Gothic Ruin in the Wilderness NW of House, Belton House

Record ID:  60374 / MNA111993
Record type:  Monument
Protected Status: Listed Building: Grade II, Registered Park or Garden
NT Property:  Belton House; Midlands
Civil Parish:  Belton and Manthorpe; South Kesteven; Lincolnshire
Grid Reference:  SK 9277 3943
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This 19th century folly is in the form of a Gothic ruin, set beside the splendour of the Cascade. The first Earl added to this ruin in first half of the 19th century. As a centre piece he erected a church window and built the ruins around it, the window was taken from Normanton church. The cross atop the ruin was found on the estate grounds.

Identification Images (0)

Monument Types

  • FOLLY (Late 17th C to Late 19th C - 1700 AD to 1900 AD)


[1-2] A 19th century folly in the form of a Gothic ruin, comprising scattered remains forming a semi-circle facing the stream. The structure also has to have rough arched openings (DOE, 1980: 25).

Adjacent to the Gothic ruin is a cascade. The Belton Park Survey report notes that the first reference to the cascade is in 1742 (Rayner, H. 1986: 53-54, vol II). A painting of the cascade approximately dated 1750, shows a rustic arch in the centre of the cascade and a ruin to the left.

Flooding of the river meant frequent repairs and no doubt alterations. The first Earl added to the Gothic ruins in the first half of the 19th century. He created the present ruin around a window taken from Normanton Church. The cross atop the ruin was found during digging of a pond in the Wilderness (Beamish, H. 1986A).

[3] A survey undertaken in 2009 by AOC Archaeology Group summarises the evolution of the monument:
The Wilderness and the diversion of the River Witham to create the landscapes to the west of the house were created by Viscount Tyrconnel between 1740 and 1751. Tyrconnel filled the landscape with follies, the Gothic ruins and the Belmount Tower from which the gardens could be viewed. Wilderness gardens often attempted to create visions of mythical landscapes or even distant corners of the earth. These Gothick landscapes were very fashionable in the mid18th century and the 1740s work at Belton is an early example. The taste for building Gothick follies persisted until at least the end of the 19th century. Over time period fashions developed and what was regarded as Gothick or gothic changed dramatically. The ruins at Belton are very much to the taste of the earliest Gothick and rather than a mock ruined building, they are more evocative of a structure which is part building and part natural. The arches are not supposed to suggest that they are part of a real medieval ruin, but are purely atmospheric and from some angles, can appear as much to be a cliff as a building. There is no attempt however to create an accurate copy of either a building or a natural feature (as would often be the case in a 19th century folly), instead the structures and their landscape are pure fantasy.

The windows from Normanton church were (rather crudely) added to this 18th century structure. These in some ways mask the intentions of its original builders as they make the structure into a more conventional folly of a ruinous building. Similarly, the (now mostly lost) fan shaped waterfall was not originally intended to be a realistic copy of a natural waterfall but has possibly been altered to suit later tastes and appear more “natural”. The cascade fits well into this early Gothick landscape but it’s stepped apron still harks back to the more conventional formal cascades typified by the grand cascade at Chatsworth (Derbyshire, 1696), and is clearly not an attempt to build a natural looking waterfall.

The ruins have survived changing tastes and still fulfil their intended purpose of providing a mysterious backdrop to a visit to the wilderness.


  • SNA63931 - Measured Survey: AOC Archaeology Group. 2009. The Cascade and Gothick Ruins at Belton House, Belton, Grantham. Historic Building Report..

  • SZE21156 - Photograph - black and white: Harry Beamish. 01/03/1986. Gothic Ruins, Belton. 26.

  • SZE21675 - Photograph - black and white: 01/03/1986. Gothic Ruin, Belton. 26.

  • SZE8834 - Monograph: J Marsden. 1985. Belton House.


Other Statuses and References

None Recorded

Associated Events

  • ENA1027 - Heritage Assessment, Listing of buildings in 1980, Belton House
  • ENA5546 - Field Survey, The Cascade and Gothick Ruins at Belton House; Historic Building Report (Ref: AOC 9050)
  • ENA6533 - Field Survey, Evaluation of the Gothic Ruins and proposals for survey, Belton House

Associated Finds

None Recorded

Related Records

None Recorded