Last week saw the start of our first ‘show and tell’ weeks to our volunteers to keep them up to date with our new project. With a lot of fast moving and exciting developments with the Country House Bank project, we have lots to share that we have been busy buying, sourcing, research and decorating!
How the house looked:
It was a great opportunity for to have a sneak peek at a new room we have started to dress and decorate for next year which has never been opened before!
We thought we would focus our first meeting on our first pieces of research, and how we are aiming the project to be embedded in authenticity. We have started to gather real people’s experiences and real stories by using archives and our oral history project. Now we have started to find out more, the next step is embedding these stories into our presentation, which is why we took our volunteers to a room on the first floor that will become a male staff dormitory!
The single male and female staff that worked for the bank lived at Upton during the war years, while married couples lived in local villages or in Banbury. We envisage that the dormitory rooms will be where people can discover more about these people look at their letters home and find out more about how the real bank staff lived their lives here during the war.
We have made a trip also to the Lloyds bank archive to find out more, and have a greater understanding of the size of the bank and the preparations Lord Bearsted had made for M. Samuel and Co with fear of war looming.
We have found out that in 1939, days after the announcement of war, key members of staff from M. Samuel and Co. Bank moved into Upton House. The speed with which this happened would suggest that plans had been in place for some time.
This Merchant bank evolved alongside the Bearsted’s trading company, which eventually became the Shell Transport and Trading Company. Like almost all merchant bankers, Marcus Samuel and Co., were merchants before they became bankers. Eventually they found it more profitable to leave much of the actual trading to others and to deal in credit instead of goods.
So, in summary, we have had a busy few weeks getting to grips with the core substance of the project! Finding out about key characters, preparing store rooms to be opened such as the dormitory, and making trips to archives to discover the true size and importance of the family bank.
So what’s next?!
Well we have been busy also starting off our volunteer research groups, and as research is uncovered this will feed into the bulk of the project and help us get the detail of the stories right.
Keep an eye out on the blog for more updates on our Country House Bank project. What will we find out next?!