Report on the Arts Society Gravesend visit to Belmont House on Thursday June 1st 2017
It was a beautiful day for our visit to Belmont House near Faversham. We were most impressed with the coach driver’s ability to negotiate the country lanes leading from the motorway to the house and arrived in time for a welcome cup of coffee served in the orangery at 11am.
We were then divided into two groups and were taken for a tour of the house which was designed by Samuel Wyatt and built in 1769. It is a fine example of Wyatt’s progressive neo-classical style and features an early example of brick slip cladding.
It was bought in 1801 by General George Harris with the prize money from his successful military career in India. Later, in 1815, he was created Lord Harris in recognition of his victory over Tipu Sultan at the battle of Seringapatam. Successive Lords Harris played a prominent role in British expansion overseas throughout the 19th century. The house is part of a trust created with the aim of preserving it and its contents for future generations to learn about the family’s part in 200 years of British Colonial History.
We were shown many fabulous mementos of the family’s history and travels, fine paintings including a unique collection of watercolours of the West Indies by Trinidadian artist Michel Jean Cazabon (1813-1888), furniture and Indian silverware.
The tour ended with an opportunity to see a wonderful collection of clocks assembled by the 5th Lord. This collection is apparently the finest and most extensive range of clocks and watches in private hands in England. It even includes novelty clocks such as the rolling ball clock.
Following the tour we were served with a tasty lunch in the orangery and were then able to spend time in the extensive gardens which include a kitchen garden, a pinetum, a walled garden, the Mandala (a parterre garden reflecting the family’s Indian connections) and a pleasure walk leading around the house to the Orangery.
In front of the house there was a wonderful Tulip tree which many of us had not seen before. It was a wonderfully hot and sunny day and most of us enjoyed strolling in the gardens rather than going into Faversham as had originally been planned.