank staff sitting room. These convey the feeling that Upton was a much loved home and it easy to visualise the people relaxing in the big comfortable chairs with the newspaper and a little drink perhpas.
What's your favourite story about Upton?
My favourite story is the visit of James Lees-Milne to Upton when the house was being offered to the Trust. Lees-Milne was usually unforgivingly forthright in his opinions of the gentry he encountered on his visits to country houses being offered to the Trust. He described Lord and Lady Bearsted as "both charming, with the unassuming manners of the well bred". Those few words sum up the family, the house and the general atmosphere of Upton.
What do you do when you're not volunteering?
I am now retired having spent over 40 years in the manufacturing sector, the last 20 as a Finance Director. Finally I have some time to devote to my other passion, art. From early childhood I have always painted so in 2013 I joined the Stratford upon Avon Art Society and am now a member of the management committee.
What advice would you give anyone who is thinking about volunteering with the National Trust?
Stop thinking about it and do it!