ASHER’s only and very well supported outside visit of 2023 was to Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire. This unique castle-palace has been the home of the Manners family since Tudor times, and is on the site of a castle built by William the Conqueror’s Standard-Bearer at the Battle of Hastings, Robert de Todeni, whose re-excavated ancient coffin is to be seen in the present Chapel. However, following destruction caused by two Civil Wars and a catastrophic fire in 1816, the present Regency Gothic Castle had to be rebuilt following the earlier work by the architect Matthew Wyatt.

On arrival, our party was divided into two groups for very knowledgeable Guided Tours of all the main ‘upstairs and downstairs’ rooms, from the State Dining Room and Regency Gallery to the Old Kitchen, Beer Cellars and the ‘Dooms’! The Picture Gallery has an impressive Holbein of Henry VIII, along with a somewhat incongruous velvet and silk Queen Anne Bed, brought by the Rutlands from their sister country seat of Haddon Hall.

After walking down steep paths to the Engine Yard, we enjoyed an attractive buffet lunch in the Fuel Tank Restaurant’s ‘Balloon Bar’. The afternoon was then free for us to explore the Rose Garden, with its striking ‘four season’ sculptures by Gabriel Cibber, featuring the iconic peacock of the Manners family crest, which appear all over the Castle. Steeply below this garden was the Japanese Woodland and the Duchess’ Garden, reflecting the major initiatives of the 5th and 8th Duchesses of Rutland in terracing and redesigning the Belvoir Gardens in the Victorian and later Edwardian periods.

Finally, for many of us the visit was appropriately ended with tea and cake - or jam/cream scones - in the Castle’s own Restaurant/Tea Room, located in the former Steward’s Room.

Keith Bottomley