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Our work at Upton House and Gardens

The Adoration of the Magi (Triptych) and Christ before Pilate (Verso) attributed to Hieronymus Bosch being packed up to be sent out on loan, Upton House, Warwickshire
The Adoration of the Magi (Triptych) and Christ before Pilate (Verso) attributed to Hieronymus Bosch being packed up to be sent out on loan | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

We work hard to look after Upton House and Gardens and there's always a project on the go. Take a look at the work we do to look after this place for everyone, for ever.

Our work in the house

Conserving the collection

At Upton we use both remedial conservation and preventative conservation. When you visit you can find out why we put teasels on the chairs and why we don't use gloves when cleaning porcelain.

We protect artefacts in the house from irreversible damage from light and maintain the house as a welcoming home rather than a museum. There are five agents of decay that the collections and house team regularly look out for when undertaking conservation work:

  1. Dust and dirt: We dust robust surfaces daily with specialist equipment to reduce abrasion and have a cycle of deep cleaning year-round to remove dust from more delicate surfaces, and those out of easy reach.
  2. Wear and tear: Constant touching of the collection, even light touch, can build up, causing deterioration. Sometimes we have to protect the collection by removing the temptation to touch, such as prickly teasels on some of the chairs.
  3. Humidity: High humidity can encourage pests, mould, corrosion and swelling. We monitor the humidity in the house to keep it between recommended levels.
  4. Insects: Insects can cause a huge amount of damage to objects and to the fabric of the building. Quarterly monitoring of pest traps means we can keep on top of any outbreaks and hopefully prevent further damage.
  5. Light: We need to make sure we are protecting the collection from the negative effects of light. If we don’t, colour in textile will fade and the fabric will deteriorate, and some of the paintings are particularly vulnerable to damage from light.

Protecting the Picture Gallery

After a 13-month project the precious contents of the Picture Gallery are now protected from ultra-violet light and infrared radiation by high-tech roof glazing. Just as important, it is also weatherproof, unlike its predecessor.

The replaced roof light was designed for the squash court, which was the original purpose of this room. However, the original 1930s appearance was preserved, so to many eyes nothing will have changed – except for the better.

Please note: over the Christmas period from 11 November, the Picture Gallery is closed for conservation. During this time the main Christmas decoration display takes centre stage in the Entrance Hall, Dining Room, Long Gallery , Porcelain Lobby and Picture Room.

Volunteers working in the garden at Upton House, Warwickshire
Volunteers working in the garden at Upton House | © National Trust Images/Trevor Ray Hart

Our work in the garden

Managed seasonal rotation

A management scheme is in place in which the garden areas open rotate as they come into season. Throughout the winter and early spring, the visitor route follows hard pathways, which show off the best of the spring bulbs. During this time, visitors view other areas of the garden at a distance, which enables you to truly appreciate the structure of the plants.

In May, the flowering of the first early herbaceous border marks the start of opening the wider garden beyond the Winter Walk, including the herbaceous terraces and the Bog Garden; the cycles then continue across the year.

Between November and March, visits to the garden are via the Winter Walk, which includes the hard footpath alongside the Mirror Pool and track through the woodland. Because of the location on the edge of an Ice Age valley, and the steepness of the historic grass paths, the grass wears away and the clay soil becomes compacted and waterlogged. This has serious implications for the much-loved garden and visitor safety. The joy of the Winter Walk lies in the open views into the heart of the garden and to the surrounding countryside.

Restoring the garden

Upton's 12 acres require the attention of a handful of permanent gardeners and dozens of volunteer helpers. Although the imprints of previous owners over the centuries remain evident, the gardens are largely as they were in the 1930s when Kitty Lloyd-Jones redesigned them alongside input from the family, particularly Lady Bearsted.

An orchard, herbaceous borders, vegetable garden, bog garden, wild areas and extensive grassed areas all pose a variety of challenges which the garden team work hard to maintain.

Please note, you’ll find the garden looking rather different since the pandemic. For five months, during 2020, our Head Gardener managed the garden single-handedly whilst the rest of the team were furloughed or shielding, and our volunteers were asked to stay at home. The team are doing their best to get the work back on track, but it’s likely to be three to four years before the garden fully recovers.

Ranger chain sawing a wind damaged ash tree at Fontmell and Melbury Downs, Dorset
Managing ash dieback | © National Trust Images/Clive Whitbourn

Managing ash dieback

Ash dieback is a fungal disease called Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, that's having a devastating effect on the common ash, a UK native tree. They're part of the natural woodland planting throughout the property at Upton House and Gardens. There is evidence that most semi-mature trees less than 100 years old will die of the fungal disease, which is spore spread and windblown, so protection of the species is very limited.

Conserving the wider habitat in the gardens at Upton House includes monitoring the spread and effects of ash dieback. Close maintenance allows the team to ensure damage can be kept to a minimum, and the gardens can continue to be explored safely by visitors.

Thank you

With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.

The South Front of Upton House and Gardens, Warwickshire in summer


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