Castle 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.
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, but 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."
A Norman castle originally stood on the high ground within the wapentake of Framland, overlooking the adjacent wapentake of Winnibriggs. in Lincolnshire and dominating both. 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. When the legitimate de Ros line 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 Norman castle had been in ruins since 1464 and in 1528, Thomas Manners, 1st Earl of Rutland started construction of a new castle. It was completed in 1555. Much of the stone for this building came from Croxton Abbey and Belvoir Priory following their dissolution.
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.
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.
In 1649, the castle was destroyed by Parliamentarians. A new building was started in 1654 which was designed as a large family home:8 by the architect John Webb. Work was completed by 1668:32 and cost £11,730 (£2.03 million today).
The 9th Earl 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.
In 1799, the 5th Duke of Rutland married Lady Elizabeth Howard. The new Duchess of Rutland soon chose architect James Wyatt to rebuild the castle in the romantic Gothic Revival style. The Duke, one of the wealthiest landholders in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, sold seven assorted villages and their surrounding lands to fund the massive project. The project was nearing completion when, on 26 October 1816, it was almost destroyed by a fire. The loss - including pictures by Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck, and Reynolds - was estimated at £120,000 (£9.25 million today).
Rebuilt, again, to largely the same designs, at a cost of an additional £82,000 (£7.67 million today), the castle was largely completed by 1832. The architect Sir James Thornton:50 (who was the Duke's friend and chaplain and Vicar of nearby Bottesford) was chiefly responsible for this rebuilding, and the result bears a superficial resemblance to a medieval castle, its central tower reminiscent of Windsor Castle.
Whilst visiting Belvoir castle in the 1840s, Anna, 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.
The castle is open to the public and contains many works of art. 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 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 Queen's Royal Lancers and Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Museum is now at Thoresby Hall.
Belvoir Gardens was designed and landscaped by Elizabeth Howard, 5th Duchess of Rutland, who was married to John Manners, the 5th Duke of Rutland. It was created in 1799, the year Belvoir Castle was built. There are many unusual features to the gardens, for example the natural amphitheatre which faces the estate was formed by the moraines of glaciers and a 'root house' or summer house which survives to this day. These natural amphitheatres are now embedded with fresh water springs to ensure blooming plants throughout the year.
Belvoir Gardens was also the first site of mass spring flower bedding, a concept developed by Mr. Divers, head gardener of the gardens at the time.
The once thriving gardens are now slowly being restored to its former glory. "Friends of Belvoir Gardens" is a programme which encourages enthusiasts with green fingers to volunteer to help manage this beautifully preserved garden.
The castle's name means beautiful view. In 2018, the 11th Duchess of Rutland gave a televised tour of the castle to journalist Phil Spencer, explaining how the name Belvoir is a Norman import by the French-speaking invaders of the 11th century, 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.
The traditional burial place of the Manners family was St Mary the Virgin's Church, Bottesford. Since elevation to the dukedom in 1703 most Dukes have been buried in the grounds of the mausoleum at Belvoir Castle. The mausoleum at Belvoir Castle was built by The 5th Duke of Rutland, following the death of his wife, Elizabeth Howard (1780-1825), daughter of The 5th Earl of Carlisle. After its construction, most of the 18th century monuments in Belton Church were moved to the mausoleum which then became the family's main place of burial.