John, 2nd Baron Brownlow was born in 1779 and created Viscount Alford and Earl Brownlow in 1815. He was Lord Lieutenant of the County of Lincoln. His eldest son John Hume, Viscount Alford, M.P. married Lady Marian Margaret Compton, daughter of 2nd Marquess of Northampton but pre-deceased his father in 1851. Earl Brownlow died in 1853, succeeded by his grandson John William Spencer, 2nd Earl Brownlow. The Earldom became extinct in 1921.
In the late 17th century, having inherited most of his great-uncle's wealth as well as his estate at Belton, Sir John Brownlow decided to build a new country house for his family. Several architects have been associated with Belton House, including Sir Christopher Wren, but it is more feasible that William Winde and William Stanton were largely responsible for the design and construction of the property, possibly seeking advice from Roger Pratt.
After a slow start, the grand house took less than four years to complete, Sir John and Lady Brownlow moving in during November 1688. Initially, the decor and furnishings were recorded as being quite modest, but it seems a more luxurious finish was created during the 1690s. The epitome of Brownlow's success is perhaps reflected in the fact that he entertained King William III on one occasion, for which he was duly honoured. Although several rooms underwent a number of functional changes throughout the 300 years it belonged to the Brownlow family, Belton House today represents a perfect example of a neo-Caroline English country house. This vast H-shaped residence was given a major refurbishment at the hands of Sir Jeffrey Wyatville in the early 19th century, but the 3rd Earl was responsible for the remodelling programme later that century that restored much of the original Caroline splendour to Belton. The house remained in the Brownlow family until 1984 when it was given to the National Trust. Such is the beauty of the house that when Edith Wharton visited it, she was so taken by it she had a miniature version built in Massachusetts.