Random notes on the travels of a Welshman who has been allowed out to play after finishing his chores. OK so I don't travel with my Aunt, but I am usually under the adult supervision of my long suffering wife.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.