Named for its elevated site above panoramic views of the North Downs, Belmont House – literally ‘Beautiful Mountain’ - is an elegant Georgian home with an interesting history and much to offer visitors inside and out.
The gardens are open daily throughout the year and, from April to September, you can book an informative guided tour of the largely unspoilt house on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
It’s attached to the village of Throwley, just a short drive from Faversham where the original owner Edward Wilks was storekeeper at Faversham Powder Mill. Mr Wilks built his house in 1769 and later sold it to General Harris, who had been a prominent British Army commander in India. Kent-born Harris, who was later created a Lord, commissioned leading neo-classical architect Samuel Wyatt to rebuild the house incorporating the original building and he also added more land to the estate.
The Harrises held on to the property for five generations, many of them having interesting lives which are reflected in the furnishings and collections in Belmont House.
The third Lord Harris was a governor of Trinidad who commissioned island artist Michel-John Cazabon to paint many watercolours and oils of Trinidad life, 34 of which are displayed in Belmont House.
The 4th Lord Harris was a governor of Bombay, British politician and a superb cricket batsman and fielder. He captained Kent for many years and in 1878 led the England team to Australia for a test match that instigated the Ashes test series. He had his his own pitch at Belmont which has been restored in the last few years and is available to visiting teams.
The 5th Lord Harris, who died in 1984 aged 95, was a keen collector of clocks and watches and the founding president of the Antiquarian Horological Society. His collection can be seen at Belmont House, and there are specialist tours on the last Saturday of each month between April – September with horology expert Jonathan Betts, formerly of the National Maritime Museum.
The house is simply laid out and has some fine pieces of furniture. The library still has the bookcases designed by Wyatt, including one which conceals a secret door. The saloon rises to the full height of the house and features underfloor heating introduced by Wyatt. As well as the art and clock collections, there is an armoury collected by several generations of the Harris family and representing their military history.
Outside, the estate runs to more than 3,000 acres including gardens, the cricket pitch, orchards, farmland and woodland. There are a couple of cottages let out for holidays, as is Prospect Tower which was built for the first Lord Harris as a ‘whim’ and later used as a cricket pavilion.
Today the house and grounds are run by a private trust and operated by volunteers and a small team of staff. There are many special events throughout spring and summer including craft workshops, meet-the-gardener, open-air theatre and of course the very popular clock tours.
For full information and booking visit belmont-house.org