Park entrance gates

The Friends of Upton Country Park

Helping protect, improve & promote

History & Achievements

The Friends of Upton Country Park group was established in May 1976, at the same time as the Country Park (then known as Upton Park) officially opened to the public.

The group is a Registered Charity supporting the running of the House and grounds, and has contributed considerable sums in terms of funds and effort since the very beginning of the estate’s life as one of Poole’s largest and best-loved public open spaces. 

Our story dates back to events in 1957, when Poole Corporation (now BCP Council) acquired Upton House and 55 acres of land from the Llewellin family under a Deed of Gift. The council found themselves with a large estate and no maintenance fund to assist with its upkeep just 12 years after the end of the second World War. Money was scarce, so a tenant was sought, and in 1961 it was let on a 22 year Lease to Prince Carol of Hohenzollern and Romania [more at our History pages]. It was not a success and the Lease was surrendered early, in 1969. 

The council was presented with various suggestions for use of the Estate, virtually all of which would have excluded the public from the parklands. Public opinion voiced through the local press expressed the hope that the people of Poole could have access to the grounds for enjoyment by a fast growing local community, and the council saw the sense in creating a park as a leisure amenity. There were issues, however, not least of which was the access by road – the old A35 was positively dangerous and it was decided no public access could be contemplated until the proposed Upton Bypass had been built.

The parklands, now totally overgrown, deteriorated further over the next few years. Upton House was made safe and weather tight, but mothballed (it remained empty, without heat or lighting, until 1983).

The Upton Bypass was completed in 1975, when we take up our timeline of progress:

