Belton House

Sa­man­tha Pri­est­ley dis­cov­ers a lit­tle about the life of a lady’s maid in the 1 00s.

This England - - Belton House -

BE E is a Grade I-listed build­ing in Lin­colnshire, which sits amid beau­ti­ful for­mal Ital­ian and Dutch gar­dens. Once the home of the Brown­low cust fam­ily, it now be­longs to the Na­tional Trust who open it to the pub­lic and run tours.

The house is fas­ci­nat­ing both out­side and in, but the in­cred­i­ble gar­dens and vast grounds are truly stun­ning.

On a re­cent visit I took a tour of the ser­vants’ uar­ters, which led me be­low stairs into cool stone kitchens, past the orig­i­nal bells that were used to call the ser­vants, in and out of the wine cel­lar, the small uirky chapel, and into damp cor­ri­dors where frogs and toads leap and wan­der.

Our guide touched briefly on the lives of the ser­vants, but it was enough to set me think­ing. Many of the ser­vants came from all over the to work here, and many from towns and cities a world away from the lives be­ing lived above stairs at Belton House.

One of these ser­vants who trav­elled from afar was a woman called Po­line Clark. Trac­ing Po­line isn’t easy, but I do know she was born in and lived in Wool­wich in ent un­til some point in her adult life when she moved to Lin­colnshire and be­came a ser­vant.

Po­line was born in 1 06 and by 1 51, when she was 45, she was a lady’s maid.

What made Po­line move all the way up to Lin­colnshire from Wool­wich we can only guess at, but when Po­line was a girl the town was be­com­ing more and more in­dus­tri­alised and was a mil­i­tary cen­tre with large bar­racks and a dock­yard.

In con­trast, Belton House sat in glo­ri­ous grounds with a 1,300-acre deer park, an or­angery, and a beau­ti­ful lake and boat house.

es, she would have been busy and couldn’t wan­der the gar­dens at will, but our guide did men­tion that Lord Brown­low only stayed at the house at week­ends, leav­ing the work­ers to man­age their own time and work to their own sched­ules. Records sug­gest once the ser­vants had ful­filled their du­ties they had the free­dom of the beau­ti­ful sur­round­ings.

I like to imag­ine Po­line tak­ing a turn around the Ital­ian gar­dens, breath­ing in the scents from the or­angery, me­an­der­ing a while amid the oak trees and tak­ing a stroll down to the lake where the boat house over­looks the still water a vast oa­sis of beauty, lush green­ery, tran uil­lity and calm.

In a coun­try that was be­com­ing heav­ily in­dus­tri­alised, and towns like Wool­wich see­ing the rise of fac­tory work or the grim work­house loom­ing, Belton House, with its clean air and rolling land­scape, could have been a pocket of per­fec­tion for some­one like Po­line. I like to think so.

The Red Drawing-room.

The Chi­nese Bed­room at Belton House.

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