by Danielle Honey
The focus of Belmont is the elegant 18th century house (designed by Samuel Wyatt) commanding stunning views over the surrounding Estate and the rolling Kentish North Downs. Steeped in history, this unique house contains mementos of the family’s history and travels.
The house was built in 1769 by Edward Wilks, store-keeper at the nearby Faversham Powder Mill. Extensive views and its elevated position gave Belmont its name.
In 1780 Wilks sold the house to Colonel John Montresor, who was largely responsible for Belmont as it exists today. He enlarged the park to the North and West and bought several adjoining properties. From 1789 to 1793 he also built the main block of the present house to a design by Samuel Wyatt. Wyatt used the newly fashionable idea of an Orangery to connect the old with the new. Montresor didn’t enjoy the house for long. Mistakenly accused of embezzling Army funds in 1799 he died before his innocence could be proved.
In 1801 the house was bought at public auction by General George Harris (later Lord Harris) who had defeated the Sultan of Mysore in 1799 at the battle of Seringapatam. The acquisition of £9,000 was made with prize money of £112,000 from his successful military career.
Despite cosmetic changes that have taken place over the centuries, the way that the Belmont gardens look today bears a strong resemblance to those envisaged by General Harris all them years ago.
The Gardens at Belmont are full of interest throughout every season.
The Kitchen Garden was originally designed by international garden designer Arabella Lennox-Boyd in 2001 and has beautiful Victorian Greenhouses, along with figs, hops, soft fruits and traditional apple and pear varieties.
The Walled Garden contains a pond and is adjacent to the Pinetum complete with grotto.
Today the House and its surrounding estate are part of the Harris Belmont Charity; a private trust created by the 5th Lord Harris with the aim of preserving the Estate, the House, and its contents for future generations to learn about the Family’s part in 200 years of British Colonial History. In support of this aim, the Trustees are actively involved in a wide range of projects that include the restoration of the parkland, the re-establishment of chalk down land and traditional forms of woodland management.
All the tours at Belmont House are led by an experienced volunteer guide. From time to time we do have vacancies and seek to recruit new members to join our team. If you would like to be considered when vacancies occur, please contact the Estate Administrator on 01795 890202 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. All you need is confidence, a good clear voice, plus a degree of humour, stamina and patience!
House opens 5th April until 28th September 2014: Weds. tours at 11am and 1pm, Sat. tours at 2.15pm and 3.15pm, Sun. & BH Mon. tours at 2.15pm, 3pm and 3.45pm.
Gardens open every day 10am-6pm or dusk if earlier. Groups Tuesdays and Thursdays by appointment.
Picture Credits: Harris Belmont Charity, John Malone