The Museum is housed in the picturesque and historic setting of Upton Hall, headquarters of the British Horological Institute (BHI) since 1972.
Very little early history is known of Upton Hall. The earliest available records show that in 1335, the site was home to Robert Bagenham. It stood on land that King Edwy had donated to Archbishop Oscytel of York in 956, one hundred and ten years before the Norman Conquest.
By 1620 Owen Oglethorpe lived in Upton Hall but he died in the nearby village of Blidworth at a time when the plague hit Upton village. Martin Oglethorpe, probably related to Owen, is mentioned as Squire in about 1645, at the time of the Civil War. Later, ownership of the land changed hands and by 1795 it was owned by Robert Smith, later Lord Carrington. A small part of Oglethorpe’s Hall, which dates back to the time of Elizabeth I, still remains in the present structure.
The Present Hall
The main structure of Upton Hall as you see it today was erected by Thomas Wright in 1828. Thomas was a member of a well-known Nottingham banking family and had been High Sheriff of Nottingham in 1811. Thomas employed the renowned London based architect William Donthorne, later a founder member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, to design the Hall in a then fashionable Neo-Classical style. This style is noticeable in the symmetrical south-facing elevation, an imposing Greek-style portico of fluted Ionic columns in the recessed central bays and a large dome over the main hall. The new hall was the focal point of the village of Upton.
Who lived here?
According to the 1841 Census there were 10 servants living in the house with Thomas Wright and his wife Frances, while other servants resided in the village. Thomas died in 1845 at the age of 72, leaving the Hall to his son, the Reverend Joseph Banks Wright. There is no record of Joseph living in the Hall in the 1851 Census. Kelly’s Directory of Nottinghamshire (1855) lists Joseph Banks Wright as the owner, however this source may not be accurate.
In 1857, Philip Richard Falkner, a Newark solicitor, bought Upton Hall. He came from Southwell but had lived in Newark since 1825, where he set up a practice, also holding the Office of County Coroner for about 30 years, and served as Mayor of Newark in 1833. Philip lived in the Hall for nearly 30 years. In the 1861 census he and his wife Alicia had six servants living in the Hall and others in the village. Their butler, William Measures, worked at Upton Hall for over 20 years, living as a tenant in one of the cottages on the Green in Upton, where his wife ran the village shop. Philip Falkner married twice and had nine children. One of his daughters married Lucas Brodhurst, who lived at the Grange in Upton. Another daughter married the Vicar of Upton, William Peacocks. Philip died in 1888, at the age of 86. His will stated that the Hall and land were to be sold and the proceeds to be placed into a trust fund for his children. On 8 August 1888 an auction was held at Edward Bailey & Sons of Kirkgate in Newark.
It was well advertised:
“The Estate consists of a well maintained MANSION with pleasure grounds, stables, coach houses, cow houses, piggeries and suitable outbuildings, walled kitchen garden, vinery and conservatory; also a farm house and buildings, 10 comfortable cottages and gardens, and about 64 acres of excellent arable, meadow and pasture land.
The MANSION is a farm residence known as Upton Hall, well situated on an eminence having a picturesque view of the valley of Trent. It contains a lofty and spacious Entrance Hall with circular Picture Gallery, Dining Room, Sitting Room, Morning Room, Library, Housekeeper’s Hall, Large Kitchen, Scullery and extensive Cellars. 10 Bedrooms.
The Stables have 4 stalls, 2 Coach Houses with Hay Lofts above and surrounded by gardens. Grounds tastefully laid out, walled kitchen garden, Forcing Houses. The House is in substantial repair and the stabling, cow houses and other accommodation is of excellent quality. Good feeding land.
The ESTATE is well timbered and there is a good water supply.
The village of Upton is 2 miles from the Cathedral Town of Southwell where there is a Station on the Midland Railway and is about 5 miles from the Market Town of Newark where there are Stations on the Great Northern (mail line) and Midland Railways. The ESTATE lies within easy reach of 3 packs of Hounds. Good fishing can be obtained in the River Greet.”
Only four of the 16 lots were sold. The main lot, Upton Hall and its immediate land and cottages remained unsold. According to Philip’s will, his daughter Mary was allowed to stay on at the Hall, which she did until the early 1890’s. In 1894 or 1895 the Hall was sold and Mary moved to nearby Newark.
Revamp of the Hall
The new owner was John Warwick, a director of the Newark brewing firm of Warwick & Richardson. He remodelled the interior and added the West Wing, containing a large ballroom with a stage and a games room. With its pleasure grounds, fountains, conservatory and gardens it would have been a very desirable residence and many village functions were held on the estate. John Warwick died in 1935.
In 1936 Sir Albert Ball bought Upton Hall as an investment but he never lived here. He had been Mayor of Nottingham in 1909, a Justice of the Peace and father of the World War I Victoria Cross awarded fighter pilot, Albert Ball.
A New Use
The Hall fairly quickly changed hands being purchased by the order of the Fathers of the Holy Ghost in 1939. During the onset of war, the Hall was requisitioned to provide a home for a school of partially-sighted children who had been evacuated from Sussex. In 1945, the Fathers of the Holy Ghost did actually take up residency and the St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Theological Church was established in the Hall. Students, being trained by the Fathers for the priesthood, spent the final six years of an eight-year course here. There were on average 15-30 students, based at the Hall at any given time. Many changes took place at the Hall to accommodate them; the Ballroom was partitioned into three lecture rooms, the library became the Chapel with an attached Sacristy; other ground floor rooms became dining rooms and offices, and the cellars consisted of many oratories. The grounds were maintained by the students. On the second terrace of the front lawn there was a tennis court; cows, pigs and hens were kept on the estate and the students grew vegetables. The discipline of the order was extremely strict. They rose early in the morning at 5 am to start a rigorous daily programme of prayers, study and physical work.
The British Horological Institute (BHI) bought Upton Hall from the Fathers of the Holy Ghost in 1972.
The Hall is now a Grade II* listed building, within grounds of 10 acres. The Hall consists of 72 rooms, ranging from small to large, housing the Museum of Timekeeping, alongside the BHI headquarters, watch and clock workshops, accommodation for participants in short horology courses and exams, plus the Clock House Cafe.
Two ghosts from the long history of Upton Hall have occasionally been reported to have appeared in Upton Hall. A White Lady has been reportedly seen in the library, walking through a doorway, which is now bricked up, or sat at different places in the room. A second ghostly figure has also been reportedly seen travelling down the back stair case, or brushing past people as they climb or descend the stairs.