Welbeck Lodge, Welbeck Manor, Welbeck Abbey, the Dukeries.
At the time of the Doomsday Book, Welbeck Estate belonged to Hugh FitzBaldric. Thomas de Cuckney founded a Premonstratensian Abbey there in 1140. The Abbott of Welbeck was a wealthy man, and became an especially influential one when in 1512 all the houses of this particular religious order came under his care.
After Henry 8th’s dissolution of the monasteries the property was granted to Richard Whalley of Screveton, then subsequently sold to Gilbert, 7th Earl of Shrewsbury. In 1599 it was sold again to Sir Charles Cavendish, a son of Bess of Hardwick by her second husband. When it then passed to his son, William, destined to become 1st Duke of Newcastle, it became a ducal seat. (Seat of a Duke). The Cavendish family then converted it into a stylish country house designed by Robert Smythson. (Smythson had also designed nearby Worksop Manor in 1580). Parts of the original abbey were retained in the basements. The most famous story about the 1st Duke of Portland involves him and the Earl of Oxford. The Duke wagered he could drive a coach and horses through a huge oak tree. After much chopping, an arch through the tree was made and the wager won. Suffice to say the tree did not survive the centuries. In 1774 Welbeck manor passed via marriage to an heiress to William Bentinck, making him the 3rd Duke of Portland.
There is little doubt the most infamous owner was the so called “Mad Duke”, 5th Duke of Portland, (William) John Cavendish-Bentinck Scott. Inheriting the title in 1854, stories persist to this day about the maze of underground tunnels he had constructed, and wildly exaggerated accounts of how far they reached. Certainly he was a prolific builder. His expertise and enthusiasms as a gardener saw the construction of high walls in which braziers could quicken the ripening of fruit bushes. Similarly, he had a passion for raising horses, constructing what was at the time the second largest riding house in the world. Even today it is said many fine horses can trace their pedigree back to Welbeck. But it’s the tunnels on which his reputation as an eccentric is based, though they were never as numerous as rumour suggests.
The Lion gates were the back entrance, from which a red gravel path served Dukes and Royalty. The lodge gate (below) dates from 1884. The gate keeper(s), in top hat and tails, would be on 24 hour duty.
THIS LINK, and more about Bess of Hardwick's role in the formation of the Dukeries on THIS LINK. You can also read more about the first Thoresby Hall, the Dukeries, on THIS LINK.