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Southwest Lincolnshire Country Houses
by Michael Ford, Country House Editor
Belvoir Castle Day 4 - On to Belvior Castle (pronounced Beaver).
Belvoir Castle stands dramatically, on a Leicestershire hilltop, dominating the surrounding countryside. The first castle was built by Robert de Todeni in the late 11th century. He had also built a Benedictine priory nearby, just over the border in Lincolnshire, and on his death, in 1088, he was buried in the chapel of the priory. His stone coffin was discovered there in the ruins in the 18th century and it is now in the castle chapel.
A dispute during the Wars of the Roses led to the castle being left in ruins. The Ros family were the owners at the time, then through marriage it passed to Sir Thomas Manners, the 1st Earl of Rutland, who started to rebuild the castle around 1523 although it was not completed until 1555. On the Earl's death in 1543 Belvoir was inherited by Henry his eldest son while his younger son Sir John Manners acquired Haddon Hall in Derbyshire in 1567 through his marriage to Dorothy Vernon.
During the Civil War, in 1645, Belvoir was besieged and surrendered to the Roundheads. The castle was demolished in 1649. The architect, John Webb, directed the next rebuild, this time for John, 8th Earl of Rutland, between 1654 and 1668, which included the laying out of the grounds. John, 9th Earl of Rutland was created Marquis of Granby and Duke of Rutland in 1703.
New south fronts were completed in 1816 just before a fire destroyed both the north wings in the same year. The next rebuild was completed about 1830.
From the car park the walk to the castle is uphill but it is possible to leave the driveway and approach through the gardens giving a fine view of the southwest front, which is built of yellow stone with grey stone dressings. It makes an idyllic and romantic sight with its towers of all shapes and sizes. On the other side a large flat terrace offers a wonderful view of the vale below.
From the entrance there is a walk, through rooms lined with a fine collection of armoury, to the Grand Staircase, which is just that, very grand, with a multitude of stone vaulting. The landing is equally fantastic. The Ballroom is in the same style and is also known as the Grand Corridor. It is of cathedral proportions.
The Elizabeth Saloon is the most beautiful room in the castle with rich gold decoration and a painted ceiling by Wyatt. The Grand Dining Room has a marvellously decorated ceiling and mirrors with arched surrounds. The Picture Gallery is very high with windows above the frieze. One of the pictures is of Henry VIII by Holbein. The Regent's Gallery is the longest room in the castle and is quite magnificent being hung with tapestries and pictures. The bedrooms have fine beds and decor.
The chapel should not be missed as it houses the Norman tomb of the first owner. The family monuments can be found in the church of St. Mary at Bottesford.
Belvoir is a member of the Historic Houses Association and is open from April to September on weekends and Tuesdays to Thursdays from 10am to 5pm.
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