Experiencing the War years at National Trust Upton House

Going back to the war years at National Trust’s Upton House

The other weekend my best friend and her son came to visit.  We only see them about once or twice a year, so it’s always great to catch up.  The added bonus is that we have an immaculate house because I cleaned it from top to bottom the week before! They arrived on the Saturday and we wanted to get out somewhere nearby where the boys could run around.  We both have National Trust membership so decided to visit Upton House. 

Despite it being only a 5 minute drive from us, we’ve only ever been to the gardens while doing the Easter Egg trails.  This time we wanted to go in the house as well, because they now have the house set up as though it was war time.

Experiencing the War years at National Trust Upton House

As we drove up and parked, N got very excited.

‘Mama, I know where we are.  The sheep are down that way’ pointing down the side road.  Sometimes we have sheep on Upton Estate, and my brother in law sometimes helps them out with sheep buying and support, so N’s used to driving straight along the tradesman’s entrance.

We checked in and walked down towards the restaurant and out for a walk round the grounds before backing back round towards the house again.

sign to Upton House's Woodland adventure trail

The boys had a good old investigate of the sweet chestnuts, followed by some balancing at the start of the woodland trail.

looking at sweet chestnuts at Upton House
pondering the woodland walk

Then we headed via the orchard where they examined the apples on the ground.  Because N just walks as I generally ask, and is long past the moaning or dawdling stage (well, sometime he moans, but I can usually distract him with a time it’ll take before we finish), it was so funny to hear my friend suggesting they try and find the biggest windfalls to keep them entertained and from wandering off. Maybe I’m just slack and we talk about things, rather than always having physical challenges, although it’s probably something we should do more of.  Mostly though, N just finds his own things to do, or I point out items for him to look at and understand.

orchards at Upton House

The swimming pool was exciting for the boys.  Challenging to keep them away from diving in which N wanted to do, even though I told him that October probably wasn’t a good day for going outdoor swimming.

no swimming sign at Upton House
swimming pool at Upton House
doing the bottom wiggle dance instead of posing
One poser and one bottom wiggler!

Then down the paths to the kitchen garden where the vegetables and fruit were growing or not.  It was a little weeded over – something I’d probably never have noticed.  But my friend’s a bit of a gardener, so she was telling us about the various plants and pointing out things I’d not have noticed.

gardens at Upton House
pretty white bench at Upton house
red leaves of Autumn at Upton House
fluffy flowers at Upton House
hiding behind the bench at Upton

The Mirror Lake’s all been drained for winter repairs so it was looking a bit sad walking round it.  Seeing the Sunken Lawn was a draw for the boys and a bit of hill rolling, and chilling out.  N had a little shadow copying him.

hill rolling
copy cats on the sunken lawn at Upton House

We also investigated the wartime bunker, explaining to the boys why it would have been there, and wondering how cold it would have been.

relaxing in the air raid shelter at Upton House
hamper of supplies in the air raid shelter at Upton House

A walk zigzagging back up the hill to the house saw us with a couple of little superheroes.  I told N he’d have to carry his coat, so that was the solution which of course, O had to copy.

playing superheroes

The house is full of old masters and amazing art work, but we were interested in seeing Upton house as it would have been during the war.

Timeline of Upton House
checking the table at Upton House

Dust sheets, dormitories, typing pool and more, it really is interesting and brings history to life.  I really hated history at school.  I didn’t see the point, all we studied was what I thought was quite boring, the World Wars and Cold War.  I preferred the earlier kings and queens history.  But seeing how people actually lived and imagining what it would have been like for us in those days is so much more interesting than learning from a book.

chandelier light at Upton House
waste wanted at Upton House
wedding dresses at Upton House

I particularly loved the old version of recycling which N was quite taken with as well.

war time recycling at Upton House

The typing pool was interesting to try out – memories of me typing on my mum’s old manual typewriter I had.

the typing pool history at Upton House

Also something of interest was a  table of photos, showing weddings from Upton’s owners and occupiers through the years, right to the last few years.  It’s particularly of interest because being just round the corner, and having family farming connections, meant we’d been invited to one of the most recent wedding receptions a few years ago.  We couldn’t make it unfortunately, but the in laws said it was a really special occasion.

