Sunday, 19 October 2014

BELSAY - NOT FADE AWAY

 
Belsay Hall in Northumberland at this time of year - soft autumnal colours in the gardens contrasting with, yet subtly echoing, the hall's faded interiors. The hall is Greek Revival in design and, from the outside, is so clean-cut and solid it could have been plonked into the landscape yesterday, or at least in the 1920s. 

Belsay Hall

Designed by the owner of the nearby and much more romantic Belsay Castle, Sir Charles Monck (formerly Middleton), in the first quarter of the 19th century, it is a perfectly square, austere and coolly classical box-like building. The guide book tells us;
 
" Much as his neighbours might admire Sir Charles's strength of character in the design and building of the hall and Lady Monck's forbearance in living there, Belsay was never likely to attract many imitators. It is the special quality of Belsay that everything - plan elevations, detailing, proportion - is subjected to a ruthless rationality such as architects can rarely impose on their clients but which the gentleman-architect could impose on his long-suffering family."

I wonder if Lady Monck would have preferred to live among the antique charms of the medieval Castle, circa 1370, now a picturesque ruin?


 Belsay Castle.
 
Sir Charles's determination to keep the external appearance of his new building starkly pure led to its downfall. He created an internal drainage system to ensure that no gutters or piping would detract from the grandeur of his building's exterior. In time this caused a problem with damp which, in part, led to the end of its use as a family home. Now, thanks to English Heritage's care, we can enjoy the architectural detail and worn surfaces of it's interiors which are echoed, in Autumn, in the exotic quarry gardens outside.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Belsay Hall boasts a ten second echo in it's claustrophobic cellars - our efforts were not convincing.
 
video
 
 
 
 
 
 
On entering the quarry garden, formality disappears. Sir Charles intended this part of his design to be wild, even sublime, and was said to have been inspired by the quarries at Siracusa in Sicily, pictured below in this watercolour by Edward Lear.
 
 
There is a legend lurking in the lush shrubbery - The Wildman of Belsay was adopted by the family before the Quarry Garden, his perfect habitat, existed. He is to be found as part of the Middleton family's coat of arms. Here on the castle...
 
 
...and here on a stained glass window by Henry Gyles of York dating from 1699.
 
 
 
Someone seems to feel quite at home here!
 
 
If you would like to explore Northumberland and it's many wonders why not contact Julie at The Cloth Shed blog and enquire about The Bastle, her superb, newly renovated self-catering property. It's as historic and exciting as any E.H. or N.T. property! 
 
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24 comments:

  1. As usual a sparkling post Nilly. Thanks for the tip about the Bastle.

    Jean
    x

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    1. We haven't stayed there so far, partly because we live fairly near this area, but Julie who owns the Bastle is absolutely lovely and also sells super textiles and covetable vintage items at her partner's fairs, so why not visit for a weekend & go to the fair too!

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  2. You have tweaked my memories - Belsay was a destination of ours during the years we lived in Northumberland when our sons were young.

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    1. Northumberland is a lovely area which seems to be improving all the time - and Julie who owns the Bastle is a delightful person, so I hope you feel tempted to visit again. We also visited Wallington on this day out.

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  3. Don't tell me you were visiting just up the road from me! You should have said..I could have come to help you with the ten second echo in the spooky cellars. Incidentally i have been writing a piece for the website on Belsay today... Not as eloquently as yours though.
    Thank you for your most generous endorsement of the Bastle, you are extremely kind.
    The website should be 'live' next week ... Hurrah!
    Hope to see you soon
    Julie x

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    1. Hope the bookings are rolling in - you deserve great success. And I hope you keep seeking out your trade-mark treasures for the fairs. If Ottie allows you the time, of course!

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  4. Fascinating, I had not heard of this place before.

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    1. Northumberland is a revelation if you haven't visited before. Interesting country houses and history, spectacular landscapes - not forgetting Hadrian's Wall of course.

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  5. Looks like you were the only people there too....what a lovely spot.....enhanced by the elegantly ghostly Nilly figure, haunting several of the rather beautiful shots....and I was impressed by the echo. Lovely jx

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    1. We actually managed the full 10 seconds but somehow messed up the recording. Northumberland is fantastic!

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  6. As always, very interesting your excursions Nilly.
    I really liked the echo of the cellar, chilling ....
    A hug and good week
    Love Susy x

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    1. Hope you have the time to visit the area Susie. There are lots of vintage and antiques fairs nearby.

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  7. Such a lovely post, great images as always. Loved the video! I always learn something when I read your posts and love that we always have glimpses of you and Mr N on your travels. In answer to your query on the book fair, here are the dates for 2015 -

    26th April, 21st June, 23rd August and 18th October.

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    1. Thank you Jayne - I'll try to persuade my friend to come with me as she's an avid book collector.

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  8. Thank you for pointing the way to The Cloth Shed. I have signed up to follow the blog. Thanks again for your informative and well illustrated blog posts. My husband and I are both fans.

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    1. We see Julie of The Cloth Shed at antiques fairs run by her partner. She has a very good eye (like me she loves American folk art )and sells delightful curiosities. Her impeccable good taste shows in her new project, the Bastle, I think.

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  9. What w lovely post and beautiful pictures...
    Have a nice evening!
    Titti

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    1. Thanks so much - Belsay is a beautiful place.

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  10. Great post! I particularly liked the first photograph - it has a curiously 'other-time' feel to it.

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    1. Thank you! The whole place has that "other-time" feel, I think.

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  11. Loved Belsay when we visited in 2010

    https://www.flickr.com/search/?w=86968574@N00&q=Belsay

    That summer it was home to the intriguing exhibition 'Extraordinary Measures'.

    I don't know whether this link will work.

    www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2009/apr/04/slinkachu-street-ar...

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  12. Have just discovered your blog and am enjoying setting off through back posts. Your Pinterest boards are interesting and stimulating too. I wondered whether you might be interested to have a look at my blog - no antique textiles but traditional embroidery with a modern twist (see my Elizabethan jacket
    http://www.addisonembroideryatthevicarage.co.uk/2012/10/19/embroidered-elizabethan-jacket-animals-birds-insects/) and many whitework monograms, etc.

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  13. Hello, I am currently planning a bit of writing on the subject of the Wildman or Woodswose. Would you mind awfully if I used some of your photos of Belsay - in particular the gardens? Save me a very long trip to take some of my own. I would of course credit you?! Happy to discuss.

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    1. Yes, that's fine. Good luck with your writing!

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