Sparkling Stars of Belton House
The mansion has been gloriously decorated by the National Trust’s own team, their volunteers and contributors from groups in the local community. This festive treat for the whole family will add magic and sparkle to your seasonal celebrations. Lincolnshire Life visited as the transformation took place.
The team have christened her ‘Mrs Christmas’ and since Claire Barrett, the Senior Programming and Partnerships Officer, took up her role in April, preparations for the opening on 25th November have been uppermost in her thoughts.
The joy of community
“This is my first year so that does focus the mind,” said Claire, “but seeing how the whole team have pulled together to find inspiration for the various creative elements which have sprung from ‘Sparkling Stars’ is fantastic. Everyone across the estate is spreading the joy of Christmas.”
More than 40 trees will be decorated inside and outside the house, against the backdrop of some of the finest period interiors of any property in the east of England. The job of dressing the trees is largely undertaken by 40 or so of the 400 plus volunteers who donate their time at Belton. Many more of them will be guides, reading stories and helping visitors discover the unique themes of the rooms which will be open.
“We work with many local community organisations,” continued Claire. “This year our rangers have built wooden stars measuring 4ft x 4ft which will be illuminated and decorate the cobbled drive as visitors approach. These star plaques have been decorated by local community groups.”
Pictured is the star representing Beaumond House Hospice while others have been completed by Grantham River Care, Carers First and Lincolnshire Breast Cancer Support.
“One of the really special moments I am looking forward to will be in the Tapestry Room. Our Gardens team have planned and built a display of grasses, flower heads and foliage, which will burst from the open lid of the grand piano, spilling onto the floor. We put out an appeal on social media for local pianists to volunteer to play seasonal music at timed slots. We have had 14 apply with ages ranging from 8 to 80. It promises to be magical.”
Connor Brown, the Visitor Experience Officer, has been working to ensure that families and young visitors will find plenty to fire their curiosity and imagination. Volunteers will be Christmas storytelling in the Library where there are plenty of comfortable chairs to sink into. The Saloon will be ideal to capture those Instagram moments with themed picture frames and dressing up costumes. There is a tree in this room which needs decorating too, so families can add their personalised touch.
“This is my first year on such a large scale transformation of a property,” said Connor, “and I suppose the most challenging aspect for me has been getting to grips with the understanding of all the electrics which need to be in place. It will all be worth it though, once we open and we have the pleasure of seeing how the magic of Christmas resonates with children.”
From 20th to 23rd December, Under the Bed theatre group will be giving interactive storytelling sessions of ‘The Adventures of Stanley Squirrel’ as he prepares for Christmas. This event is bookable in advance online.
collections at Belton
Ffiôn Boyd, the Collections and House Officer, is also supporting Claire and taking the lead on the mansion transformation. “We showcase approximately half of the mansion’s collection at any one time, so Christmas gives us the opportunity to display not only ‘wow’ factor pieces but also some of the more intimate items such as vintage toys and books which illustrate that this was a family home until the 1980s.”
This is the second Christmas at Belton for Ffiôn and she is taking it in her stride, inducting and empowering the volunteers to bring their own creativity to the decorations.
“The Windsor Bedroom will be set for a family Christmas morning with presents just opened and their mugs and plates still on the side tables. The Collection Assistants are spoilt for choice really and have had great fun selecting train sets, a rocking horse and pop-up books from the collection.”
The Red Drawing Room is set for after dinner drinks and games, while the Dining or Hondecoeter Room, named after the Dutch artist of the large canvases of birds, is set with the full splendour of the silver gilt family dinner service and wine cistern.
Each room is inspired by the collection on show; bird themed decorations in the Hondecoeter Dining Room, or the rich blues and gold decorations used to reflect the treasured Lapis Lazuli cabinet in the Ante Study.
It takes a team
It is thanks to the Maintenance, Garden and Ranger team, who do most of the heavy lifting to bring the trees into the mansion, that an icy Winter Wonderland walk through a woodland can be experienced indoors. Hedges along the drive will be sparkling with lights installed by volunteers. Belton’s Craft Group have made individually unique fabric stars, while other volunteers have created them from cut branches and foliage from the estate.
One area of the house which will look very different this year is the Staircase Hall. It normally houses the tallest indoor tree but a scaffold is in place while the ceiling rose above the ornate chandelier is investigated for cracks and potential weakening. Workmen have helped to drape the scaffold with white netting upon which a moving light show of stars will be projected. This has symmetry with the illuminations which will be projected onto the façade of the mansion every evening during the Belton Light Trail.
“Normally, the diverse skills of our teams would mean that they may not work together so directly but Christmas is the opportunity for everyone to pull together,” said Claire.
“This year we have created an experience which will stimulate all the senses; from the stunning sight of the room-scapes, to the scent of pine, the sounds of live and recorded music, to the interactive experiences of costume and theatre. In the courtyard Gift Shop we have exciting ideas for presents, while in the Book Shop we have a Wish Tree, where visitors can write their message on a star to hang on the tree. It could be remembering a loved one or a message written for others.
Claire is still apprehensive about any weather impacts this year but with a newly laid surface to the car park and walkways visitors should find a clearer path to the mansion. With welcoming space and refreshments in the Stable Café there is ample opportunity to take a break between exploring the indoors and the outdoors. Belton at Christmas promises to be a magical and authentic welcome to the festive season.