The birth of the Dukeries and Bess of Hardwick.
Above: Detail from Chapman's 1774 map of Nottinghamshire showing the layout of the Dukeries estates.
The Dukeries is the name given in the 19th Century to an area in the north of Nottinghamshire covering approximately fifty square miles, and which contained no less than four ducal seats in close proximity: Clumber House, seat of the Dukes of Newcastle, Thoresby Hall, seat of the Dukes of Kingston, (subsequently the Earls Manvers), Welbeck Abbey, seat of the Dukes of Portland, and Worksop Manor, seat of the Dukes of Norfolk. From the mid-16th to the mid-20th century these estates were owned by some of the most prominent, influential families in England. A fifth large country house, Rufford Abbey, was not a ducal seat but was closely associated with the above.
The reason this unusually large number of ducal families resided so close and in apparent harmony is due to a shared heritage. It started when Elizabeth Hardwick (Bess of Hardwick) married Sir William Cavendish. Being a court official during Henry 8th’s dissolution of the monasteries, William Cavendish was able to pick and choose the best areas of land and buildings for himself. It was probably Bess who persuaded William to then sell his properties in the south and purchase the Chatsworth estates in Derbyshire (her home county). Bess’ passion for building and forming estates had begun.
Their first child, Frances Cavendish, would marry Sir Henry Pierrepont, MP. Their son, Robert Pierrepont, would become the 1st Earl of Kingston-Upon-Hull, and purchase Thoresby from William Lodge, an Alderman of London. It would be Robert’s second son, William, who became the 4th Earl of Kingston and merged the lands he owned in Perlethorpe and Thoresby to form Thoresby Park.
Bess and William’s 5th child, Charles Cavendish, married Baroness Catherine Ogle. Their family home became Welbeck Abbey, eventually the ducal seat of the Duke of Portland, and their son, William Cavendish, would become 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the title associated with the ducal seat of Clumber House.
Lastly, Bess and William’s 7th child, Mary Cavendish, became the wife of Gilbert Talbot, 7th Earl of Shrewsbury, giving birth to Alethea (a.k.a. Althea). Alethea Talbot would marry Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Norfolk, the title associated with the ducal seat of Worksop Manor.
By the time of her fourth and final marriage to George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, Bess was already one of the richest and most influential women in England. Talbot was one of the premier aristocrats of the realm, and Lord of the Manor of Worksop. He had seven children by his first marriage, two of whom would marry two of Bess’s in a double ceremony: Mary Cavendish, aged 12, married
Shrewsbury's eldest son Gilbert, aged 16, while Henry Cavendish, aged 18, married Shrewsbury's daughter Lady Grace Talbot, aged 8.
So it was that Elizabeth Hardwick’s (Bess of Hardwick’s) descendants inherited, purchased or gained by marriage Worksop Manor, Welbeck Abbey, Rufford Abbey, Clumber and Thoresby, lands which because of their interlinking relationships and close proximity would become known as the Dukeries.
For more information about the beginnings of Thoresby Estate, and Sir Robert Pierrepont 1st Earl of Kingston upon Hull, click on THIS LINK. I shall post individual articles on Clumber, Welbeck, Worksop and Rufford at a future date.