Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Worksop, the Dukeries.

Following the Norman Conquest the land of Saxon Lord Elsi, son of Cauchin, was given to Roger de Busli, friend of William the Conqueror. He was succeeded by William de Lovetot who in 1103 granted the money for the building of an Augustinian Priory. The Lovetot family line would end with female heiress Matilda. Richard 1st selected her husband as Gerald de Furnival. That family line also ended with the female heiress Joan, who married Sir Thomas Neville, making him Lord Furnival. But again, in the absence of a son, the title passed via marriage to Sir John Talbot. At the time of Henry 6th Talbot was the most famous commander in England, fighting against Joan of Arc, and becoming 1st Earl of Shrewsbury in 1442.

The 4th Earl of Shrewsbury, George, and more especially his son Francis, the 5th Earl, befitted much by supporting Henry 8th in his dissolution of the monasteries. In 1537, when Shrewsbury’s Irish estates were passed to the crown, Henry 8th granted him the site of Rufford and other lands made vacant by the dissolution too numerous to list here. In November 1539, the King's Commissioner brought the order for closure of the Worksop Priory to the Gatehouse. More than two thousand acres of land and properties were taken by the crown and several buildings ordered to be pulled down. A significant portion of these lands, including Worksop Priory and the site of Rufford, went to the Earl of Shrewsbury on condition that persons inheriting the title Lord of the Manor of Worksop would provide a fine glove for each King or Queen at their Coronation. This tradition continued into the 1950s. The people of Worksop were permitted to keep the nave of the original building and use it as the parish church, whereupon the gatehouse became the vicarage.


Above: Worksop Priory gatehouse and the ruins of the original Priory.

How the marriage of 6th Earl of Shrewsbury to Bess of Hardwick in 1567 would result in the formation of The Dukeries is explained on THIS POST.

George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, was entrusted with the custody of Mary Queen of Scots. She was moved around between various locations (though apparently not allowed to walk even escorted in Sherwood Forest), and in 1583 she was brought to Worksop Manor. There would be several plots to put Mary on the throne. For example, Thomas Howard 4th Earl of Norfolk even proposed to her, the result being a trial Shrewsbury presided over and subsequent to which Howard was hung drawn and quartered. Although the relationship between Mary and her custodians had been mostly amicable, the demands on Shrewsbury’s finances began to take a toll. An unpopular marriage between Bess’s daughter and the Earl of Lennox at Rufford, which potentially changed the succession to the throne, caused further upset with both Queen Elizabeth 1st and Mary herself.

Whilst Bess’s independent wealth meant she could move freely between her other properties at Chatsworth and Hardwick, continuing to expand her estates, George’s supervision of Mary meant he could not. So, as Bess closed her doors to him, George, as if in defiance of his financial state, built a grand new house at Worksop. Designed by Robert Smythson, constructed 1580 – 85, this is where Mary Queen of Scots was visited by the Earl of Rutland, the catholic brother of Shrewsbury’s first wife, resulting in Shrewsbury being relieved of his custodial duties. Three years later, as conspiracies to free Mary continued, a tearful Shrewsbury was required to preside over her execution from a nearby seat on the scaffold.

Above: Worksop Manor designed by Robert Smythson.

At the end of the 17th century Worksop manor moved by marriage to the Duke of Norfolk. During the 18th Century both the 8th and 9th Dukes made grand extensions to the 16th century manor house. The only rooms left undisturbed were Mary Queen of Scots one time chambers. However, in 1761 everything burned down. Almost immediately the 9th Duke commissioned James Paine to design a new building, with input from the Duchess. Only the north wing was ever completed. Work was stopped in 1767 when the Duke and Duchess never seemed to recover from the death of a nephew.

Above: Worksop Manor as designed by James Paine, but never completed.

Neither the 10th nor 11th Dukes cared to live at Worksop. The 12th Duke of Norfolk gave the manor to his son the Earl of Surrey, by which time it showed signs of neglect. So in 1838 he sold it on to the Duke of Newcastle from Clumber. The latter owner literally attempted to blow it up, after selling various fixtures and lead to builders and many trees to the railway companies. He never regained his losses. Years later those parts of the building which had survived were developed into a new mansion to become the residence of Lord Foley. A large part of the estate was sold at auction in 1890 to Sir John Robinson, a Nottingham businessman. He felled and sold many of the estate’s ancient trees. During the 20th century the estate has been Worksop Manor Stud Farm, breeding thoroughbred horses.

Above: Worksop Manor House 19th century engraving.


You can read more about the first Thoresby Hall, the Dukeries, on THIS LINK, and more about Bess of Hardwick's role in the formation of the Dukeries on THIS LINK. Also Welbeck, the Dukeries, on THIS LINK and Clumber Park, the Dukeries, on THIS LINK.

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