Clash of the Knights at Belsay Castle and Hall brings the medieval period back to life. A medieval encampment in the castle grounds provides the backdrop for a battle between the knights.
Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens is an English Heritage property near Morpeth in Northumberland. It has been on my must visit list for a while and recently we went to see the clash of the knights. This is one of the many medieval events taking place in English Heritage properties over the summer.
Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens are the creation of the Middleton family. The medieval castle was the first building on the site. A fortified tower dominates the castle and speaks of the conflict that took place in the border region in that time. In the 17th century the castle became a mansion house with the addition of an extra wing. Belsay Hall was built in the 1800’s and it became the new residence of the family.
After entering the village of Belsay it is easy to find Belsay Hall by following the signs. A country road takes you to the free car park. It is then a short walk to the grounds of the estate. A tea room is on the right and entry into the grounds is on the left though the gift shop.
Entering the grounds of the estate the first thing you see is Belsay Hall. The hall was built by Charles Monck in Greek revival style. Charles Monck was formerly Charles Middleton, the change of name was to inherit his grandfather’s estate. Belsay Hall was built in Greek style as an eternal reminder of his honeymoon in Greece.
Inside the house is empty. All the furniture, books and possessions were sold when the Middleton family left in the 1960’s. As you walk round the house the focus is on the architectural details. The rooms are grand and seem to echo with history. Glimpses of past grandeur can be seen where sections of old wall paper from the 1800’s are still on the walls.
The most impressive room is the pillar room, a vast space in the centre of the hall. The Greek pillars lead past the first floor gallery and up to an atrium. The library is also amazing with wooden shelving making up the walls and its marble fireplace. At various points on the walls there are buttons which would summon servants.
The bottom floor holds an enormous cellar space which held beer and wine. The rooms are cold and the large size suggests that the Middleton family were fond of a party. The hall is built with stone from the quarry outside and this is most evident in the cellar.
To reach Belsay castle you need to walk though the extensive gardens. Just outside the hall you will find formal terraces and beds with a vast range of flowers and shrubs. There is even a bowling green with a little summer house hidden off one of the paths.
Access to the castle is though Belsay Hall Quarry Garden. It is like wandering into a Jurassic world with ravines on each side. Rhododendrons, ferns and rare plants line the paths. It is not a short walk and there are many turns to take. It would be easy to linger for a while in the gardens as there is something new round every turn. Dogs are welcome in the gardens as long as they are on the lead.
Leaving the gardens we caught our first glimpse of Belsay castle. It is an imposing sight. The massive tower was a refuge for the family during the time of Anglo-Scottish warfare. It must have been easy to defend, the quarry gardens would have made it hard for enemies to reach. The manor house wing on the side was a later addition. It is possible to go to the top of the castle but we didn’t risk the climb as it was raining.
A medieval encampment stood in the shadow of Belsay Castle. Flags were fluttering over the field where the knights would fight. It is an interesting day out that helps bring history to life. Knights were wandering around in armour and demonstrations of life in the medieval times were ongoing.
A large bill board told you the times of the different events during the day. Whilst we were there was found out how knights put on their armour. There was a demonstration and talk about how the armour worked. It was really interesting. Later in the day there were a number of knights battles taking part. We didn’t stop for these due to the weather.
We always enjoy the historical events that English Heritage put on. Over the years we have seen Vikings at Lindisfarne and knights at Warkworth Castle. The events are always interesting and we learn a lot about history. This event was no exception. Belsay Castle made a stunning backdrop for the event and Belsay Hall is well worth a visit. We will have to come back on a sunny day and make the trip to the top of the castle. I am sure the views are stunning.
Entry into Belsay Hall is free for English Heritage Members. For the event there was a small charge of £1.50 for adults and 0.50 for children. If you are not a member the prices are:
Have you ever been to one of these English Heritage events? What did you think? Let me know below.
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