February 29, 2020|Reports

“Uppark – Fire & Restoration” – Dr Bob France

Dr. Bob France was a welcome return speaker to Wickham History Society’s meeting on 25th February. Fifty five members and visitors saw some amazing before and after photos of Uppark, including many taken on 30th August 1989 when the fire took place.

Following the devastating fire of Notre Dame last year it was a depressing reminder of how many historic buildings have suffered terrible damage during renovation works. In Uppark’s case it was building contractors working on replacing lead on the roof using blow torches that caused the disaster and virtually the whole house burnt down. As it started during the day in the summer it was well recorded and photographed and much of the priceless furniture, porcelain and paintings were rescued. Bob didn’t tell us who the insurance company was that shouldered the multi million cost of restoring the house but we can imagine premiums rose sharply afterwards.

Uppark dates back to 1690 and its remarkable preservation was due to the marriage of Harry Fetherstonhaugh, aged 71 to the dairy kmaid, 20 year old Mary Ann Bullock. She, her sister and subsequent heirs maintained the house as a Georgian time capsule while so many other historic homes were remodelled in the Victorian period. The family still occupy the first floor.

Some good things did come out of the fire: one was a renaissance of the craft skills required to restore and recreate much of the damage which has continued to grow and develop in Britain; another was for one of our members, who found himself carrying out the largest roofing project in Europe at the time for the National Trust!

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