Located on the outskirts of Grantham, Lincolnshire, the Grade I listed building of Belton House is one of the finest examples of Carolean (Restoration) Architecture, which became popular following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.
Set in parkland and a number of gardens, the estate contains an orangery and, although not part of Belton House, the grounds contain the Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul which dates back to Norman times and is the burial place of many of the previous owners of the estate.
The property was built between 1685 and 1688, by Sir John Brownlow, a lawyer, on land first acquired by his family in 1598 and was added to by subsequent generations. Although the Brownlows were not regarded as aristocracy, they were gentry, and the house received a Royal visit by King William III in 1695.
Symmetrical, with an ‘H’ shaped plan, the layout of rooms is back to back; creating a house two rooms deep. This design is known as "double pile". This enabled the house to be compact and requiring just a single roof.
The reception rooms and bedrooms were on the two main floors, but the layout kept guests and family separate, with the family occupying the rooms on the first and second floors of the west and east wings, whilst the state rooms were located in the centre. The great staircase formed part of the guests’ route from the Hall and Saloon on the first floor to the principal dining room and bedroom on the second.
The main entrances to the house are in the centre of the north and south facades and were accessed by a series of steps. The family lived in the west wing, which was approached through the courtyard with its attractive clock tower. The family lived on the first and second floors with the servants occupying the basement and attic. These servants’ areas can be seen during tours of the house.
Belton House was one of the first properties to adopt sash windows. These were used on the first and second floors whilst the basement and attics used the mullion and transom systems. The windows maintained the design of symmetry with a number of false windows being provided to maintain this symmetry.
Visitors enter the house through the large Marble Hall at the centre of the south front. This is flanked by the Tapestry Room and the Great Staircase. The bedrooms are arranged as suites on the first and second floors of both wings.
The chapel was erected from the basement to the first floor which allowed the servants to worship in the chapel from their floor, but allowed their employers to worship from a gallery where they could not be seen by the servants.
The great Marble Hall was one of the rooms which was remodelled in the early 19th century, as was the adjacent Saloon, which was originally known as the Great Parlour, and has always been the main reception room of the house. The marble fireplace in the Saloon is original but the ornate plaster ceiling is a Victorian copy. Either side of the Saloon are two small drawing rooms.
The library contains some 6000 books collected over 350 years. This room began as the Great Dining Room but was converted into a drawing room in 1778 and then to the library in 1876.
Next to the Library is the Queen's Room, which contains the great canopied bed used by Queen Adelaide, the widow of William IV. The second floor contains a number of other bedrooms, including the Chinese Room which contains the original hand-painted 18th century Chinese wallpaper and the Windsor Bedroom used by King Edward VIII, who became the Duke of Windsor following his abdication in 1936. This room was also used by Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, whilst a cadet at nearby RAF Cranwell.
Belton House together with the garden and some of the contents was acquired by the National Trust in 1984. The parkland and much of the remaining contents has been subsequently acquired and opened to the public.
To see more photographs and take a virtual tour of the site click on the photoshow below.