The Belevedere at Weeting

The dictionary describes a Belvedere or Belvidere, as "a building occupying an elevated point of vantage, affording an extensive view; especially, an upper story of an Italian building, open on one or more sides so as to command a view".

The Belvedere at Weeting was almost certainly built by Lord Mountrath, at the same time, or soon after, the construction of Weeting Hall in about 1770. It was situated on the highest land in the parish, some two miles west of Lynn Lodge. In the 1804 sales document it is described as "the temple, an Octagon Building, surrounded with a Piazza, and containing two elegant Banquetting Rooms, an Ice-house, a Keeper's Dwelling etc". There was a driveway laid from the hall, winding interestingly across the estate, the final half-mile or so, through an avenue of trees, to shield the elegant building until the last moment. The guests must have been enchanted, especially of a summer evening, with the table laid for dinner and the splendid china, glass and silver twinkling in the candlelight. The upper room would give extensive views over the estate; across the fens Ely Cathedral would be glimpsed in all its splendour.

Just why the bachelor Earl wished to have this elegant building erected in such a secluded position is a matter for speculation. Rumours have persisted to this day, of certain "going's on" by the upper classes in the village. The Rev F C Luke in his History of Weeting states that "Many are the traditions concerning the occupants of the Hall before the Angerstein family came to live there...It is a dark record....To write of those days would be to dive into the dark doings of that most debauched and licentious court that has existed since the days of Charles II, even the court of George IV. A plague spot was however left by them on the parish". Surely Luke could not have been referring to Lord Mountrath, who, although a sportsman, was something of a recluse. His most likely guest would have been George Walpole, the Earl of Orford, also a bachelor and the founder of the Swaffam Coursing Club, of which Mountrath was a member. It seems more likely that he was referring to Orlando Bridgeman, the Earl of Bradford who inherited the Weeting estate from his cousin, Lord Mountrath. During his early days Lord Bradford had a reputation as a fast living young man. He was one of the Prince Regents set (later George IV) and said to be the only witness to the ill-concealed and unauthorized marriage of the Prince Regent to Mrs Fitzherbert in 1785.

The only other reference we have to the Belvedere is in a letter written to Lord Mountrath by his land agent from Weeting when his master was in Ireland in 1780, to keep him in touch with estate matters. It appears that a gamekeeper had been engaged and being a single man accommodation had been found for him in the village. When he reported for work, he was accompanied by his wife. There were no estate cottages available, so the keepers dwelling in the Belvedere was quickly made habitable. In the report it is described as a two-roomed building.

No picture of the Belvedere has yet been discovered. Pieces of elaborate stonework have been found on the site, suggesting that it was a notable building worthy of recording. Curiously it did not survive for many years. It is shown on the Faden map of 1797, but in 1852 the Rev Luke states it has "long since gone".

Gerry Moore 2002.


The site of the Belvedere is on private ground with no public access.