1975 - 2020 A timeline of works & renovation

Feb 1976At a Public Meeting at the Municipal Buildings (Civic Centre) chaired by Cllr Stanley Pearce the Society of Poole Men suggest formation of an organisation to represent all organisations and people with an interest in the Upton Estate, under title "Friends of Upton Park", and offers to convene an inaugural meeting.
Mar 1976The Inaugural Meeting is held on 4th March during which it is Resolved that the "Friends of Upton Park" be formed and registered as a Charity. A Special General Meeting is held on 8th March with two Patrons, four Group and 12 Individual Members, nominating 10 people to an Executive.
Miss Margaret Mary Llewellin, sister to Lord Llewellin, becomes the first President of The Friends of Upton Park.
The council offer use of the Morning Room in the House for Voluntary Wardens, accessed from without as all internal doors are at this time nailed shut.
May 1976Upton Park is officially opened to the public on 15th May.
1976 - 1978 as the Friends of Upton Park
May 1976The first meeting of the Executive Committee held at the Municipal Buildings, Poole on 12th May, reports that the Friends group now has 3 patrons, 9 Group and 31 Individual Members.
The Duties of Friends are to provide Voluntary Wardens to patrol the parklands assisting the general public and giving advice, and keeping a watch on the car park.
To generate funds a Nature Trail leaflet is sold at 5p, and an Honesty Box is erected on a pole in the car park on 9th June 1976.
Sept 1976The Friends, under Chairman Bill Rigler, are erecting picnic tables and seats made out of fallen trees.
Nov 1976There are 28 Voluntary Wardens working on a rota system.
Jan 1977The Dorset Wildfowlers (a Group Member) start to dig out a freshwater lake.
The Friends apply for permission to erect a refreshment Kiosk.
May 1977Mr Jack Hadfield is appointed the first full-time Warden at Upton Park.
July 1977The first refreshment Kiosk is officially opened by Cllr. Neil Sorton.
Nov 1977Friends supervise the Walled Garden Job Creation Scheme with the Manpower Commission.
Jan 1978The arrival of a Peacock and five Peahens from Brownsea Island. Estimated number of annual visitors to the Park is now 12,000.
Feb 1978Friends Chairman Bill Rigler erects a continuous seat around the Holm Oak near the Kiosk.
Apr 1978It is agreed to enlarge the lake.
Works commence internally, with the Friends washing down the walls and floor in the Morning Room used by the Volunteer Wardens. Mondays are now established as meeting day.
Aug 1978There is a request made to enlarge the refreshment Kiosk.
A gift of 60 Mallard received for the lake.
The Friends of Upton Park view the inside of Upton House.
It is decided the group re-name themselves the “Friends of Upton Country Park” as the previous name causes confusion by being allied to West Ham United football team (whose playing ground is called Upton Park).
1978 - 2021 as the Friends of Upton Country Park
Oct 1978There is a discussion about repairing the Stable Block complex and incorporating new toilet facilities.
Jan 1979The Stable Block roof collapses.
Feb 1979Friends hold their first Annual Dinner a Poole Arts Centre.
May 1979The Walled Garden project is completed.
The greenhouses are restored. Bert Allen agrees to start growing and selling plants.
The Contractor, whilst making safe the Stable Block, inadvertently does more damage to the structure; slates and lead disappear.
July 1979Agreement is made to establish a Liaison Committee, comprising four Councillors and four Officers of Friends of Upton Country Park. It is agreed that four rooms in the House be made available to the public.
Aug 1979The first Country Show and entertainment day at the Park.
Sept 1979Friends agree to buy a mini tractor for use in the Park (red, called ‘Doris’ after Mayor Doris Webster). A second toilet block is installed “in the bushes” on south lawn.
Jan 1980A new sundial is erected on the lawn.
Mar 1980First meeting of the new Liaison Committee.
The greenhouses are now fully operational.
Nov 1980Eleven Soay Sheep are housed in the Walled Garden.
Feb 1981The launch of the Upton House Restoration Fund in the Wessex Hall, Poole Arts Centre.
May 1981The Friends pay £798 for the first instalment towards the cost of electrical work in the House.
Jul 1981Upton House is opened to the public for the first time.
Messrs. Leeming and Hardy have redecorated the Drawing Room and Study.
Oct 1981The Drawing Room is carpeted with (brown) industrial carpet tiles.
The Caretakers Flat is moved upstairs in the east Wing, funded by Mayor Fred Harris’ Charity Appeal.
It is agreed with Poole Council that the House will open from 2pm - 4pm on Sundays until 19 April 1982
Nov 1981The first Chandelier arrives. At a cost of £2,500 it has 48 lights, more than 1,000 pieces of Bohemian glass, weighs 2.25 hundredweight and measures 6ft x 5ft 6ins. It is hung in the entrance hall.
Jan 1982Mackenzie Glass Ltd supply and fit a mirror in the Library, free of charge.
Apr 1982Messrs. Ives restore the marble fireplaces. Carpeting of the Library is almost complete.
June 1982Electrical installation in the basement by Messrs. Thompson.
July 1982A five-volume set of the Tichborne Trials is gifted by Kenneth Douie; valued at £35 by Sotheby’s but priceless to the Friends. It is housed in the Library.
Sept 1982The Friends purchase 100 chairs for the House at £27.95 each. They are metal framed with brown cloth seats.
Oct 1982The Friends trade in the mini tractor and upgrade to a tractor costing £1,900 funded by monies generated by the greenhouses.
Nov 1982The first “Flag Day” is held for the Upton House Restoration Appeal, and a month later the first "Edwardian Evening".
July 1983Students of Bournemouth and Poole College of Art, under Mr John Bowen, start the restoration of the Murals in the Dining Room (the former Chapel).
Sept 1983The Treasurer pays for restoration of the pigstys - £373.90
