Our next outing is up in Northumberland, Belsay Castle and the Quarry Walk.
The History Bit
Back in days of yore, the first fortification at Belsay was an Iron Age hillfort, set on a hilly spur known as Bantam Hill. Not a lot of info on that as no records exist of how big it was, or how long it was occupied, but in 1270 Richard de Middleton, Lord Chancellor to King Henry III had a Manor built there. The Manor stayed in the Middleton family until 1317 when Gilbert de Middleton owned it. At this point in history, Robert The Bruce was on the rampage, and having won a great victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 was raiding into England with impunity. Gilbert raised himself a private army to counter the threat of The Bruce, but stupid Gilbert went a bit OTT and ended up raiding Yorkshire and extorting money from the Bishop of Durham. It didn’t take long until he was captured, hung, drawn and quartered, and his Manor confiscated. The Belsay estate was passed around a few people but ended up back in the Middleton clan in 1390, when John Middleton extended the manor and built the castle which is still there today. In 1614 the castle was modified by Thomas Middleton who added a Jacobean range on the west side, probably replacing the old manor. A further wing was added round about 1711, and a walled garden in front of the castle. In 1795 the castle passed into the hands of 6th Baronet Sir Charles Miles Lambert Monck who actually had the surname of Middleton but changed his name to that of his maternal grandfather Laurence Monck of Caenby Hall, Lincolnshire who died in 1798, in order to inherit his estate. Because you can never have enough halls and castles. Charlie had traveled to Greece for his honeymoon and became much enamored of Hellenic architecture, so with the help of John Dobson, the North’s most famous architect, he built a new manor in the grounds of the castle in the Greek Revival style. He and his family moved into the new building in 1817 and just abandoned the castle. Of course, that fell into disrepair and by 1843 parts of the structure were ruinous.
Luckily Sir Arthur Middleton took it on in 1872 and the 1711 wing was demolished and the manorial house was partially rebuilt so it could be used as a dower house whilst the tower itself was restored in 1897. During the 2nd World War, the military used the castle which led to further deterioration, and by 1945 when the Middleton family got it back, they lacked the funds to sort it out. By 1986 Sir Stephen Middleton owned the estate, but moved into a smaller house nearby, leaving the two properties empty. Both of these were transferred into State ownership in 1980 and the site is now in the care of English Heritage.
In the morning Sophie and I had been to see the Crocus field at Wallington, so after lunch, we decided to do the Quarry walk at Belsay. We walked through the Walled garden to get to it.
there wasn’t much going on in it, no spring flowers as yet.
At least there were snowdrops along the way
It was a lovely blue sky day
and the sun shone low through the trees
Walking through the quarry is amazing
So many colours in the rocks
and I was fascinated by how the roots from the trees above split the rocks on their way to finding some ground and therefore nutrients.
when we came out of the quarry we saw the castle ahead.
I love that they keep the windows painted red!
Before the floor fell
The rear view of the castle shows how spectacular it must have been
You can still climb the stairs to the top, which I’ve done in the past, but not this time.
I like how the gardener lets you know what’s going on
Once we’d walked around the castle, we went back through the quarry, so here are a couple more shots of what we saw, and that’s the end of this day out!
all pictures are embiggenable with a click,
full album can be found HERE