The architect James Paine (1717-1789). Trained first under Thomas Jersey, Clerk of Works for the building of the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford, and later progressed to studying architecture at the St. Martin's Lane Academy. There he must have encountered Sir Isaac Ware, who was in charge of the Academy in 1739. It is more than likely that Ware introduced Paine to the influential circle of architectural experts surrounding Lord Burlington (P. Leach, James Paine, London, 1988, p. 19). Significantly Paine's first commission was to act as superintending architect at Nostell Priory for Sir Rowland Winn, which was to be built to the designs of Col. James Moyser - a friend and disciple of Lord Burlington. The building of Nostell occupied Paine for seven years and established him in architectural practise in Yorkshire. Between the years 1745-1770 Paine proceeded to design or alter approximately thirty country houses including Alnwick, Chatsworth, Brocket Hall, Kedleston Hall, Sanbeck, Thorndon Hall, Wardour Castle and Worksop Manor.
The Belford estate was purchased by Abraham Dixon's father in 1726. Inheriting the estate in 1743 Abraham Dixon began to invest heavily in the run-down village providing a woollen factory, a tannery and an inn. Most significantly he employed James Paine to build Belford Hall. Paine's work at Belford commenced in 1755 and continued until 1756. Leach said of Belford - 'The result is one of Paine's most satisfying designs, a wonderfully complete and subtle essay in 'movement' which has few parallels in his own work or in that of his contemporaries' (ibid, p. 64). The format Paine used for Belford, with a central Palladian villa placed between two set-back wings served as a template for some of Paine's later house designs, including St. Ives, Bingley and Hare Hall, Romford. Sadly the wings featured in Paine's original design were never built. Different wings and a rear entrance were added later to the house, in 1818 for a new owner, William Clark by John Dobson (1787-1865). In 1783 Paine published two volumes entitled Plans, elevations and sections of Noblemen and Gentlemen's Houses, including much of his own work. The plan and facade elevation of Belford Hall are illustrated as plates XXXIII, XXXIV, XXXV, XXXVI.
Paine provided a suite of rooms at Belford Hall complete with chimneypieces, fine plaster ceilings staircases, doorcases and an ingenious double staircase. The latter feature was possibly influenced by John Webb's design for Amesbury Abbey, the designs of which were published in William Kent's Designs of Inigo Jones (ibid, p. 64).