Belton’s love of books

Conservation assistant carefully cleaning a book

Belton’s second-hand bookshop helps raise funds to support our conservation work and keep the collection special, and every penny counts.

One of our ongoing projects is preserving the very special book collection in our Library. Belton House has one of the largest libraries in the care of the National Trust and contains many rare and important books.

Caring for over 20,000 books can be quite a challenge…

Our collection isn’t simply located in the Library and Study; there are also two attic rooms packed full of more amazing volumes all of which require the same TLC as our books on display in the public rooms.

We continually need to raise funds for our ongoing conservation work on the books in our care. Sometimes this can mean sending books away to specialist conservators, but we do a lot of the work here at Belton with our specially-trained team of volunteers.

Book conservation volunteer in action
Belton House Library
Book conservation volunteer in action

While the house is closed over winter, the team diligently work their way around the library shelves, cleaning, examining and recording the details of each inspected book. Book conservation, however, is a year-round task, often complicated by unexpected finds.

When the conservation team check each book, they have to take great care not to inflict any further damage to the volumes. They search diligently for any insect activity, tears, rips and weird insertions. They are particularly careful when checking for mould;  inhaling live mould spores can cause serious lung problems. Everyone receives training on how to deal with such an eventuality to minimise risks to both the conservators and visitors.

Every time we look in detail through the books we find new treasures. Many of the books are full of handwritten inscriptions and annotations. These little notes were written by the members of the Brownlow family as they read the books.

One rather battered Latin Primer seems to have suffered this fate at the hands of an old Etonian Brownlow as it contains a very precise ink drawing of one of his classmates - which he even found the time to colour in!

Among the reference works and novels are some very special gems. Did you know that we discovered an engraved plan of the Battle of Naseby with the troop depositions and the names of the Colonels of each regiment published a mere two years after the battle and well before the Civil War had ended?

We even have a volume which documents the types of punishment which had been meted out to religious nonconformists over the centuries with helpful, cartoon-like illustrations of many of these punishments. Not a book for the faint-hearted!


So when you're next exploring the stable yard at Belton House, why not pop into the second-hand bookshop in the Carriage House, to find some treasures for your own book collection?

Belton has an excellent second-hand bookshop where you can find a huge range of preloved bargains. A dedicated team of volunteers are kept busy sorting through donations to ensure the shelves are constantly brimming with books.

Belton bookshop volunteer
Belton secondhand bookshop
Belton bookshop volunteer

From bestselling fiction to art, history, and travel, there’s a selection of wonderful reads, thanks to generous donations from visitors. Book donations are always welcome.