Uppark is a late seventeenth century house on the South Downs. It was built around 1690 by Ford Grey, a shady character who was charged with treason for supporting the Monmouth rebellion against James II. He survived, and was made Earl of Tankerville by William III, who was brought in by Parliament to replace James II. In 1747 the house was sold to the Featherstonehaugh family. This wealthy family filled Uppark with treasures gathered on their travels, and hired Humphrey Repton to improve both the house and gardens.
Ironically, however, Uppark's main claim to fame lies not with the rich aristocrats who lived here, but with a housekeeper named Sarah Wells. Sarah was mother of writer H.G. Wells, who worked as a member of Uppark's domestic staff from 1880 until 1893. She took this work to provide an income for her family, after her husband Joseph Wells broke his leg and could no longer work as a professional cricketer. Sarah's clever son Herbert was forced to leave school and go into a series of menial jobs, a situation he bitterly resented. Sometimes he would visit his mother at Uppark, and wander round the estate. He was free to use the library, and embarked on a relentless programme of self education here. Uppark was important in forming Wells' political views. He seemed to love Uppark's beauty, but felt deep resentment that it was reserved for so few.
Uppark appears as Bladesover in Wells' novel Tonio Bungay. Details of life at Uppark are also reflected in what is usually considered Wells' best book, The Time Machine. At Uppark the fortunate aristocracy lived above ground in a beautiful house. The servants, Sarah Wells amongst them, had quarters below ground. This situation is reflected in the world of The Time Machine where the aristocracy have evolved into gentle, child-like indolent Eloi, who live above ground in a park. The servants meanwhile have evolved into light hating Morlocks who live below ground, and use the passive Eloi as food. Ventilation shafts link upper and lower worlds in the novel, just as ventilation shafts link upper and lower levels at Uppark. The ventilation shafts which Wells saw as a boy can be viewed in tunnels that run between Uppark's dairy and stables, restaurant and shop. There are three shafts where the corridors meet, and two more on each corridor leading away from the central meeting point. Down here you will also see a number of dark bat roosts and beer cellars, giving a sense of what may have inspired the vision of the Morlock's world.
H.G. Wells foresaw the danger of widening social divides. Since his lifetime that gap has narrowed. H.G. Wells would have approved of the fact that Uppark is now owned by the National Trust and can be enjoyed by anyone.
Address: Uppark House and Garden, South Harting, Petersfield, West Sussex GU31 5QR
Opening Times: Opening hours for National Trust properties can be complex. Please use contact details below.
Directions: Uppark is five miles south east of Petersfield, West Sussex on the B2146. Click here for an interactive road and satellite map centred on Uppark.
Access: Wheelchair access is good, with ramped access to the ground floor, and a lift serving the upper floor. There is an adapted toilet near the car park. The shop and tearoom are also accessible. There are some steep slopes and steps in the grounds.
telephone: 01730 825415
infoline: 01730 825857