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Funding challenges of Belton House revealed to Grantham Business Club

Belton House bosses revealed the challenges of funding the house and upcoming projects at the latest meeting of Grantham Business Club.

Project manager Emma Lockwood told the 50 or so present the stately home relied on visitor numbers and them spending money there.

Every year, the house, which has 92 paid staff and 457 volunteers, receives 450,000 visitors a year, a 200,000 increase on five years ago.

Belton House generates £4.2m of revenues, but half goes back to National Trust coffers and the rest stays at Belton to be spent on projects.

The biggest project is currently restoring the Stables Restaurant. The £3.3m project is a ‘full-restoration’ of the 2,000m2 building, which was largely derelict.

There will be a new restaurant and specialist dog cafe, with a tennis ball vending machine, to attract dog walkers, who increasingly enjoy Belton’s grounds.

The construction work saw the discovery and removal of arsenic-based wallpaper, as that was used at the time. A newly-built ‘five star bat hotel’ in the roof is ‘working’ as bat numbers are increasing.

Emma described the scheme as “a labour of love, years in the making”. It is due to open next May.

Next summer should also see the £100,000 completion of the Boathouse, which is being funded by cake sales and the sponsorship of 1,200 roofing tiles.

Another project is to restore an 18th century walnut cabinet, which cost £15,000 just for the veneer alone. The desk is the finest of two surviving examples, with Belton’s known as Darcey’s Desk, as actor Colin Firth once sat on it.

The Italian Garden also faces a five-year restoration, with a restored orangery set for repainting next summer, and new flower beds.

Emma continued: “Once we have saved the boathouse, we will put ironwork back in with trellis improvements.”

This project alone is set to cost £300,000, with the trust seeking lottery and other grants towards it. The trust was also investing in new facilities, like expanded play areas for families and the Muddy Hands cafe.

Emma added: “It all comes from what we raise on site. There’s no magic money tree.”

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