On the way back from Hadrian’s Wall, (it was a wall, it was raining, it was further south than I’d always imagined it), we went to Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens.
It’s quite a place and I left it feeling very sad, for the sad, empty house. So I’d better explain why.
The buildings and gardens are managed by English Heritage with the rest of the estate being run by the original owners the Middleton family.
So first we went to the Castle, via the gardens. The Castle was built in the 14th Century and has a Jacobean wing to it, it’s not difficult to determine which is which! However, my slight obsession with spiral staircases continues..
The quarry gardens are built in the quarries that were left from quarrying the stone for the Hall (and yes I am aware that there were far too many uses of the word quarry, in that sentence, but I couldn’t think of a suitable synonym for quarry!). Because they are sheltered, the gardens have plants that wouldn’t normally grow so far north and if it hadn’t been cold, raining and, close to closing time we probably would have spent more time wondering around them.
I love ferns, the look like fossils…
Then we went into the Hall.
I was not expecting to like the Hall at all, from the outside, it looks like a brown square box. The guidebook describes it as austere and so it is. It was designed by John Dobson for Charles Monck (formally Middleton – he changed his name to get an inheritance!) who was very keen on Greek architecture although whether he was keen on it before he honeymooned in Athens isn’t clear. He built the Hall, relocating the village in the process, and the family moved into it on Christmas Day in 1817. Despite it’s outside and the very formal and quite cold central hall, it isn’t an unfriendly house. We knew that there would be no furniture in the Hall, English Heritage says it’s “displayed without furnishings to reveal the fine craftsmanship of its construction.” but I wasn’t at all prepared for how sad wondering around this poor abandoned house would make me feel.
Especially the library..
It’s actually in the terms of guardianship that the Hall is displayed without furniture and I don’t understand it. I couldn’t see the craftmanship, I just saw a house that deserves better than this….
Belsay is lovely and I wish we could have stayed longer and that we had better weather, but it’s a very sad house.