Acquired over 400 years, Belton House has one of the finest collections in the country, renowned for its quality, completeness and sheer style. Take a look at the highlights you shouldn’t miss on a visit to Belton.
Highlights from Belton's collection
The highlights of Belton’s collection lie in four areas: late 1600s English portraiture, silver, ceramics and books. In each of these areas, Belton is outstanding and among the best in the National Trust.
The late Keeper of the Queen’s Pictures, Sir Oliver Millar, considered Belton the best place in the country to see a representative collection of late 1600s and early 1700s portraits. Works by Wissing, Kneller, Vanderbanc, Soest and Dahl rub shoulders with the work of less acclaimed artists such as Mary Beale and Brianus Birdeus.
Belton’s collection of silver includes show plates from the late 1600s through to the 1800s, and more conventional pieces for everyday use.
The silver collection includes a series of royal candle sconces, gilded cups and massive ‘pilgrim’ bottles as well as chocolate pots, cutlery and an entire dinner service made for Sir John Cust when he was Speaker of the House of Commons.
The best ceramics of Asian origin tend to be Japanese, splendid in their inky dark blues, iron reds and gilt. Punch bowls, used for serving the popular alcoholic beverage of the early 1700s, feature twice in the collection; teapots and teacups, less exotically, appear more often.
A little Chinese incense burner is perhaps the most charming piece; from the Ming period (roughly War of the Roses and Tudors in England), it is in the form of a heraldic lion, fiercely defying all approaches with bared teeth, but small and prettily painted in blue.
There is an extraordinary group of important French porcelain vessels decorated to resemble the flawless finish of Japanese lacquerware. Consisting of a jug and six vases, the collection was made at the Royal Porcelain Manufactory in Sèvres just outside Paris, between 1790 and 1791.
Unusual for the time, there is a pair of jars for containing pot-pourri or burning incense. Described by the factory as ‘pot-pourri vase with lion-heads’ (‘vase pot pourri à têtes de lions’) their necks are pierced, and they have Egyptian lion’s head handles. No other example of the model survives.
Belton’s libraries, of which there are two, are considered second only to that of Norfolk's Blickling Estate in significance. The collection includes rare political pamphlets of the 1600s and 1700s, Italian and Russian books, and tracts on legal, agricultural and political matters.
Recently re-acquired for the library is the late 1600s Ogilby book of road maps, the first of its kind in the world.
More collections to discover
An unusual timepiece
Some of the most dazzling individual items fall outside these categories, in particular, the longcase clock by Daniel Delander, complete with perpetual calendar and zodiac calendar, leap year indicator, and solar time.
Oriental wall coverings
Chinese wallpaper hung in the Chinese Bedroom and Bamboo Bedroom offer exquisite glimpses of the Oriental wall coverings popular in the 1800s.
A feature cabinet
A real jewel in the collection is an architectural cabinet entirely veneered in the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli. Thought to have been made in Rome around 1640, the cabinet takes inspiration from the facades of Italian Renaissance churches.
Oil painting by Melchior d'Hondecoeter
No visit to the mansion is complete without seeing the three massive canvases of birds, painted by Melchior d’Hondecoeter in the 1600s, that decorate the Dining Room. They came from a chateau near Antwerp in the 1800s, and were accompanied by one even bigger, which was sold, sawn in half, and is now to be found somewhere between Texas and an island in the Caribbean.
Packed full of treasures, discover a mansion bursting with history. Belton's collection tells a story rich in global history and our future work will focus on bringing those stories to life.
Explore the gardens at Belton, including the Italian Garden, a Conservatory and a Dutch Garden with formal bedding schemes. Whatever time of year you visit, the shifting seasons provide a great variety of colour and wildlife to see.
Explore our fun family day out ideas, including our indoor play area and outdoor adventure playground. Make the most of your day out with the kids at Belton.
Work at Belton uncovers stories from the past and preserves over 400 years of history, helping us to look after this special place for everyone, for ever.
The art and heritage collections we care for rival the world’s greatest museums. Learn more about the collection of paintings, decorative art, costume, books, household and other objects at historic places.
See the breadth of our collection of works of art, furniture and more: we care for around a million objects at over 200 historic places, there’s a surprise discovery around every corner.
Discover the stories behind some of the greatest artworks and artefacts looked after by the National Trust, as told in a dedicated book, 125 Treasures from the Collections of the National Trust.