Nov 1983Received from the new President, Kenneth Douie - three portraits of the Llewellin family (hung in the Hall), two marble plaques of Llewellin heads, and two statuette lamps for the alcoves on the stairs. These are stolen on the night the Mayor of Poole holds a Civic meeting at the House. Miss Llewellin’s Scrapbook is held by the Town Clerk for safekeeping.
Apr 1984The Friends replace the urn on the Ha Ha and purchase the mould for £1,039.
Society of Poole Men member Peter Dodd offers to restore the gates.
July 1984The Friends purchase two Chandeliers of 18 lights at £497 each, and another of 12 lights at £300.
May 1985The Friends purchase 27 brass stair rods at a cost of £256.50.
June 1985The Friends pay a final figure of £11,946 for the first kitchens and a room for Friends use in the East Wing.
Sept 1985Converting the Stable Block into a Tea Rooms and Heritage Centre. The new complex will cost a total of £159,000. The Friends immediately commit £36,000 and work starts 08 January 1986.
Apr 1986The Friends Appeal for £100,000 for the new Heritage Centre makes a two-page story in the Echo.
Sept 1986The Friends are invited to view an extra 200 acres that the council have acquired from the Llewellin Estate, and walkabout on 14 October to appreciate the acquisition of the shoreline and island to prevent further development near the Park. The Echo comments “Few Councillors took up offer of three mile walk.”
Feb 1987The Friends purchase 12 round tables and 60 chairs for the new Tea Rooms in the Heritage Centre.
Apr 1987The Friends President, Gerald Bailey, is also Mayor of Poole and officiates at the opening of the new “Countryside Heritage Centre”.
Dec 1987At a Friends “Edwardian Evening” Councillor Gerald Bailey, now Deputy Mayor, presents a cheque to the Friends Chairman in the sum of £6,386 from his Mayoral Charity Fund.
June 1988The Friends fund a replacement arm to a naiad on the soft Italian marble fireplace at a cost of £780.
July 1989The Friends purchase 100 fruit trees to be planted against the inner wall of the Walled Garden at a cost of £650.
Feb 1990The refreshment Kiosk is demolished to be replaced by a larger structure out to colonnades, with a base in brickwork. Work to be complete by Easter at a cost to the Friends of £22,000.
At the same time new Emergency Lights are being installed in the Drawing Room and Library (£750), a doorway and a radiator are being moved on access to the East Wing (£2,084) and new carpet and washable vinyl wallpaper in “aesthetic style” (£7,945.50).
Apr 1991The Friends pay £1,000 from the proceeds of the Summer Show towards the cost of replacement trees following gales in January.
July 1991The Friends produce 25,000 colour leaflets to promote the Park, at a cost of £1,250.
Nov 1991A Gazebo to be funded by Friends and the Garden Centre agreed at the corner of the Winter Garden.
Jan 1992New kitchens completed in the East Wing.
Apr 1992Work commences in the Chapel/Dining Room, oiling the fire surround. The Friends also purchase a Ford tractor with front bucket for Park use, at a cost of £7,000.
July 1992The Friends Summer Show makes a surplus of £6,500.
Oct 1992The Evening Echo reports “Raid nets priceless antique fireplaces” to The Friends' dismay.
Jan 1993Denis Bodger steps down as “temporary Secretary” after seventeen and a half years. The Winter Garden Gazebo is to cost £6,950.
Feb 1993A "Llewellin Day" has the House packed to capacity all day. Philatelic Cover to commemorate the birth of Lord John Jestyn Llewellin, book signing and his ceremonial robes on display.
Apr 1993The Friends acquire two rooms in the basement for storage under lock and key.
June 1993A Council Report on remedial works has risen to £251,690 - now to include Fire Precautions (£32,305) and Security (£60,735). The Friends agree to pay for Security, Fire Precaution and Door Entry System at the House.
Oct 1993The council decides not to renew the Catering License at the Heritage Centre to outside caterers, but to revamp and run it themselves.
Jan 1994The council decides to spend £60,000 on a new Toilet Block near the car park. Council advise it would replace the Wildlife Garden with a Roman Farmstead. Council announce they will call on internal consultants for future House decorating, and that English Heritage will have to be consulted.
Mar 1994The Friends are delighted with the news of “Fireplaces Recovered”.
May 1994The Friends commit £20,000 to the car park, £20,000 to toilets.
July 1994The first “Wessex Teddy Bear Fair” is launched.
Nov 1994Poole Council’s Museums Service takes over the Countryside Heritage Centre.
Dec 1994The Friends purchase glass fibre moulds to facilitate repairs to sections of the concrete greenhouses, at a cost of £3,500.
Mar 1995Upton House applies for a Civil Wedding License.
Nov 1995The death of Denis Bodger is announced. As a Founder member and Vice President of the group, Denis made a considerable contribution to the success of the Friends.
Apr 1996Notice posted that two crabapple trees will be planted either side of the path from the new toilets towards the Kiosk.
May 1996The Friends spend another £720 for a print-run of a further 10,000 promotional leaflets.
Jan 1997The Friends invest £4,338.02 in repairs to the Greenhouses.
Apr 1997Poole becomes a Unitary Authority with a shake-up and reappraisal of responsibilities. The Heritage Centre moves to the Leisure Services unit whilst the Roman Farmstead remains with the Museums Service. The upstairs Gallery in what is now the Tea Rooms will accommodate 75 people. The Friends start discussions with a Leisure Services Working Party on the future and maintenance of Upton Park Estate.
Jan 1998Action arising from the Management Plan brings forth a discussion document and the public come down heavily against charging for car parking at Upton Country Park. The Friends group reviews its own Constitution and Membership Fees, and install their own computer system.
July 1998Upcoming legislation for disabled access to Upton House gives rise to an estimated cost of £1,500 for providing suitable ramps.