wartime videos from Upton House

The weirdest part was the silver bathroom.  It was a bit futuristic for the time, and looked like it had been Blue Petered. It provided us a few giggles, not really expected in such an old house.  A bit like putting a (badly done) blinged up bathroom from the noughties into a beautiful mansion.

toilet at Upton House
Not the comfiest toilet

Of course, a day trip out with little kids is never trouble free.  N was happy enough roaming around, but litle O was getting bored and wanting to play with one of N’s trains he’d brought with him.  His mum had words with him, and then I removed the train when he wouldn’t stop trying to put it on the wooden furniture.  Cue tears and tantrums despite trying to negotiate when he could have it back.  Obviously hitting the threenager stage, so we made a quick escape doing a quick look into the wine cellar, vault, and various other rooms under stairs on the way out.

I didn’t realise there was so much to see at Upton House, and there’s still more we didn’t see like the Squash Court gallery.

If you’re in the area, I’d recommend checking it out, especially if you’ve already got National Trust membership.

Do you have National Trust membership?  Where do you love to visit?

Check out these other days out ideas posts:

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  1. Oh this place looks amazing, my son would love it hear. Hadn’t heard of it before so thanks so much for sharing – this is going on my list of places to visit

    Laura x

  2. Gosh! You visit some stunning places hun.
    Love the photos too. Funny enough I was talking to my mum earlier today about the war time as we noticed poppies have started coming out.
    Great post as always sugar
    Charlotte x

    1. Aw thanks Charlotte. We’re so lucky there’s some lovely places near us.

      I must buy a couple of poppies this year. I keep walking past the box at work.

  3. What a great exhibition! We got National Trust membership this year and it has been one of the best buys, our boys aren’t old enough to go round the houses yet (without making me panic anyway!) but I love how many different events and exhibitions they put on now. The grounds are always great to explore though and looks like the boys enjoyed it, very sweet that he has a little shadow. Such a great way for N to see a bit of history, like you say always so much more engaging that just reading a book. #countrykids

    1. I love our membership as well, although it’s going to get more expensive next year when N turns 5 and I need to cover him as well. It’s great that NT are making their sites much more accessible to younger children as well.

  4. I’d love to get a NT membership. I love looking around old country estates. I especially like that they have showed it how it would be during wartime, quite often the houses are all very alike inside and it doesn’t engage the kids. I love all the interiors but if the kids are bored we have to speed through and miss what I want to see.

  5. National Trust are experts in bringing history to life I think – we are members and our cards are very well used! We stayed in Scotland over half term and visited Culzean castle and Robert Burns museum – both NT and highly recommended.

    I love the quirky no swimming sign!

  6. What a fantastic place – the gardens look lovely and my older children would love the bunker, and all the war stuff. They are both doing it at school and are really interested in what it was like living then. Kaz x

  7. Looks like you had a great day, I love National Trust properties and grounds and they always have something going on for the kids during holidays x

  8. What a fabulous day out for you all, it’s great that you got to visit somewhere you and N hadn’t really explored before. It’s funny how as soon as you have guests you get to become a tourist in your own local area isn’t it? N and O look like they enjoyed most of their day together, it’s a shame that you had to cut your trip short though. I’m sure exploring Upton House as if it were the war was a great way for the boys to learn a bit more about that era, bringing history to life always makes it more interesting for them. Thanks for linking up with me on Country Kids.

  9. So interesting to see the house set up as it would have been during wartime and a wonderful way of helping to make history come alive – like you, I never found history particularly interesting at school but since leaving school I’ve developed much more of an interest thanks to books and visiting places that have really helped it to come alive. Looks like the two boys had a lot of fun together – love the superhero photo and the little bottom wriggler one! 🙂

  10. It is a great way to bring history alive. Always love it when they include the stories of every day people of the time and not just the headlines of the period. Great place to have so near to you. #CountryKids

  11. This looks a great day out, I, like you, love learning history in this way, it makes it much more engaging. Have never been in an air raid shelter that’s not derelict – that must have been really interesting! #CountryKids

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