Dancing on the Edge

The Long Gallery at Upton House, Warwickshire. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The Long Gallery at Upton House, Warwickshire. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

As I was watching the first episode of Stephen Poliakoff’s new television series Dancing on the Edge the other day, I noticed that one of the scenes was shot at Upton House. The Long Gallery at Upton, with its celadon green paneling, features as part of the 1930s mansion of Mr Masterson, a mysterious and slightly sinister plutocrat.

The entrance front of Upton House, as remodeled by Percy Morley Horder in 1927. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Antrobus

The entrance front of Upton House, as remodeled by Percy Morley Horder in 1927. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Antrobus

The debate is already raging about the pros and cons of Poliakoff’s casting, dialogue and plot. But what is without doubt is that this auteur director has a great eye for evocative locations.

The Hall at Upton. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The Hall at Upton. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

And the atmosphere at Upton is in fact very ‘interwar’. The house was remodeled in 1927-9 by Percy Morley Horder for Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted.

The Picture Room at Upton, looking into the Library and the Billiard Room. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The Picture Room at Upton, looking into the Library and the Billiard Room. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The 2nd Lord Bearsted was chairman of Shell and owner of the bank M. Samuel (now part of Lloyds TSB). He was a great philanthropist, particularly in the areas of hospitals and schools, and a fervent collector of paintings, tapestries, furniture, French gold boxes, English silver, English miniatures, illuminated initials, oriental works of art and English porcelain.

The Billiard Room at Upton. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The Billiard Room at Upton. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The Long Gallery contains some of these collections, but there is also a dedicated Picture Gallery in the house (which I have shown before). In fact, Lord Bearsted’s passion for collecting is evident in almost every room.

Lady Bearsted's Bathroom at Upton, with its walls covered with aluminium leaf. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Lady Bearsted’s Bathroom at Upton, with its walls covered with aluminium leaf. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Although Upton was decorated by Horder in a restrained neo-Georgian style, there are certain spaces, such as the two-storey Picture Room with a view down from the Library, which have a theatrical, distinctly interwar atmosphere. There are wonderful ‘Curzon Street baroque’ touches like the velvet-covered uplighters in the Billiard Room. And Lady Bearsted’s silver bathroom is pure Hollywood.

7 Responses to “Dancing on the Edge”

  1. columnist Says:

    I’m sure in its day Lady Bearsted’s bathroom was such a wow, but given the transformation in bathroom and kitchen designs in recent years, it looks slightly dowdy and utilitarian today, but then I suppose I might think that about most Deco interior design. I like the bronzes and the art from Art Deco, but the furniture and interior design by and large leaves me rather unimpressed.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    But then the transformation of bathrooms from utilitarian spaces to leisure spaces has been a gradual one, hasn’t it? And this bathroom is a rare surviving ‘moderne’ example. Even just the fact that they used aluminium as wall decoration is so ‘jazz age’ (or ‘Dancing on the Edge’ era) :)

  3. Herts Says:

    Did you spot the garden at Fenton House used for the party when the band first perform for the Prince?
    Which house is used for Lady Cremone’s( the Jackie Bissett character) place?

    Herts

  4. Andrew Says:

    “velvet-covered uplighters”? Surely you want the light down on the table – as indeed these lights seem to do – not up on the ceiling?

  5. artandarchitecturemainly Says:

    I love the idea of a long gallery which contains some of the precious collections that you mentioned. But the reality was that in the inter-war period, the residents and guests in the house probably didn’t use the long gallery as it had been used in much earlier times.

    So how was the dedicated picture room used? Was it a dining room much as you would find in any country home, just with more pictures hanging and more cabinets of art objects? The view down from the library must have given great pleasure to the readers of the family.

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Herts, I was wondering if it was Fenton! And I thought I recognised Ragley Hall in Lady Cremone’s country house – which is confirmed by Ragley’s website: http://www.ragley.co.uk/

    Andrew, sorry I should have been clearer, I meant those standard lamps in the corners (http://bit.ly/XCOkhU) – great combination of baroque styling and modern technology :)

    Helen, the Long Gallery was used as a grand sitting room or reception room, facilitated by the fact that it was just beyond the entrance hall and looks out over the garden. The double height Picture Room displayed British pictures but also functioned as a kind of interconnecting lobby. The Picture Gallery is a more purely ‘gallery’ type space, showing early Netherlandish paintings, but it also has some furniture, as was customary in late 19th and early 20th century picture galleries.

  7. Andrew Says:

    Oh, the lamp in the corner! I had not even spotted that. It does not seem to be switched on. The over-table light seems to have a velvet shade too.

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