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Belton House

Afficionados of the 1995 BBC TV version of Pride and Prejudice might recognise Belton House as Rosings Park, Lady Catherine’s home. This is the drive that Lizzie walked along with Mr and Mrs Collins, as he encouraged her not to worry about her dress, as Lady Catherine liked to maintain the distinctions of rank.

The approach to Belton House. The yew trees beside the gravel walk have been trimmed since the BBC filmed there.

 

There is a lot more detail on Belton House in P&P here for the exteriors, and here for the interiors.

The interior of the house is decorated impressively and opulently, as you might expect. The second link above has plenty of pictures. Being a book lover, I was most impressed by the house having not only a library, but other anterooms also lined with bookshelves.

The library was a place for sitting as well as storing books.

 

Some rooms were little more than wide passageways between larger chambers– but still had bookshelves!

 

old books
Sadly, the books were all safely behind bars, or notices not to touch. It would have been wonderful to be allowed to look into them all.

 

When we visited, there were two different tours of the house we could take–‘above stairs’ and ‘below stairs’. I was most interested in the below stairs tour, of the servants’ quarters, and the kitchen areas.  Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos on this tour, for ‘security reasons’. I think this was because one of the rooms the butler used to be in charge of is used to store the family silver.

The servants lived in attic rooms; the rooms we saw on the tour were their places of work. Below stairs was divided into two sectios–the men’s side and the women’s side. Their duties were clearly divided by sex, and it seems that they were kept apart as much as possible during the working day. The women did the cooking and much of the cleaning, under the direction of the housekeeper. The men carried coal, polished the silver and the shoes. All were summoned by bells worked on pulleys from the various rooms in the house.

The servants had their own passageways and stairs. You may have read of the ‘green baize door’ in historical novels. Belton House has red baize doors. Baize is a felt-like cloth that abosbs sound. The baize door in a grand house separated the family’s rooms from the servant’s corridors.

Red baize doors

The first photo below show the main staircase used by the family and their guests, complete with chandelier. The second one shows part of the servants’ stair, with plain painted walls, bare wooden bannisters, and the matting on the stairs mainly there to keep down the noise of servants’ feet. The thing hanging from the ceiling is a mock up of a winch, used to haul heavy items such as coal.

The main staircase.

 

Servants’ stair and winch.

To me, the contrast between the family’s areas and the servants’ areas really brings home the great class divisions of the time, and the huge differences in wealth between those at the top and bottom of society.

There is more information about Belton House here, and this is a link to the National Trust website.

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