Walking into the large Neo-Georgian Uplands Cultural and Heritage Museum, you cannot help but feel transported to the late 1800s, with the old-fashioned kitchen, traditional wallpaper, and well-preserved artefacts.
Tea at Uplands is a special treat. As soon as you enter, you are treated to a selection of beautiful porcelain teacups, where you can literally “choose your cup” for the English tea ceremony. In the winter, the tea is served in the cosy dining room next to antique bookshelves and paintings, while in the summer, visitors can enjoy the outdoors on the veranda or amid blooming flowers in tables spread out in the tranquil gardens.
During the afternoon tea, you can stay for as long as you want, and many people choose to mingle with friends or family all afternoon. The ambience is excellent for both social gatherings and intimate conversations. Once inside the museum, you will be greeted by hostesses in traditional dresses and given a rundown of the menu. In this case, the small tea ($10 per person) included black tea (chosen for its versatility and suitability for different taste buds), scones with strawberry jam and Devonshire style cream, chocolate cake, orange slices with cinnamon, and orange cake – all very tasty. The menu changes seasonally. In the summer, the Traditional Tea option ($14 pp) consists of tea, scones, cucumber sandwiches, and pastries. High Tea (summer only for $20 pp) is a bit more elaborate, with quiche and savory bites, in addition to the items offered in Traditional Tea. Since it was wintertime, the tea was served in elegant handmade cosies, which preserve warmth for up to two hours and added a homey touch.
The people who work at Uplands take great pride in the home’s historical significance and told many stories of the families who inhabited the property. Our hostess also shared tips on how to enjoy tea in traditional style – for example, by putting in milk first.
After you are finished the tea, you can tour around the museum, which used to be a wealthy family residence. In 1862, the home was established by an Englishman John Barney Paddon, who christened it “Uplands” after a namesake property in the UK. The house was then sold to Arthur Spied – a science teacher, mayor, photographer, and community leader – and remained in the Speid family for several generations, undergoing a few major renovations in the process. The Lennoxville-Ascot Historical and Museum Society (LAHMS) acquired the home in the 1980s, and volunteers worked tirelessly to restore it to its present condition, where it showcases Lennoxville’s vibrant arts and culture scene.
Almost all of the furnishings in Uplands were either originals from Mr. Speid (for example, the soap dish, sponge holder, and towel racks in the upstairs bathroom) or donated by people who lived around that time period. Exhibits rotate every few months, but include beautiful paintings and art installations on the first floor. If you walk upstairs, you will find a treasure cove of old-fashioned heirlooms and toys – a baby stroller, Cabbage Patch, paper doll collection, train set, dollhouse, and antique bed, as well as a parlour with fireplace and temporary exhibition room. This winter, the display showcased the history of firefighting in the Eastern Townships (“Fire: Friend and Foe”).
English Tea at Uplands is a delightful social experience and comes with a rich past of entertaining visitors. Tea was first served in 1989, a few years after the museum opened to the public. In the summer (June 13-August 25), tea is served Tuesday to Sunday between 10 am and 4:30 pm. During the rest of the year, weekend tea is held Saturday and Sunday from 1-4:30 pm, except for in January, when they are closed to the public.
Reservations are preferred and can be made by calling in advance (819-564-0409).