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The History of Upton House & Country Park

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The Spurrier family

The land once known as Upton Estate was bought by William Spurrier, four times elected Mayor of Poole, on the back of the Newfoundland trade. He had always dreamed of building a mansion, but it was only when his son Christopher inherited the estate that that ambition began to be realised.

Upton House was built between 1816 and 1818 ‘at great expense’, with the east wing added in 1825. Christopher Spurrier even had the road running in front of the House diverted to enlarge the grounds, and to impress his father in law!

Christopher was a spendthrift and gambler, and he suffered with the decline of the Newfoundland trade. Despite aspirations for a seat in Parliament, his position as MP for Bridport in 1820 lasted less than 6 months and he was forced to mortgage Upton House.

In 1825, neglectful of his family life and business and with his marriage under strain, Christopher was forced to put Upton House up for auction and let go of many paintings to pay off his gambling debts. It is said he wagered and lost his last silver teapot on an impromptu maggot race!

Upton House was eventually sold to Sir Edward Doughty in 1828, whilst Christopher Spurrier died penniless in 1876.

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The Tichborne family

Edward Doughty, born Edward Tichborne, was part of one of the oldest and richest families in Hampshire. He inherited the wealth and estates of a cousin named Elizabeth Doughty, on condition that he took her surname in an attempt to continue the Doughty line. He therefore needed to purchase a fitting house and estate.

Edward and his family were devout Catholics and never very well known in Poole. He built Poole’s first Catholic church in West Quay Road (on the site of the RNLI building), so positioned that his wife was able to see it as she sat in the Drawing Room at Upton House (before the railway and trees got in the way!).

Edward’s nephew Roger Tichborne provided the drama for this part of Upton’s history! Roger spent school holidays at Upton, growing close to his cousin Kathryn. When Edward succeeded his brother as 9th Baron of Tichborne in 1845, the sale of Upton was a logical step, and with Roger next in line this could be done as soon as he came of age in 1850. However Roger declared his love for Upton House and his cousin to boot and refused to sign the sale, which resulted in Edward banning him from ever setting foot in Upton again.

In reaction to this, Roger prepared to sail to South America but disappeared, presumed drowned. In 1863, the 11th Baron of Tichborne was made bankrupt and Roger’s mother, who had refused to believe he was dead, began to advertise for news of him. She set in motion what became the famous Victorian legal case known as ‘the Tichborne Trials’, relating to the Tichborne Claimant, a man who appeared in 1866 claiming to be Roger.

By the time the trial finished (and the claimant been proven to be false) in February 1894, the Tichborne family had run up a huge debt. The Tichborne & Doughty Estates Act was passed to enable the Trustees to recover £92,000 of legal costs from the Upton estate.

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The Llewellin family

Upton House was sold to the Llewellin family in 1901 for £18,110. William Willis Llewellin arrived with his wife and three children from their home in Kent and began turning the estate around. They employed a large staff and one of their first changes was to convert the Catholic chapel into a Dining Room, still in place today.

Tragedy struck when William’s wife, Frances, was killed in a car accident in 1907, leaving William the sole parent of their children William, John Jestyn and Margaret Mary, then 17, 14 and 10 years old respectively. He remarried his first wife’s second cousin a year later.

John Llewellin had a career in Parliament, was made Baron Llewellin of Upton and the first Governor General of Rhodesia in 1953.

Margaret Llewellin was a Poole Councillor from 1937-1954 and became the first female Sheriff of Poole and the first female Mayor and Admiral of Poole in 1951.

In 1957, William Llewellin bequeathed the House and 55 acres of land to Poole Corporation (now Borough of Poole) and relocated to Bere Regis. Margaret eventually became the first chairman of the Friends of Upton Country Park.

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Borough of Poole & Prince Carol of Romania

Upton House had been bequeathed to the Borough of Poole, but it was a struggle to fund its upkeep, so the Council sought a tenant. Prince Carol of Romania took a 22 year lease with the agreement that he would maintain the House and grounds, but not before previous plans had been considered for a zoo, hospital land or golf course.

Prince Carol was a carpet salesman who spent the majority of his life trying to prove his legitimacy to the Romanian crown after his father’s name was left off his birth certificate. He lived in only 2 rooms of the House after finding it too expensive to maintain and his lease was ceased in 1969 after many problems. Prince Carol had carried out no maintenance over the 8 years he had lived in the property.

Upton House then laid empty for many years, and the grounds remained overgrown and neglected.

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Upton Country Park

The House and grounds were bequeathed to the Borough of Poole in 1957 - the documents relating to the gifting of the Estate can be found here.

Over the years Poole Council received many suggestions as to what could be done with Upton House and parkland, with public opinion weighted in favour of the people of Poole being allowed access to the grounds. It was therefore decided that the estate would open as a Country Park, a new and important leisure facility for Poole.

In February 1976, at a Public Meeting at the Municipal Buildings (Civic Centre) the Society of Poole Men proposed tThe Friends of Upton Country Park at www.uptoncountrypark.orghat a group be formed to represent all organisations and people with an interest in the Upton estate, now known as The Friends of Upton Country Park. Work initially involved the Friends in clearing the grounds of the newly opened Park, laying out paths and fencing off dangerous areas. They also provided Voluntary Wardens.

The grounds opened to the public in May 1976.

The House was first shown to the public in 1981, following installation of an electrical supply and the launch of the ‘Upton House Restoration Fund’ appeal.

The Friends of Upton Country Park registered as a Registered Charity in March 1976 and are active to this day, organising volunteers to run the Refreshment Kiosk and House Tours and holding regular shows and fairs to raise funds towards improvements large and small in the House and throughout the Park. The history and the work of the group can be found at www.uptoncountrypark.org