Belvoir Castle

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This article is about the English country house. For the Crusader castle in Israel, see Belvoir Fortress.
Belvoir Castle
Belvoir Castle.jpg
Belvoir Castle
Belvoir Castle is located in Leicestershire
Belvoir Castle
Location within Leicestershire
General information
Architectural style Gothic Revival
Location North East Leicestershire
Country England
Coordinates 52°53′40.2″N 0°46′57.22″W / 52.894500°N 0.7825611°W / 52.894500; -0.7825611
Elevation 138 metres (453 ft)
Groundbreaking 1067
Renovated 1801 - 1832
Owner David Manners, 11th Duke of Rutland
Design and construction
Architect James Wyatt

Belvoir Castle (Listeni/ˈbvər/ BEE-vər[1]) is a stately home in the English county of Leicestershire, overlooking the Vale of Belvoir (grid reference SK820337). It is a Grade I listed building.[2] A corner of the castle is still used as the family home of the Manners family and remains the seat of the Dukes of Rutland, most of whom are buried in the grounds of the mausoleum there. The castle remains privately owned, and is open to visitors.

The castle is near several villages, including Redmile, Woolsthorpe, Knipton, Harston, Harlaxton, Croxton Kerrial and Bottesford, and the town of Grantham. Antiquarian John Leland wrote in the 16th century, "the castle stands on the very nape of a high hill, steep up each way, partly by nature, partly by the working of men's hands."[3]


The first castle[edit]

Belvoir Castle today
Belvoir Castle in the late 19th century
The south west range and round tower of Belvoir Castle from Jones' Views of the seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen, published in 1829. Barring minor details this image shows the castle as it remains today.
The 10th Duke outside Belvoir Castle, by Allan Warren

A Norman castle originally stood on the high ground within the wapentake of Framland, overlooking the adjacent wapentake of Winnibriggs[4] in Lincolnshire, and dominating both.[5] It was built on the land of Robert de Todeni of the Doomsday Book, and inherited from him by William d'Aubigny. It then eventually passed to William's granddaughter Isabel, who married Robert de Ros circa 1234.

Belvoir was a royal manor until it was granted to Robert de Ros in 1257. He was given a licence to crenellate in 1267.[6] When that family died out in 1508, the manor and castle passed to George Manners, who inherited the castle and barony through his mother. His son was created Earl of Rutland in 1525.

The second castle[edit]

The Norman castle had been in ruins since 1464 and John Manners, 9th Earl of Rutland started construction of a new castle from 1528.[7]:21 Much of the stone for this building came from Croxton Abbey and Belvoir Priory following their dissolution.[7]:22

In the early 17th century, castle servants Joan, Margaret and Phillipa Flower were accused of murdering the 6th Earl's two young sons by witchcraft. Joan died while in prison and Margaret and Phillipa were hanged.[8]

During the English Civil War, it was one of the more notable strongholds of the king's supporters, and King Charles spent a night here on his way into Lincolnshire.[7]:30

The third castle[edit]

In 1649 the castle was destroyed by Parliamentarians. A new building was started in 1654 which was designed as a large family home.[7]:8 It was designed by the architect John Webb and work was completed by 1668[7]:32 and cost £11,730 (equivalent to £1,820,000 in 2015).[9]

John Manners, 9th Earl of Rutland was created Duke of Rutland in 1703. Belvoir castle has been the home of the Manners family for five hundred years, and seat of the Dukes of Rutland for over three centuries.

The fourth castle[edit]

The castle was rebuilt in the romantic Gothic Revival style to designs by James Wyatt between 1799 and 1816, but on 26 October 1816 it was almost destroyed by a fire.[10] The loss was estimated at £120,000 (equivalent to £8,280,000 in 2015),[9] including pictures by Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck and Reynolds.

It was rebuilt again to largely the same designs, by the wife of the 5th Duke at a cost of £82,000 (equivalent to £6,870,000 in 2015),[9] and was largely completed by 1832. The architect Sir James Thornton[7]:50 was chiefly responsible for this rebuilding, and the result is a building which bears a superficial resemblance to a medieval castle, its central tower reminiscent of Windsor Castle.

