Unravelling the National Trust is a unique project offering artists and makers exhibition opportunities in National Trust properties. Conceived by arts organisation Unravelled, artists are invited to evoke histories, stories and a sense of place in a designated National Trust property. The project launched in May 2012 at Nymans House and Gardens in Sussex, continued at the Vyne in Hampshire in 2013 and will culminate with the third and final exhibition at Uppark House and Gardens in West Sussex, launching in spring 2014.

The Unravelled artists are commissioned to create site-specific works referencing Uppark’s intriguing history, reflecting on the architecture and echoing elements from the significant collections of ceramics, textiles, plasterwork, silver and furniture housed in the property.

Encouraged to tell tales through their work about Uppark’s evolution and the historical characters connected to the property. On show, are a series of works designed to provoke and surprise visitors, whilst also providing unique insights into the history of the house.

Uppark was built in 1690 by Ford Grey, the first Earl of Tankerville. An ardent Protestant, the earldom was bestowed upon him by William of Orange for plotting against the Catholic James II. Grey honoured his title by building Uppark in the Anglo-Dutch style.

In 1747, Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh bought the property after inheriting a fortune made from wine and coal trading. Sir Matthew was also one of the largest holders of stock of the East India Company. Together with his wife Sarah they redecorated the house extensively and established most of the existing collection. Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh, their only son, inherited Uppark in 1774 and further contributed to his parents’ collection by acquiring French furniture and ceramics.

Sir Harry spent his youthful years in wild carousing. He was a close friend of the Prince Regent and his entourage included Emma Hart (the future Lady Hamilton, best remembered as Lord Nelson’s lover), who allegedly once danced naked on Uppark’s dining table for Harry and his guests. Middle-age saw Sir Harry become something of a recluse, but in 1825 the then seventy-year old scandalized his social circles once again by marrying Mary Ann Bullock, his twenty-year old dairymaid.

Unravelled artist Steven Follen finds his inspiration in Sir Mathew Fetherstonhaugh’s link to shipping and to the East India Company. His installation Trade comprises origami toy boats, made from folded metal sheets lined with gold leaf and filled with spices.

Video artist Jini Rawlings draws inspiration from Emma Hart’s story. Her installation in Uppark’s dining room looks beyond Emma’s original portrayal as mere entertainment for the male gaze. A series of mirrors reflects the many different attitudes to Emma and her unfolding story of fame and misfortune.

Sir Harry’s scandalous marriage to his dairy-maid has inspired A Milkmaid’s Song, Gen Doy’s captivating sound piece in Uppark’s dairy and Matt Smith’s Garniture: The Bullock Buckets.. Smith fuses the visual languages of Sèvres porcelain and Rococo furniture, with the shape of antique fire buckets, referencing the fact that the former milk maid Bullock was sent to Paris to study social graces before being brought back to take up residence in the house.

Inspired by the vivid stories of Uppark’s intriguing female residents, Agnes Jones, has created Io and Euthenia, a piece comprising two iron ‘line drawing’ sculptures for the house’s portico. The sculptures represent Mary Ann Bullock as Io, an ancient Greek nymph who was seduced by Zeus, and Emma Hart as Uppark’s goddess of prosperity, Euthenia.

Caitlin Heffernan’s site-specific installation Remnants explores the history of Uppark’s stables and the contrast between the privileged lives of people like Sir Harry and the Prince Regent and those of the grooms and stable boys who worked there. Using materials including hay, horse’s tack, jewels and fabrics recovered from Uppark's great fire in 1989, she creates an immersive world that is familiar yet uncanny.

Another interesting resident of the house was influential science fiction author HG Wells, who spent part of his boyhood there while his mother was housekeeper. Uppark’s tunnels are said to bear a strong resemblance to the underpasses in his novel, The Time Machine.

Inspired by Wells’ novels, Helen Felcey and Alice Kettle have created The House of Eloi,, an installation that includes a collection of Time Machine-esque Eloi, a happy but naïve group of creatures preyed on by the sinister Morlocks.

Robert Cooper and Stella Harding have created a conceptual piece titled The Dish Of The Day: Chicken in a Basket. This large shallow serving dish in the form of a woven ceramic basket sits in Uppark's Servant’s quarters. On its surface, collaged imagery and interwoven text highlight the modern-day exploitation of young people, drawing parallels with the stories of Emma Hart and Mary-Ann Bullock.

In 1989 Uppark was devastated by a fire and re-opened six years later after a huge restoration project. Inspired by this bold restoration project, Zoë Hillyard has created her signature hand-stitched patchwork ceramics, which sit within the house’s extensive ceramic collection.

Other works by Unravelled artists, on show at Uppark include Andrew Burton’s Vessels and Simon Ryder’s Quartet. Andrew Burton examines the variety of drinking vessels within Uppark’s collection and uses them as a visual starting point to create sculptures which respond to Uppark's beer cellar. Simon Ryder’s engraved crystal glass piece explores the connection of sound to place. Paying tribute to Uppark’s birdsongs, it draws on the antithesis between freedom and captivity by trapping a visual representation of wild bird song within a block of crystal glass.

Uppark House and Garden
South Harting, Petersfield
West Sussex GU31 5QR United Kingdom
Ph. +44 (0)17 30825415

Opening hours
Daily from 12.30pm to 4.30pm
Friday & Saturday closed

Related images

  • 1. & 3. Amy Emily Emma and Four Times of Day (Vernet). By Jini Rawlings
  • 2. Io and Euthenia. By Agnes Jones
  • 4. & 6. The Dish Of The Day: Chicken in a Basket. By Robert Cooper and Stella Harding
  • 5. Garniture: The Bullock Buckets. By Matt Smith