Welbeck Abbey (2)

The later history of Welbeck is just as complicated as the early.

Following the death of Henrietta, the house was inherited by their only daughter Margaret, known by Prior as ‘lovely, little Peggy’.   She married William Cavendish Cavendish-Bentinck, third Duke of Portland, at which point Welbeck became a Portland estate. They lived mainly at Bulstrode in Buckinghamshire, where she kept her massive natural history collections, including bees, hares and sea shells, employed Elizabeth Elstob, the Anglo-Saxon scholar, and displayed the so-called Portland Vase.   The third Duke rented Burlington House where he used the set of plate now displayed in the Harley Gallery:-

The other memento of his regime at Welbeck, which was presumably mostly absentee, is a portrait of his land agent, John Cleaver, which is thought to be by Reynolds:-

The next chapter of the history is under the fifth Duke, who was a grand recluse and occupied himself with immense building operations, mostly underground, including a chapel which was used as a library and a ballroom which was never used.   He allowed the house to fall into disrepair, lived in only a few rooms in the west wing, but constructed stables for 100 horses and a roller skating rink for his workmen.   The only trace of him that we saw, other than glimpses of the underground tunnels, was the entrance to the servant’s quarters underground, where there were the remains of a railway track which brought roast chicken from the kitchen:-

The fifth Duke was a bachelor.   The sixth Duke was his cousin and more normal, serving in the Coldstream Guards and as a Tory in the House of Lords.   His half-sister was Ottoline Morrell.   He seems to have put things in good order, employing R.W. Goulding as librarian who catalogued the miniatures.   He was also President of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society and commisdioned J.D. Sedding, the Arts and Crafts architect, to add a wing connecting the house to the old riding school, which looks as if it belongs on a north London suburb and was used to display the print collection:-


4 thoughts on “Welbeck Abbey (2)

  1. Joan says:

    One of the things I like about your blog is how it leads to me scurrying off to find out (via google) about things or places I have previously never heard of. I have gained great pleasure this morning from reading – on wikipedia – about the visit to the sixth Duke at Welbeck by Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1913. It appears that the Archduke was involved in a near miss hunting accident while visiting. In a classic of counterfactual history the sixth Duke wondered in his memoir (splendidly titled Men, Women and Things) if the First World War might have been averted if, in fact, the Archduke had died at Welbeck.

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