Over the bank holiday myself and Mr M decided to take a trip to Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens. I love history and I think you’ll start seeing a bit of a theme through out my upcoming posts about my love for stately homes and castles. Belsay Hall, Castle and Garden is part of English Heritage. When it comes to English Heritage we are really lucky in the North East to have so many great locations. Just take Belsay for instance: it is only 30 minutes away from Newcastle and is not far from Ponteland (6 miles).
I hadn’t really heard of Belsay Hall before but like I said above if it’s a stately home and has tonnes of history about it (and if I can buy a guide book I’m even more happy) I will want to go. Mr M had been many times as a child and was very keen to take me along. I totally understand why he wanted to now. Belsay is a great day out: in one location you have a Medieval Castle, a Greek Revival mansion and one of the most beautiful gardens that links the two buildings together. If you’re not a English Heritage member an adult price is £10.50 or if you’re going as a family you can get a family ticket for £27.30. If you are a English Heritage member it is FREE!
Lets talk a little bit about the general history of Belsay. The site was originally part of the Middleton family (unfortunately not the Duchess of Cambridge family, I was slightly gutted about this). The Middleton family lived in the Belsay Castle from 1270 (this was the first recording of The Middleton’s owning Belsay) until the completion of the new mansion in 1817. The family eventually moved out of Belsay Hall in 1962 but the estate that surrounds the hall, castle and garden reminds in their possession. The garden that links the Hall and the Castle was created within the quarries that supplied the stone for the new mansion.
Now let’s go through the site and explain a little bit about each of the locations.
Belsay Hall is the first part of the site that you come to after going through the main reception.
The outside of the hall is something that you can’t miss as it is huge and you can see the Greek inspiration. The building is was inspired after Sir Charles Monck (formally Middleton) went on honeymoon in Greece and fell in love with the architecture . Even though the building is simple and plain, it was made to have a comfortable interior and is arranged around the central two storey beautiful crafted Pillar Hall.
The building is now empty due to the terms of the guardianship agreement. This was done so that visitors can see the fine craftsmanship that went into building this amazing house. I actually liked that the building was empty it made me use my imagination and think what a 1812 house would be filled with. The only thing I didn’t like was that there was not a lot of information about each room. I’m nosey and go to these houses to see how the other half live and I want to know as much as possible. The guide book did give slightly more detail but I think it would definitely be worth doing a guided tour.
When you’re in Belsay Hall when your on the South side you can start to see some of the garden. The gardens link the Hall to the Castle and you feel like you’re walking through a sanctuary. You can tell inspiration for the garden is from a climate that isn’t British as you feel transported to a different location. You also get to walk about through a different part of the garden when you leave the castle so you get to see a different view and different sections of the garden.
If you love going to gardens then I would definitely recommend visiting Belsay. The Quarry Garden, which if you are a child or with a child is great to run around, was created from when Sir Charles had cut the stone for his new house. The quarry is a Picturesque style and because of the microclimate it has made it possible to grow tender plants beyond their normal northern limits.
The gardens have not really changed much since Sir Charles created it in the early 19th century. Sir Arthur Middleton, was Sir Charles’ grandson, did add to the garden. He decided to add a Winter Garden, Yew Garden and Magnolia Terrace and planted a large number of rhododendrons which created a Rhododendron Garden in the 1860’s. You can see most of Sir Arthurs influence around the house but he did add an extra section to the quarry and decided to add a wider range of exotic plants.
The final part of the site is Belsay Castle which I was think is worth seeing. The castle was first recorded in 1270. The great fortified tower is what dominates the castle, was built to show family pride and was shown as a response to the conflict and unrest that was happening within the border region between England and Scotland in the 14th century. The tower is one of the best surviving examples of a pele tower which is a type of fortification built by rich families in the late middle ages to help defend themselves.
Eventually The Middleton’s were able to expand and add a mansion wing which was added to the west side of the castle in the early 17th century. In 1711 a further wing was added to visually counterbalance the tower unfortunately this was pulled down in 1872.
As you can tell I fallen in love with Belsay Hall and Castle. Myself and Mr M have decided that we want to go to in every season as we can only imagine what the castle and the hall looks like in the winter. Belsay have activities on for all the family (ZooLab’s animal encounters when we went) and you can check out there calendar here to see what is happening.
If you want to check out my last post about the new hashtag I created #anortheastadventure which talks about how you can get involved.