Whilst visiting Belvoir castle in the 1840s, Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford found that the normal time for dinner was between 7:00 and 8:30 p.m. An extra meal called luncheon had been created to fill the midday gap between breakfast and dinner, but as this new meal was very light, the long afternoon with no refreshment at all left people feeling hungry. She found a light meal of tea (usually Darjeeling) and cakes or sandwiches was the perfect balance. The Duchess found taking an afternoon snack to be such a perfect refreshment that she soon began inviting her friends to join her. Afternoon tea quickly became an established and convivial repast in many middle and upper class households.[11]

The castle is open to the public and contains many works of art. The Queen's Royal Lancers Regimental Museum of the 17th and 21st Lancers was established here in 1964 but was required to leave in October 2007. The highlights of the tour are the lavish staterooms, the most famous being the Elizabeth Saloon (named after the wife of the 5th Duke), the Regents Gallery and the Roman inspired State Dining Room.


The castle sits in an estate of almost 15,000 acres (61 km2).[12]


The castle's name means beautiful view. The name Belvoir is, in fact, a Norman import by the French-speaking invaders, but the native Anglo-Saxon population was unable to pronounce such a foreign word, preferring to call it "Beaver Castle" - a usage which persists today.

Present use[edit]

A corner of the castle is still used as the family home of the Manners family. Several films and television programmes have used it as a location, notably the film Little Lord Fauntleroy starring Sir Alec Guinness. The castle itself was used as a location for The Da Vinci Code — it represented Castel Gandolfo, the Pope's summer residence. It also featured in the 1985 film Young Sherlock Holmes starring Nicholas Rowe and Alan Cox. In September 2007, it was used as a location for The Young Victoria. In the 2001 Jim Henson production of Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story, the castle is where the giant bones have been discovered. The kitchen scenes of Hill House were filmed here for the 1999 version of The Haunting which is a remake of the 1963 version.

Belvoir Castle is the host of Belvoir Fireworks,[13] an annual pyrotechnic and firework competition that takes place in mid-August. The grounds also host Belvoir Cricket Club[14] in Knipton, a village cricket club with teams playing in various leagues across Nottinghamshire. The 1st XI play in the Nottinghamshire Premier League.

In 2009, Belvoir Castle hosted the CLA Game Fair.[15] In August 2010, the castle's website was mistakenly hacked and taken over by an Algerian group who blanked the pages and inserted anti-Semitic texts in Arabic. The hackers had mistaken Belvoir Castle for Belvoir Fortress, which is located in Israel.[16]

In September 2010, the Belvoir Wassailers—the castle's own male voice choir—was reformed at the request of the Duchess. Directed by Robert-John Edwards, and accompanied on the piano by Paul Emmett, the Belvoir Wassailers performed at the castle's annual "Belvoir by Candlelight" celebration in December 2010. The choir is currently working on a variety of new material, including popular and folk music.

In November 2014, Emma Manners, Duchess of Rutland appointed Timothy Grayson as the castle's poet-in-residence.[17]

See also[edit]

The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery by Catherine Bailey features Belvoir Castle and its recent history.


  1. ^ "Belvoir Castle". Collins Dictionary. n.d. Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  2. ^ Historic England. "Details from image database (189989)". Images of England. 
  3. ^ Quoted in Cantor 1977–1978 p. 35.
  4. ^ "Open Domesday Map: Woolsthorpe-by-Belvoir". Retrieved 26 October 2015. 
  5. ^ "Map of Framland showing Belvoir geography". Retrieved 26 October 2015. 
  6. ^ Cantor, Leonard (1977–1978), "The Medieval Castles of Leicestershire" (PDF), Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, 53 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Duchess of Rutland, Rachel; Pruden, Jane. Belvoir Castle. 1000 years of Family, Art and Architecture. Frances Lincoln Ltd. p. 8. ISBN 9780711230521. 
  8. ^ "BBC News - Witches of Belvoir 'may have been framed'". BBC. 31 October 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2016), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  10. ^ "Fire at Belvoir Castle". Morning Post. British Newspaper Archive. 29 October 1816. Retrieved 29 July 2016 – via British Newspaper Archive. (subscription required (help)). 
  11. ^ p. 209, Pool, Daniel (1993) "What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew," Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, New York
  12. ^ "The Manners Arms". The Manners Arms. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  13. ^ "Belvoir Firework Champions – 4 amazing firework displays all on the same night!". 27 August 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  14. ^ "Belvoir Cricket Club, Knipton". Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  15. ^ Shooting Politics. "Shooting Politics, episode 1, 19th August 2009". Retrieved 31 October 2012. 
  16. ^ Mistaken identity for Algerian hackers
  17. ^ "Leicester writer made poet-in-residence of Belvoir Castle, Leicester Mercury". Retrieved 21 July 2015. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°53′40″N 0°46′57″W / 52.89450°N 0.78256°W / 52.89450; -0.78256