Unfinished Business – Lyveden New Bield

Our second foray of the weekend into the English countryside took us to perhaps one of the most romantic ruins you could hope to come across. After traveling down a narrow single track road we turned off onto a non-metalled road that seem to take us across fields before finally revealing a three story, roofless ruin left in the middle of a large field.

Looking across one of the newly restored garden moats towards the ruins.
Looking across one of the newly restored garden moats towards the ruins.

Lyveden New Bield was built by Sir Thomas Gresham, the fervent Roman Catholic, during a time when being a catholic was not perhaps the safest of religions to hold during the 1600’s in the UK. The exact date is unknown but can be estimated to circa 1604–05, the year of Tresham’s death. The New Bield was on the estate of Tresham’s second home, Lyveden Manor House, also known as Lyveden Old Bield. Money didn’t seem to be lacking when he started building it.

Detail of one of the door arches on the first floor.
Detail of one of the door arches on the first floor.

Although it is large, with many rooms, it is thought this was designed to be spectacular garden lodge. I can tell you my garden shed is nothing like this. It is full of religious symbolism.  Designed on a plan reminiscent of a Greek Cross, the facades have a strict symmetry. The building has two floors above a raised basement, with mullioned and transomed windows. Each floor had three rooms with a staircase in the south projection of the cross. The exterior of the building is decorated by friezes of a religious nature.

Detail of some of the carving that surrounds the whole building. These remain in excellent condition, despite being over 400 years old.
Detail of some of the carving that surrounds the whole building. These remain in excellent condition, despite being over 400 years old.

But why was it never finished, they obviously had the money. Well this shows you why it is necessary to make sure you pick the right side when planing a revolution. After Thomas Greshamns death in 16015, his son Francis Tresham inherited the estate, but within the same year, along with his cousins Catesby and Wintour, became involved in the Gunpowder Plot. So that was the end of him!

Looking up through the floors.
Looking up through the floors.

Surrounding the lodge are the remains of a garden. Tresham designed extensive gardens between the manor house and the New Bield, but for centuries little evidence of the gardens remained. In 2010, National Trust experts studying photographs taken by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War discovered the remains of an Elizabethan labyrinth, garden and orchard in the grounds.

Restored orchards. The planting is based upon archeology. not much left on the trees to munch on though.
Restored orchards. The planting is based upon archeology. not much left on the trees to munch on though.
A Ruddy Darter Dragonfly. The sun had brought these out, and there were a number of them still patrolling near the moats.
A Ruddy Darter Dragonfly. The sun had brought these out, and there were a number of them still patrolling near the moats.
Autumn colours reflected in the moat.
Autumn colours reflected in the moat.

Lyveden New Bield

A belter of a house – Belton House

This past weekend we made a tour across the border into England to visit old friends in Northamptonshire. Following short debate the decisions made to make use of our National Trust Membership and visit Belton House. Just outside Grantham, Lincolnshire is a perfect looking house surrounded by a woodland park, which with the autumn colours and blue sky created a magical feel. This was enhanced further by kids dressed up in Halloween Costumes ranging far and wide across the park looking for clues to their treasure hunt.

The front of the house from the approach road that visitors would have followed when arriving at the house.
The front of the house from the approach road that visitors would have followed when arriving at the house.

For three hundred years, Belton House was the seat of the Brownlow and Cust family, who had first acquired land in the area in the late 16th century. Between 1685 and 1688 Sir John Brownlow and his wife had the present mansion built. Like any house that is this old, it has been altered inside and out, but perhaps less so than others.

An avenue to trees leading to the clock tower before entering the courtyard.
An avenue to trees leading to the clock tower before entering the courtyard.

Over the years the family rose through the ranks of the aristocracy from Baronet, through Barons and onto becoming Earls. But lost the rank when one of them died without a direct heir.

Belton House

At the beginning of World War I, like many other British landowners, the 3rd Earl Brownlow offered his house and park to the Government for war service. In 1915, the home depôt and training ground of the Machine Gun Corps were established in the southern part of Belton park. The stables now holds an exhibition of the the training and experiences of the soldiers that received their training here. Now there is nothing left to be seen of the barracks.

The Stables
The Stables

In the 1920’s the Brownlows, like many of the the large landowners int eh UK were faced with mounting financial problems. Eventually to avoid death duties in 1984 they gave the house away—complete with most of its contents to the National Trust.

The Italianate Garden with the Orangery and church in the background.
The Italianate Garden with the Orangery and church in the background.

Belton House Belton House Belton House