Welbeck Abbey

Welbeck Abbey

Welbeck Abbey near Clumber Park in North Nottinghamshire was the principal abbey of the Premonstratensian order in England and later the principal residence of the Dukes of Portland.

Monastic period

The Abbey's estate was first mentioned in the Domesday Book, where it is recorded as belonging to one Hugh FitzBaldric. Thomas de Cuckney founded an there in 1140. It was an abbey of Premonstratensian canons, dedicated to St James the Great. The abbey was enriched by liberal gifts from the Goushills, D’Eyncourts, Bassets, and other families of Nottinghamshire; and it also received a considerable grant from King Edward I. With so much wealth at his disposal, the Abbot of Welbeck was an influential man, and in 1512 all the houses of the order in England were placed under his care.

Abbots of Welbeck Abbey

* Berengar, occurs between 1153 and 1169
* Adam, occurs between 1183 and 1194
* Richard, occurs between 1194 and 1224
* William, occurs 1229, 1236, 1243
* Richard, occurs 1250, 1252, 1256-7
* Adam, occurs 1263, 1272, 1276
* Thomas, occurs 1281, 1292
* John de Duckmanton, 1309
* John de Cestrefeld, 1310
* William de Kendall, 1316
* John de Nottingham, 1322
* William de Aslakeden, 1335
* Robert Spalding, 1341
* John de Wirksop, 1349
* Hugh de Langley, 1360
* George de Gamelston, occurs 1369, 1383, 1387
* William de Staveley, occurs 1389
* John Bankwell, occurs 1393
* John de Norton, occurs 1412, dies 1450
* John Greene, 1450
* William Burton, occurs 1475, 1482
* John Lancaster alias Acastre, occurs 1488, 1491
* John Copper, occurs 1492
* Thomas Wydur, occurs 1494, 1497, 1500
* Robert, occurs 1502
* Thomas Wilkinson, 1503
* John Maxey, 1520, died 1536
* Richard Bentley, surrendered 1538

Country house

Upon the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the site was granted by Henry VIII to Richard Whalley, of Screveton. After being owned by a City of London clothier, the abbey was purchased from Gilbert, 7th Earl of Shrewsbury, by Sir Charles Cavendish, son of Bess of Hardwick. It then passed to Sir Charles's son William Cavendish, later first Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne. Members of the Cavendish family converted it into a country house and added a riding house in the 17th century, although only a few basements and inner walls were retained from the original fabric of the former Abbey buildings.

Welbeck became the principal family seat of the early Dukes of Newcastle. In the 18th century, it passed through an heiress into the Bentinck family and became the main seat of the Earls and Dukes of Portland.

The 5th Duke of Portland undertook what are considered the most substantial building works at Welbeck.

The kitchen gardens covered 22 acres and were surrounded by high walls with recesses behind them in which braziers could be placed to hasten the ripening of fruit. One of the walls, a peach wall, measured over 1000 feet in length.

An immense new riding house was built which was 396' long, 108' wide and 50' high and which enclosed a tan gallop of 422 yards. It was lit by 4,000 gas jets.

There was a tunnel over one thousand yards in length, leading from the house to the riding school and wide enough for several people to walk side by side. Parallel to this tunnel was another, more roughly constructed, which was used by workmen. A longer and more elaborate tunnel, one and a half miles long and intended as a carriage drive broad enough for two carriages to pass, was said to lead towards Worksop, but the true extent of this is not clear.

The 5th Duke also excavated underground chambers. One was a great hall, 160 feet long and 63 feet wide and originally intended as a chapel, then used as a picture gallery and occasionally as a ballroom. All these underground rooms were painted pink. The Duke also made many alterations to the house above ground. A vast amount of plumbing was done with elaborate new bathrooms made and a great many new pipes laid.

New lodges were built at different entrances to the Park.

This work cost prodigious sums and involved the employment of thousands of men - masons, bricklayers, joiners, plumbers, navvies etc. While there were disputes from time to time (wages, hours, etc) the Duke personally got on very well with his employees and earned the nickname 'the workman's friend'. He created employment in the district both for the skilled and the unskilled.

By 1879 Welbeck was in a state of disrepair. The only rooms habitable were the four or five rooms used by the 5th Duke in the west wing. All the rooms were painted pink, with parquet floors, all bare and without furniture, except that almost every room had a 'convenience' in the corner.

After the Second World War, Welbeck was leased by the Dukes of Portland to the Ministry of Defence and was used as an army training college, 'Welbeck College' until 2005.

Welbeck today

The descendents of the Cavendish Bentinck family still live on the estate. The Abbey itself is the home of William Parente, the only grandchild of the 7th Duke of Portland and his Duchess,Charles Mosley, ed., "Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage", 107th edition, 3 volumes (Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 3, page 3336] who was appointed High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire in 2003, [LondonGazette|issue=56884|startpage=3603|endpage=3604|date=21 March 2003|accessdate=2008-07-24] while Lady Anne Bentinck, the younger daughter of the 7th Duke, lives at Welbeck Woodhouse, and owns most of the 17,000 acre estate.

List of owners and occupiers

* ca 1086 Hugh FitzBaldric
* 1140 - 1538 Premonstratensian canons in the Abbey of St. James
* 1538 - 1558 Richard Whalley of Screveton
* 1558 - 1595 Edward Osborne of London, "citizen and clothworker"
* 1595 - ???? Robert Booth and Ranulph Catterall
* ???? - 1607 Gilbert Talbot, 7th Earl of Shrewsbury and Mary Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury
* 1607 - 1617 Sir Charles Cavendish
* 1617 - 1676 William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne
* 1676 - 1691 Henry Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne
* 1691 - 1711 John Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Lady Margaret Cavendish
* 1711 - 1734 Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer and Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles
* 1734 - 1785 William Bentinck, 2nd Duke of Portland and Margaret Bentinck, Duchess of Portland
* 1785 - 1809 William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland
* 1809 - 1854 William Bentinck, 4th Duke of Portland
* 1854 - 1879 William Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 5th Duke of Portland
* 1879 - 1943 William John Arthur Charles James Cavendish-Bentinck, 6th Duke of Portland
* 1943 - 1977 William Arthur Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, 7th Duke of Portland and Ivy Cavendish-Bentinck, Duchess of Portland
* 1977 - Present Lady Alexandra Margaret Anne Cavendish-Bentinck
* 1943 - 2005 Ministry of Defence (leasing the majority of the abbey from the 7th Duke and his successors)
* 1992 - Present William Henry Marcello Parente (grandson of the 7th Duke, occupying part of the abbey with his family)


External links

* [http://www.nottshistory.org.uk/articles/welbeck/welbeck1.htm Country Life article about Welbeck Abbey (1906)]
* [http://www.dicamillocompanion.com/Houses_hgpm.asp?ID=2076 Welbeck Abbey entry from The DiCamillo Companion to British & Irish Country Houses]
* [http://homepage.ntlworld.com/follies/portland.html Follies]
* [http://www.nottshistory.org.uk/Jacks1881/welbeckp1.htm Jacks, The Great Houses of Nottinghamshire]
* [http://web.mac.com/sostler Welbeck Postcards]

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