Last weekend I went to Belvoir castle with my parents, we drove up to Stathern and walked across to the castle. By the time we got there I was ready to turn around and go back, we didn’t visit the castle itelf, but stopped at the ‘Engine Yard’ outside. The weather was cold and I took my time in the well-heated toilets.

The yard is a former 19th Century industrial area, which has been restored to host a small retail complex. It was pictured on Geograph in October 2016, before the redevelopment. It’s described as follows:

This group of buildings housed the workshops for the Castle estates, with sawmill, joinery shop, forge, etc. It is currently being prepared for conversion to a series of retail outlets. The building in the centre housed a steam engine which drove all the other machinery.

There is a listing at Companies House showing that Belvoir Engine Yard Limited was incorporated in December 2016. The buildings were probably converted to shopping outlets in 2017.

In 2020 the area had various kinds of ‘bourgeois lifestyle’ shops. There was a sort of upmarket equivalent of Lidl - lots of fancy conserves and tinned delicacies, no fresh food. They were handing out taster packets of bruschetta, crunchy Italian bread. Other shops sold specialist coffee, decorative hats, traditional wooden toys, natural wellness products.

I don’t know at what point it fell out of use as an industrial area. Even if the conversion to a shopping centre took place on the scale of several decades, you could still take this as an example of gentrification played out through history. As for contemporary gentrification, these shops are evidently servicing particular middle-class tastes, and there’s an argument that the goods you find here are ‘gentrified goods’.

I’ve been trying to think more critically about gentrification and class recently. On the surface you could accept the working class have been well and truly removed from the Engine Yard. The history of industrial production now serves more as a novel backdrop to the real activity of selling artisanal chocolate.

Nonetheless the shops are all staffed by employees, there is a workforce there. The proletariat itself is a creation of capitalism, so even in areas reconstructed to serve the interests of capital, the class relation persists. The criticism of André Gorz by Ellen Meiksins-Wood follows this line, that we shouldn’t confuse the particular labour process (of industrial production) with the exploitation which underpins it.

Belvoir castle was used as a location for the 1980 film adaptation of Little Lord Fauntelroy. Peter mentioned the scene where Cedric visits the tenants of the manor, and he is forced to confront their poverty.

The Earl of Dorincourt comes off far too sympathetic in the film, compare how he reacts to the same scene in the book.

Newick had spoken to him more than once of the desperate condition of the end of the village known as Earl’s Court. He knew all about the tumble-down, miserable cottages, and the bad drainage, and the damp walls and broken windows and leaking roofs, and all about the poverty, the fever, and the misery. Mr. Mordaunt had painted it all to him in the strongest words he could use, and his lordship had used violent language in response; and, when his gout had been at the worst, he said that the sooner the people of Earl’s Court died and were buried by the parish the better it would be⁠—and there was an end of the matter.

Despite our assumptions, this part of the film was not actually shot at the Engine Yard, my best guess is it was filmed outside the vegetable gardens east of the castle. The lane is identifiable from the imagery on Google Maps, though the wall on the nothern side has since been knocked down.