Thursday, October 20, 2011

Upstairs & Downstairs

Mrs C and I re-visited Belton House near Grantham last Friday. This is
a fabulous Regency-style house in the Lincolnshire countryside, now
owned by the National Trust. I took loads of photos, and have put 45
of the best up onto my Flickr site. Click HERE to see the set of pics.
Here is one of my photos of the fountain in the Italian Garden there,
taken in really lovely warm sunshine.

IMG_0141r

We started with the Basement tour of the house - the "Downstairs", where
living conditions were quite primitive compared with the grandeur of the
house and life "Upstairs". Male and female servants were kept apart in the
Basement, in separate rooms and separate corridors. Servants at the top
of the tree did mix, and they had more pleasant living conditions.
The tour guide told us that the servants were well treated at Belton,
they even had feather beds, which horrified the gentry in the
neighbourhood, who thought feather beds were too luxurious. You will see
in one of my photos, some census info for the house staff in both 1891
and in 1911 ... a marked drop in staff numbers. By the time the house was
sold in 1968, there were only 4 members of staff living in, but there
were cleaners living nearby. In the last century there was a marked
decline in the family's fortune ... two large houses had to be sold to
pay death duties, but subsequently the upkeep of Belton proved to be too
much for the last owner, Edward Cust. He gave the house to the National
Trust, and sold the contents and all the surrounding land to the NT for
£6 million, I gather. He is now said to be living in Jersey.

I've been wondering if he misses all the family portraits and furnishings
around the house, and the lovely gardens, where he played as a child.
Perhaps he comes back to Belton from time to time, for a peek ... I meant
to ask one of the guides if he did so. I think if I were him, I would be
pleased that the house is being maintained so well, and that it now gives
pleasure to thousands of visitors every year. So many posh houses have
been demolished over the years, as their owners couldn't keep up with
essential maintenance, so it's really wonderful to have a body like the
National Trust working to keep so many houses going, and to preserve huge
areas of our countryside and our coastline for people to explore.

3 Comments:

Anonymous helen said...

We used to go to a lot of National trust houses, now we tend to do the coastlines and out door bits. mmmm sometimes I think we did it the wrong way round, normally when my legs are killing me, haha.

Nice photos.

5:04 AM  
Anonymous Keith said...

I offered my house and grounds to the National Trust providing I could still live there rent free. I had a nice letter back from them declining my "kind offer" saying that they didn't take on hovels and told me to stop bothering them . . . . well, I think that's what they meant.

8:33 PM  
Blogger justin said...

Thanks for your comments, Helen and Keith.
Keith: I think your house would be really suitable for National Trust acquisition. Your workshop looks like a dream place to look around, full of curious objects, and I'm sure that visitors will be really thrilled to poke around in your cupboards downstairs and in your fridge, to get an idea of how our pensioners manage to survive on very little money.

10:59 PM  

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