Belgrave Hall provides an oasis of peace and quiet in a busy city. The hall is in the midst of two acres of serene walled gardens that are open to the public during special events. Belgrave Hall was built in the early 18th century, in what was then a small village three miles from the town of Leicester. Now city traffic passes, almost unnoticed, just beyond the garden walls. The Hall has changed hands many times but its owners have always played a major role in the economic, social and charitable life of the community. Edmund Cradock, a prosperous hosiery merchant, built the Hall between 1709 and 1713 but died soon after its completion. The family of John Ellis purchased Belgrave Hall in 1845 and were noted for their good work in the community. Ellis, a wealthy businessman, was responsible for bringing the railway to Leicester in 1833.
John Ellis took possession of Belgrave Hall in 1847, when he was 58, with a wife and seven daughters. By the time he moved from Beaumont Leys to the Hall, he was one of Leicester's most prominent figures. In 1828 he had met George Stephenson, who having completed the Stockton and Darlington Railway was working on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Ellis was a key figure in getting the Stephensons to take on the building of a line from Leicester to the Swannington coalfields, which was completed in 1833. He was a Quaker and reformer, and in 1836 Ellis had become a Town Councillor. In 1840 he had attended the World's Anti-Slavery Convention. By 1845 as a director of the Midland Railway, he had overseen the merger with the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway. Having moved to his elegant 140-year-old house, he continued both his railway and public life roles. In 1849 he became chairman of the Midland Railway, and represented Leicester in Parliament between 1848 and 1852. John Ellis died in 1862, and his wife and five of his daughters stayed on at Belgrave Hall.
The 'Belgrave sisters' played a leading role in various Leicester institutions, and hosted literary and social events at the Hall. They supported the suffragette movement, and Charlotte Ellis was on the 'Leicester Board of Guardians' for nine years, administering the town's poor law relief from 1892, alongside two other pioneer women guardians, Fanny Fullagar and Mary Royce. The sisters valued the gardens and grounds. Recalling there arrival, Gertrude wrote, 'The east side of the house was festooned by an enormous vine, and a few weeks later the flowers that haunt old gardens began to appear. Some of these may have been blooming for a hundred years and still as each spring returns, renew their life! The daffodils amongst the paddock grass, the lungwort, the peonies, and the great orange lilies…' . In 1889 they bought the meadowland that had gone with Belgrave House, re-establishing the parkland beside the river, and established a woodland garden.
The museum was furnished to present a moderately well-to-do eighteenth and early-nineteenth century household. The furniture came from a wide variety of sources, some of it, such as the lion-mask chairs and settee in the Drawing Room, from much grander settings than this. A refit in 2005 added more details about the servants quarters and shows the contrasting lifestyles of an upper-middle-class family and domestic servants in Victorian society. For wheelchair users and those with mobility difficulties the Hall has full access to the ground floor, with an accessible toilet available. On-street parking is available, including marked disability parking spaces directly in front of the hall. The Gardens are fully accessible via ramps, though some paths may be narrow for larger wheelchairs. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : Church Road, Leicester, LE4 5PE
Transport: Leicester (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : 25 and 40 stop outside.
Opening Times : Saturday/Sunday 11:00 to 16:30 first full weekend of each month.
Tickets : Free
Tel: 0116 229 8181