Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Hidden England Wants You to Visit

A group of stately homes in the East Midlands have got together to promote themselves as “Hidden England”.

The five are amongst the most important in the country. Three of them are in Lincolnshire, one is in Leicestershire and one in Northamptonshire. All are within an hour’s drive from each other, and within easy reach of London, East Anglia, Yorkshire and the West Midlands.

One of the originators of the consortium is my old friend Andrew Norman, formerly of Belvoir Castle and now with Rockingham Castle.

Belton House is in Lincolnshire, close to Grantham. It is one of the finest Restoration houses in the country, built in the 1680s, with impressive collections of paintings, furniture, tapestries and silverware. There is a 35 acre garden and a 1000 acre landscaped park. There’s also a great adventure park and miniature railway.

Belvoir Castle is in Leicestershire, a few miles from Melton Mowbray, and is the family home of the Duke and Duchess of Rutland. It can be seen, looking for all the world like a fairytale castle, for miles around on its prominent hilltop overlooking the lovely Vale of Belvoir. The views from the castle are amazing – it is said that on a clear day you can see Lincoln Cathedral. There are superb collections of period art, furniture and armour. The first Belvoir Castle was built just after the Norman Conquest for William the Conqueror’s standard bearer.

Burghley is in Lincolnshire, on the outskirts of the outstanding old town of Stamford. It is one of the grandest houses of the first Elizabethan age, and was built for William Cecil, the first Lord Burghley, who was Queen Elizabeth’s long standing adviser. Highlights of the house include painted ceilings by Antonio Verrio and a collection of Japanese porcelain.

Grimsthorpe Castle is in Lincolnshire, near Bourne, and was built for a visit by Henry VIII in 1541. The North Front is the last work by the playwright and Baroque architect Sir John Vanbrugh. There is extensive woodland, a 50 acre lake, and parkland with ancient oaks, where deer still graze.

Rockingham Castle is in Northamptonshire, near Corby and Market Harborough, on the crest of a ridge overlooking the Welland Valley. The castle was begun by William the Conqueror, although much of what can be seen today dates from the Tudor period. There is a remarkable collection of 20th century paintings, and extensive gardens. Charles Dickens was a frequent visitor, and based Chesney Wolds in “Bleak House” on the castle.

Much filming has been done in and around these houses, including for “Pride and Prejudice” and “The Da Vinci Code”.

Belvoir Castle and Rockingham Castle have both been used as coffee stops on my Coach Trips.

All the houses would like you to visit, and if you’re coming a long way perhaps you would like me to step on your coach and give you a commentary while meandering around the beautiful countryside.