Apr 1999Friends purchase a photocopier for £2,600.
July 1999The Friends Wessex Teddy Bear Fair produces a surplus of £2,700.
The revamped Tea Rooms are opened on a limited basis until the kitchens are upgraded.
July 2000The Friends propose new gates for the front of the property, commemorative of the Friends 25th Anniversary.
Oct 2000The Friends are nominated for a “Volunteer Body of the Year” Poole Civic Award.
Jan 2001Chairman Mike Yeomans receives the “2000 Poole Achievement Award” from the Mayor, Cllr. Mrs Joyce Jones, at the Civic Awards Ceremony.
A valuable painting of Lord Llewellin in his uniform as first Governor of Rhodesia and Nyasaland is donated to the Friends by Arthur Douie, following the death of his mother Mrs Clara Douie. This is to be restored and hung in the Drawing Room.
The House is redecorated again, this time with drapes in the Drawing Room and the Study, nameplates in gold on mahogany wood over doorways in the Hall, and emergency lighting signs reduced in size.
Apr 2001The Catering contract for the Heritage Centre is to be taken over by Social Services Dept, who are keen to liaise with the Friends. Subsequently renamed the Peacock Tea Rooms.
June 2001Project Peacock is launched (the creation of the Education Centre on the site of an old bike shed / classrooms which had been declared unsafe). This project was the brainchild of Friends Group Chairman Mike Yeomans; work started 15 October, with the Friends donating £84,000.
Oct 2001Eleven cycle racks are on order and the Friends agree to donate £400 towards the costs.
The President suggests that the Friends should consider setting up their own Website.
Nov 2001The Friends are advised the Anniversary Gates will cost £5,700.
Jan 2002Phase 2 of Upton House redecoration; the cost of works for the Study and Morning Room totals £11,581.94. The Friends agree to part-fund to £5,700 only. The Friends feel it appropriate to remind the council that a rolling programme of maintenance is still required. There are concerns that the redecorated House is now under the direct control of a council employee.
Feb 2002Project Peacock is complete and open; by May 2002 700 children have used the Education Centre.
Jan 2003Funds earmarked for projects include £12,500 for the Walled Garden, and £15,000 for East Wing toilets (increased by £5,000 to include a toilet for the disabled). A double booking, with a wedding, result in the Friends losing the chance to put on their August Craft Show with a projected considerable financial loss. Friends fight to secure the services of an additional Park Ranger; there are 50 applicants for the post.
May 2003Friends fund the Working Party’s choice of carpeting for the main rooms of the House, for a total cost £9,945.
Oct 2004Work to install toilets in the East Wing are due to start in November; completed 28 February 2005.
Apr 2005The now annual Book Sale on Good Friday shows quality and bargains; another £670 is added to The Friends funds.
June 2005The annual Plant Fair in the Walled Garden achieves 2,200 visitors and a surplus of £2,400.
Sept 2005The exhausting but highly acclaimed Summer Show brings in a further £6,000.
Nov 2005The successful renovation and repair to the Cupola (domed lantern) in the House is achieved for £2,500. The craftsman is an enthusiast who did exceptionally well.
The Friends co-operate with consultants employed by the council on the future use of Upton House; much goodwill is secured.
The Friends agree to fund a lift for the disabled within the Tea Rooms, taking visitors to the first floor Peacock Gallery (now the 'Gallery Upstairs') at a cost of £14,500.
Mar 2006The Friends Management Committee are invited by the Council Overview Committee to be present when the consultants present their Report on the future use of Upton House.
Sept 2006The Friends hold a 30th Anniversary Exhibition in the art gallery on 8th September, officially opened by the Mayor of Poole.
Also significant in 2006 the Friends donated a number of large blue waste bins at a cost of £7,248.
2007Freezer purchased for the refreshment Kiosk, and redecoration of the first floor (£5,000)
2008Flagpole for the 'Green Flag' (£800), repainting the Kiosk (£839), Domed lantern repairs (£3,490), and new Tables - rectangular & circular (£2,714)
2009Redecoration of the Hall stairs and landing (£3,750)
2010Plant Centre upgrade (£8,500), refurbishment of the Drawing Room (£3,750), colour photocopier (£4,450) and display boards (£326)
2011Stair & landing carpets (£9,940), night vision equipment (£613), first floor banister (£750)
2012New way-finding signage was installed throughout the park from 2012-2014, funded by the Friends at a total cost of £13,500.
Significant contributions were made by the Friends towards two major projects - £50,000 towards the Walled Garden improvements, and £23,000 towards the new Woodland Play Trail.
The group bought another new tractor for the Park maintenance team at a cost of £25,000 (the fourth tractor donated to the team since 1980) and upgraded the Plant Centre.
Inside the House the Friends covered the £10,000 cost of refurbishing the hall toilet, new stair & first floor landing carpets, redecoration of the Study and the first floor and restoration of a cameo frame.
2014New courtyard gates (£5,000) and Walled Garden interpretation boards.
2015Funds were donated for Estate clearance work - a new chipper (£11,000) and a chainsaw was purchased for use by the Operations Team.
2016Funds were donated for an All Terrain Vehicle (£11,000) use by the Operations Team.
2017Vital funds donated to purchase two defibrillator machines for Upton House and the Tea Rooms.
£125,000 contribution to Partnership Funding to help progress the £2.3 million Discovery Project Heritage Lottery bid which, in 2022, saw the opening of the new Welcome Centre in the main car park
2019Funding provided (£30,000) for the restoration of the wooden floorboards in the Library, new carpeting in Estate rooms, and re-covering of chair seats for Upton House.