Legend and myth have been woven around the life of the reclusive 5th Duke of Portland. Known as ‘the Mole’ and ‘the Burrowing Duke’, William John Cavendish-Bentinck-Scott has left an architectural legacy at Welbeck. He combined new Victorian engineering technologies with the architectural styles of his ancestors, and so his buildings became the grandest of their time. His projects included the biggest Kitchen Gardens in Britain and the second largest riding school in the world. These buildings make up Welbeck Village, an area not normally accessible to the public.
But perhaps, the Duke’s most extraordinary and famous construction is a network of underground tunnels and structures beneath Welbeck Village. He employed up to 1000 Irish workmen experienced in railway building, and with their expertise, he constructed 2.5 miles of tunnels – some of which are large enough for two carriages to pass side by side.
- A selection of architectural models for the Duke’s building projects can be seen in the exhibition ‘The 5th Duke of Portland: Tunnel Vision’ on show at The Harley Gallery. Find out more here.
No stranger to reinvention, here are just some of the transformations that have taken place on the estate:
As part of his plan to develop the grandest buildings, the 5th Duke replaced an existing, much smaller Riding School with a new Riding House to rival all riding houses. It was said to have been inspired by Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace, which had been built in 1851 for the Great Exhibition. It’s now home to a publishing business.
Built as part of the 5th Duke of Portland’s building works, Carriage Court was originally intended as storage for the family’s horse-drawn carriages and to provide extra stabling. The building included carriage houses, stables, a mess room and accommodation for grooms. It was modified during the years of the army training college and later, as part of the Welbeck Project, was transformed into offices to let to businesses.
Welbeck’s Poultry House is perhaps one of the grandest examples of a building of its type. It was built for chicken, fowl and ducks and included a little tower, dovecote, ornamental pond, and fountain. The building is still as impressive with its statues of peacocks. Today it’s home to a nursery school.
Former Fire Stables
The Grade II listed former Fire Stables was another of the 5th Duke’s buildings and was used by Welbeck’s own Fire Brigade. As time progressed, the area was no longer needed as stabling and was turned into garaging for cars belonging to visiting dignitaries. It’s now home to The School of Artisan Food and Welbeck Bakehouse. The former garages alongside The School have been converted into additional high-tech training facilities thanks to funding from the Barbara Curtis Charitable Trust.
Welbeck has more than 350 houses, lodges, cottages and farms across the estate that takes in the villages of Cuckney, Norton, Holbeck and Holbeck Woodhouse. Many of the properties were built originally for the army of estate workers who were responsible for the upkeep of Welbeck Abbey and its 15,000 acres. Today many of the houses and lodges are still lived in by estate workers, while others are let. Take a look at Welbeck's residential properties.
Visit The Courtyard at Welbeck – home to The Harley Gallery, Portland Collection, Welbeck Farm Shop and The Harley Café. This treasure trove of curiosities is a perfect location to meet up with friends while enjoying foodie delights from The Harley Café.
Stay with us
We have a selection of holiday accommodation here on the Welbeck estate that will make your visit extra special. Stay in the heart of the Welbeck Village in The Winnings or select a stay in a nearby village at Holbeck Farm Barns or Stable Cottage in Belph.