The Moss House in the Spring Gardens, Belvoir Castle.

Most People are awed when they first see the Moss House and rightly so, it must have been a wonder when it was first built, possibly at the beginning if the 19th century. Over the last 200 years nature has added to its mystique. The round building has a tracery arch over the entrance made from rustic branches, within the arch are smaller arches, qua foils and even drapes have been fashioned. Once inside, you are in a clear chamber open to the underside of the thatch supported by a lattice work of rustic boughs. The walls have been divided into a series of serpentine patterns, again made from the aged timber but now in filled with wattle and daub covered with sphagnum moss. Those shades of green and brown when new, have now faded to more subtle fawns. The floor has been made from round wooden blocks set with the end grain exposed. In the centre a table hewn from elm covered with 19th century initials and dates. Several chairs and benches built in a grotesque style sit within the building.

The Moss House was one of the buildings of interest that formed part of the Dukes Walk. The walk ran around a hill, returning to the Castle after about four miles. Other buildings on the walk once included a crystal grotto, artificial caves and other rustic shelters.

I have wondered whether the Moss House is older than 200 years, the style and design suggest so although I do not know of any written evidence to support the idea. It is known that the Spring Gardens that surrounded the building were created in the 1800's by Duchess Elizabeth, wife of the 5th Duke. The gardens were well visited in the Second World War. For 30 years nature was left to reclaim the gardens. It was in 1970 the present Duke began to lovingly restore the gardens and commissioned the conservation of the Moss House, which was completed in 1996.

The thatch on the Moss House had been renewed in 1971. Because of the 18'' over hang of the thatch this had protected the building from the weather to a certain extent. The main cause for concern was the foundations. As with many ephemeral buildings, the main supports, oak posts in this case, had been set into the earth and needed underpinning with concrete below ground level and stone above. The front stone step was reset and missing log blocks replaced. I selected aged timbers from stock to replace those that had been lost and repaired 50% of moss walls that were missing. The thatch was repaired and should carry on protecting the building. I shall, of course, visit the structure from time to time and check on it's condition and because the building and its surroundings are a place of immense beauty and enchantment.

D. Raffle June 1997
Belvoir Castle is open to the public from April - October.
The Spring Gardens by arrangement. Tel. 01476 870262