Who are you and why do you like Upton House and Gardens?
I am Mike Perry, I volunteered in 2011 for keeping the website up to date. I knew nothing about such a task but wanted to learn so I could help my wife in a charity she was involved with. And I am still here. Why? I just like the feel of Upton House and Gardens. Those gardens on their own would distinguish any National Trust property. They offer quiet isolated corners, bags of room for families to play, and all against a breath-taking backdrop of variety and colour that is being constantly renewed by Heather and her team. It’s a tribute to the quality of the House and contents that they manage to distract attention from what lies outside.
What is your role here?
At first I wondered how long I could maintain interest in a deskbound role, staring at a screen. But I got it so wrong. For the website to work it has to mirror everything that makes Upton tick – the house, the collections, events, exhibitions, retail, catering and what is planned for the future. So being nosey is part of the job and no one bats an eyelid when I badger them!
What have you particularly enjoyed?
There’s no reason to remain blinkered in your role at Upton. I helped out in putting together the Shell Exhibition and learned about Marcus Samuel’s nephew, Mark Abrahams. Without his swashbuckling determination to create dockside oil installations in the Far East, despite unforgiveable pestering from his uncle in the comfort of a London office, Shell would never have happened on the scale it did. It is a role tailored for Leonardo DiCaprio – someone just needs to tell him!
What are you next looking forward to?
I am currently deep into helping with the Country House Bank project. A finance background made me a natural for getting to grips with how the bank made its money during those years of evacuation. I spent three days in the London archives of Lloyds Bank, the eventual owner of M Samuel & Co. Ltd. It was a basement room with no photocopier so I emerged with thousands of photographs of balance sheets and accounts schedules. I have a pretty good idea now of what went on, I just need to make sense of it for everyone else. It will be great to see the project launched early next year.
That’s what keeps me motivated. The creative productivity of the Upton team and the hard work they put into getting everything right is inspirational. Second best won’t do and it is a privilege to help keep it all going.