Welbeck and its Park

Welbeck before the alterations.
Welbeck before the alterations.

WELBECK Abbey is about three miles and a half from Worksop. The foot road is by the Castle Farm, and pursuing the road to the left through the Manor Park we come into a delightfully sequestered wood, where the gorse, the fern, and the lichens in immense variety contrast beautifully with the fine towering beeches and oaks. This wood is a continuation of those of the "Manor Hills," and divides the Manor from the Welbeck estates ; at the extremity of this wood is the "South Lodge."

Welbeck contains 2,283A. 3R. 3P. of land, and anciently formed part of the Manor of Cuckney, which was held by Sweyn, a Saxon. After the Conquest it was given in fee to Hugh FitzBaldric, under whom, at the time of the Domesday survey, it was held by Richard, son of Joceus le Flemangh, with the exception of two carucates, which Gamelbere, an old Saxon knight, was allowed to retain. Gamelbere died without issue, and the estate estreated to King Henry i, who gave it to a son of Joceus le Flemangh, who came with the Conqueror. This son of Joceus had issue Richard, whose son, Thomas de Cuckney, built and founded the Abbey here, for Praemonstratensian canons. This monastic edifice was begun in the reign of Stephen, 1140, and was completed in that of Henry II. He dedicated the Abbey to St. James, and gave it and the lands to the monks, in free and perpetual alms, for his own, and for his father’s and ancestors’ souls, "and for theirs from whom he had unjustly taken any goods."

In 1512 the custody of all the houses of this order was conferred on the Abbot of Welbeck. The Praemonstratensians were introduced into England by Peter de Goula, or Gousel, in 1140, just twenty years after their establishment. The dress of the canons was a white cassock, with a rochet over it, a long white cloak, and a white cap—hence they were called white canons. Of this order there were about thirty-five houses.

The Abbey existed at Welbeck 398 years, and was dissolved by Henry VIII.; its yearly revenues were £249 6s. 3d., and in 1538 it was granted by purchase to Richard Whalley and his heirs. Some years afterwards, in 1558, Queen Elizabeth permitted Richard and William Whalley to transfer it to Edward Osborne, citizen and cloth-worker, of London, under the name of the Manor of Welbeck. In 1595 it passed to Robert Booth and Ranulph Catterall, and then to Sir Charles Cavendish, youngest son of the celebrated Countess of Shrewsbury, by her marriage with Sir William. Sir Charles marrying Catherine, daughter and heiress of Cuthbert, Lord Ogle, was succeeded by his son William, who was created a baron of the realm in 18th James II. by the title of Lord Ogle, and was afterwards made Viscount Mansfield. On the 17th March, 3 Charles I., he was advanced to the dignity of Baron Cavendish of Bolsover and Earl of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and was appointed governor of Prince Charles. After the restoration of Charles ii. he was created Earl of Ogle and Duke of Newcastle, and died at the age of 84. He was also the celebrated commander of the King’s forces in the civil war of Charles I. He built the once magnificent riding-house at Welbeck in 1623 and was the author of the great "Treatise on Horsemanship." In 1619 King James paid a visit to Sir William Cavendish, at Welbeck, where he was entertained with great magnificence.

In 1633 King Charles I., making his progress into Scotland to be crowned, did the noble proprietor the honour of resting at Welbeck, where his majesty and court were received in such ‘a manner, and with such excess of feasting as had scarcely ever been known in England."

On the occasion of this visit "the Earl employed Ben Jonson in fitting such scenes and speeches as he could devise, and sent for all the gentry to come and wait on their majesties; and in short did all that ever he could imagine to render it great and worthy of their royal acceptance" at a cost of nearly £15,000.

Ben Jonson wrote a Masque, entitled "Love’s Welcome; the King’s entertainment at Welbeck, in Nottinghamshire, a house of the Right Honourable William, Earl of Newcastle, Viscount Mansfield, Baron of Bothal and Bolsover," which was played at Welbeck on the 21st May, 1633.

This Duke of Newcastle married first Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of William Basset of Blore, county Stafford, and widow of the Hon. Henry Howard, third son of Thomas, first Earl of Suffolk, by whom he had issue Charles Viscount Mansfield, who married, but died without issue in his father’s lifetime; Henry, his successor, and three daughters. He married, secondly, Margaret, sister of Lord Lucas, by whom he had no issue.

