A Christmas Ball for the 6th Duke's Birthday

Christmas was a splendid occasion at Welbeck, especially during the time of the 6th Duke of Portland and his wife, Duchess Winifred.

The Portland Collection curators have delved into the archive and found a fascinating article in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph from Friday 30 December 1904. 




After a lapse of four years due to the destructive fire at Welbeck Abbey in February 1901, the household ball took place under the old conditions in the famous subterranean Picture Gallery on Wednesday night, the Duke of Portland’s birthday. During the rebuilding of the Oxford Wing (which was destroyed by the fire), and the general renovation of the Abbey, the Picture Gallery was used for storage purposes, and the household ball had to be discontinued. The event was not, however, entirely forgotten, for the household among themselves continued the annual dance in the old ballroom, which, on Wednesday evening, was divided into supper and cloakrooms.

The ballroom presented a most attractive appearance, thanks to the palms and general hothouse plants, which were arranged in groups, the massive electric light installation, and the noble dimensions of the gallery itself, with walls covered with numerous trophies of the chase, ancestral and historical portraits, etc. About 350 invitations had been issued, principally to tradespeople of Worksop, Mansfield, Chesterfield, Whitwell, Creswell, and Carburton, but there were also tenants from the estate and other people from Nottingham, London, and Sheffield. Shortly before ten o’clock, the ducal party arrived from the Abbey, and the ball soon afterwards opened. The house party included the Duke and Duchess of Portland, Lady Victoria Bentinck, the Marquis of Titchfield, Mr and Mrs S. Grenfell, Mrs R. Grenfell, Miss A. Grenfell, Miss Joan Grenfell, Miss Molly Grenfell, Major and Mrs. de Lothbiniere, Colonel Weston Jarvis, Captain and Mrs Amory, the Rev. H. and Miss Hamersley, Miss Graham, and Master Butterwick.

For the Circassian circle, which was the opening dance, the Duke of Portland partnered with Mrs Marshall, housekeeper, and the Duchess had as her partner Mr J. W. Spedding, house steward. At midnight the Abbey party retired, having first inspected the tables, and soon afterwards, the guests had supper. Mr J. W. Spedding presided, and after the Royal toast had been honoured, he proposed the health of the Duke, Duchess and family and wished the Duke many happy returns of the day. He stated that when the present Duke succeeded to the title, he inaugurated this household ball to be held on his birthday. Unfortunately, the ball had to be abandoned, and the private household dance, which took its place, had to be postponed last year owing to the death of the Duke’s brother, Lord William Bentinck. He hoped that the future of Welbeck might not be so clouded as the past had been. The toast was drunk with musical honours, and special cheers were given for the Duchess and family.

Mr J. A. Hodkinson, Sheffield, then proposed the health of Mr Spedding and Mrs Marshall as the heads of the household staff. This toast was also drunk to music. Mr. Spedding, in response, referred to the extra labourers thrown upon the staff by such an unforeseen occurrence as the King of Portugal failing to reach Welbeck on the appointed day. With a programme of over two dozen dances, the ball lasted till between five and six o’clock on Thursday morning, the music being provided by Mr. Minchin’s band.

A Christmas tree at Welbeck Abbey for the children of the Duke and Duchess of Portland was displayed on Wednesday evening, and the children of many of the neighbouring gentry were invited. After the tree had been disburdened, Captain Weston Jarvis gave a magic lantern entertainment from photographs taken by him during his experiences with General Rawlinson in South Africa. 


Read more historical stories...