THE HISTORY OF MR WELLS
Sunday 03 March 1996
Wells stayed at the stately home Uppark as a young boy, where his mother was the (rather incompetent) housekeeper. When snowed in there one winter, the boy produced a daily newspaper called the Up Park Alarmist; he also found a telescope in one of the attics with which he looked at moon-craters, thus demonstrating an early interest in science.
Much of The Invisible Man is set in Iping. Checkshill Park in In the Days of the Comet, Shonts in Bealby and Bladesover in Tono-Bungay are based on Uppark, and "Wimblehurst" is one of many stand-ins in for Midhurst.
The compilers of a new booklet, H G Wells in West Sussex, track the author assiduously, finding echoes of Uppark everywhere in the work. "Is the sharply evoked sub-lunar world [of The First Men in the Moon] another oblique reference to Wells' experience of below-stairs life at Uppark ... ?" They may well ask. The recent eerie resurrection of the house in replica, after the devastating 1989 fire which reduced it to a blackened shell, adds a touch of sci-fi worthy of Wells himself.
! 'H G Wells in West Sussex' is available (pounds 1) from libraries in West Sussex or by post (pounds 1.25) from the Information Office, West Sussex County Council, County Hall, Chichester PO19 1RQ.
! H G Wells festival 1996 ( 01243 533911)
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