I joined the National Trust in 1980s because of my love of history. The advantage of having a Membership Card is that you can visit a stately home or garden and not feel under pressure to see the whole property in one go; you can go back, time and time again. I first visited Belton House in 1986, not long after it was acquired by the National Trust in 1984; the National Trust were able to open the house to the public very quickly, after it came into their possession, because it was in such a good state of repair. John and I wanted to see a newly-acquired National Trust property and because Belton House was quite near where we lived, we decided on a day out. I have been back on a number of occasions because Belton House often arranges either temporary exhibitions or organises events at Christmas time.
Belton House is a Grade I Listed building; it is often referred to as a ‘quintessential, country house estate’, the perfect example of a 17th Century house, not too large in size. It has been claimed that the facade, as seen on the tea towel, of Belton House was the inspiration for the motorway signs to stately homes – some fame! As a tea towel, it is elegant, pure linen and a good reproduction of this lovely house. I remember being very excited when I saw the tea towel on sale in the shop; in the early days of my National Trust membership most properties had their own tea towels, not so much the case these days. Belton House has a large collection of silver and porcelain and an extensive library but my favourite part has to be the grounds. I remember on that first visit, the excitement of seeing the formal elegant gardens surrounding the house, of both Italian and Dutch design, beautifully kept and in the background the Deer Park and 1300 acres of land. It was such a beautiful setting, made more perfect by the glorious weather.
I have loved every visit to Belton House but I note from my National Trust Handbook that this year there is an exhibition exploring the role of Peregrine Cust (the former owner and 6th Baron); he was a Lord-in-Waiting to Edward VIII and his staunch supporter during the abdication crisis in 1936. This tea towel will remind me that perhaps that would be a very interesting exhibition to visit this year.