Belvoir Castle is an imposing castle that stands to the North East of Leicestershire, commanding outstanding views from where its name derives from the meaning `beautiful view’- now pronounced Beaver the castle remains as one of the most magnificent and beautiful Regency houses in England.
The castle was designed by James Wyatt it was built in the early 1800 for the 5th Duke and Duchess of Rutland and is the fourth castle to stand on the site. It is always with Great pleasure that the Duke and Duchess invite you to their home to enjoy and share its many grand and unique rooms and layers of history, as well as numerous paintings and treasures that have been collected by the family for nearly 1,000 years.
Belvoir Castle is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Rutland. The family have lived at Belvoir in an unbroken line for almost a thousand years. Crowning a hill in Leicestershire, its turrets and towers rise over the Vale of Belvoir like an illustration in a romantic fairy-tale.
The land was a gift from William the Conqueror to one of his Norman barons – Robert de Todeni who fought for him as his Standard Bearer at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The first castle which was begun in 1067, was constructed primarily to defend its Norman owners from attack, and so took full advantage of its defensive position high up on the ridge. By 1464 the Wars of the Roses had taken their toll on the building and it was more or less in ruins. Some 60 years later it rose again, but as a nobler structure with a central courtyard, parts of which can still be recognised today. But in 1649 that too was destroyed, by Parliamentarians after Royalists had seized it during the Civil War. Its third incarnation, began in 1654 was designed as a large family home with no connotations of defence or war.
The gardens have undergone several changes over the centuries, the latest being a two-year restoration programme that saw the Duchess and team bring the lost plans of Capability Brown to life. The castle gardens are a mix of classical formal gardens, leading to the castles woodlands walks. There are many gardens, the Japanese, Duchess’s and Hermits gardens. A circuitous three-mile walk along the Dukes walk, takes in all gardens and views and leads you back to the castle.
Art at the Castle
Belvoir Castle is adorned both indoors and out with the products of creative artists who have been admired – or hired – by each generation of the Manners family, who have arranged these paintings, sculptures and furnishings to reflect their innermost aesthetic preferences.
The Fifth Duke, John Henry (1787-1856), and his Duchess, Elizabeth (Duchess 1799-1825) created many of the interiors you will enjoy today, but they did so with heirlooms passed down mainly from his father and great grandfather, and with their own acquisitions and commissions too.
The present Duke’s Great Grandmother, Violet (Duchess 1906-1925) was a portrait artist herself, and you will see portraits of and by her around the Castle. She also added and arranged furniture and objets d’art in both the Castle and its Gardens in her own inimitable style.
John, 3rd Duke of Rutland (1721-79), was the first member of the family to avidly collect Old Masters, including works by Gaspar Poussin, Durer, Rubens, although he never did the conventional Grand Tour that stimulated many other collectors of his time. Within ten years his burgeoning collection demanded a Gallery, and he extended the Castle in 1750 with a ‘Picture Room’ that was more attractive inside than out and so was the first wing to be demolished when his grandson John Henry began his re-modelling of Belvoir. But the idea of a Gallery dedicated to the display of the collection has taken root: come upstairs to see Henry VIII after Holbein, Teniers’ Proverbs, and three works by Gainsborough.