Margaret, grand-daughter to this Duke of Newcastle (being daughter of Henry Cavendish, second Duke, by Frances, his wife, daughter of William Pierrepoint, second son of Robert, Earl of Kingston), married John Holles, fourth Earl of Clare, who was created Duke of Newcastle in 1694, and left an only daughter and heiress, Henrietta, who married Edward Harley, second Earl of Oxford, the founder of the Harleian Library. The only issue of this union was a daughter, Lady Margaret Cavendish Harley, who married in 1734 William, second Duke of Portland, from whom this ancient seat and other estates descended to the present noble proprietor. Their son William, third Duke of Portland, married Lady Dorothy Cavendish, only daughter of William, fourth Duke of Devonshire, by whom he had issue a son, afterwards the late worthy Duke of Portland, who in 1795 married Henrietta, daughter and co-heiress of Major-General John Scott, of Balcomie, a descendant of the Scottish heroes, Baliol and Bruce. The Duke assumed the name of Scott-Bentinck, and had issue four sons and five daughters. He died March 27th, 1854, at the age of 86 years, and was succeeded by his son William John Scott Cavendish Bentinck, the present Duke of Portland, who was born September 17th, 1800.

The Bentincks descend from the noble family of that name in the province of Overyssel, in the Republic of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, where they flourished for many generations. The Westons were Earls of Portland from 1653 to 1665, when the title became extinct by the death of Thomas Weston without issue; it was again revived in 1689 in the person of William Bentinck, who was in the suite of William, Prince of Orange, when he came over to take possession of the English throne.

There do not appear to be any remains of the old monastic building, except some arches of the vaults and a few inner walls, to which some old sepulchral monuments are still attached. The present building was begun in 1604.

The Portland collection of minatures is well known to connoisseurs, and contains works by Nicholas Hilliard, Isaac Oliver, Peter Oliver, Gibson, S. Cooper, Flatman, Lens, Lewis, Cross, Hoskins, &c., &c. This collection was commenced by Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford, and his son the second Earl; it was afterwards catalogued and enlarged by George Vertue for the widow of the second Earl.

The Abbey contains many fine paintings by old masters and many portraits of historical interest. Amongst these may be named a portrait of Matthew Prior, who was a friend of the Earl of Oxford; one of Ben Jonson, by Jansens, by whom also there is one of the Countess of Shrewsbury, "Bess of Hardwick," of Charles the First, of William and Mary, and many others. The principal artists whose works are found here are Raphael, Vandyke, Rembrandt, Snyders, Gaspar Poussin, Ruysdael, Wouvermans, Tintoretto, Carracci, Vandervelde, Savery, Hals, Claude Lorraine, Titian, Rubens, Holbein, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and others. Many of these works are now undergoing restoration.

Amongst the manuscripts at Welbeck Abbey may be named letters by Charles II., Hearne, the antiquary, Oliver Cromwell, and other celebrities; Patents, creating Sir William Cavendish Viscount Mansfield, November 3, 1621 ; Baron Haughton, Earl of Clare, November 2, 1625; Viscount Mansfield, Baron Cavendish of Bolsover, and Earl of Newcastle, March 7, 1628; William, Earl of Newcastle, Marquess of Newcastle, October 27, 1644 the same nobleman, Earl of Ogle and Duke of Newcastle, March 17, 1666; and John, Earl of Clare, Marquess of Clare, and Duke of Newcastle, May 14, 1695. An inventory of the effects of Denzil Holles, on a long slip of parchment, dated May 15, 1590; a most valuable MS. account of the regalia, jewels, and plate of Henry VIII., when in the custody of Sir Henry Wyatt. This latter is in its original parchment binding, and is signed repeatedly by the king. Here also is preserved the original MS. of the Duke of Newcastle’s celebrated work on horsemanship.

When the present Duke of Portland succeeded his father, he commenced making great alterations and improvements in the pleasure grounds, gardens, and in the park. Each year since the noble possessor inherited this estate, he has been spending a princely income in carrying out improvements, which, for their cost and the number of workmen employed, are quite unprecedented in any private nobleman s experience; even the well-known building propensity of "Bess of Hardwick" is here out-done.

Another story has been added to the south front, or Lady Oxford’s wing of the Abbey, and this has added greatly to the imposing effect of the building when viewed from the head of the lake.