Manuscripts and Special Collections

Earls and Dukes of Portland: Family Seats


Welbeck Abbey

Welbeck Abbey was acquired by Sir Charles Cavendish from Gilbert, Earl of Shrewsbury in 1607, and from him, passed to his son, William [later 1st Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne]. It became the principal family seat of the early Dukes of Newcastle, who made significant additions to the house, such as the magnificent riding house built by John Smithson and commissioned by the 1st Duke. Monarchs were entertained there, as were eminent authors and poets.

Welbeck passed down through the Cavendishes into the Portland line of descent, and ultimately became the main seat of the Dukes of Portland. After the Second World War, Welbeck was leased by the Portlands to the Ministry of Defence and was used as an army training college until 2005.


Engraving showing Welbeck Abbey from 1788

'Welbeck, Nottinghamshire', by T. Malton, published 1788


Bolsover Castle

Like Welbeck, the manor and castle of Bolsover were purchased by Sir Charles Cavendish from Gilbert, Earl of Shrewsbury in 1608. Sir Charles began the process of rebuilding the castle, which was to be continued by his son, William, 1st Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne. It was William who was responsible for the building of the large indoor riding school at Bolsover and who lavishly entertained King Charles I there.

As with Welbeck, the seat passed down through the Portland line of descent, and was given to the nation by the 7th Duke of Portland in 1945. Today, it is run by English Heritage and has been the subject of extensive restoration, including the riding school.



Engraving showing Bolsover Castle from 1823

'North west view of Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire', by F. Chantrey R.A., 1823


Bulstrode Park

Bulstrode in Buckinghamshire was originally built in 1686 by Judge Jefferies. It was sold by his heirs to Hans William Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland, who made it one of his principal residences, and indeed died there in 1709. The estate passed down through the Portland line of descent and was a favoured residence of Margaret, Duchess of Portland, wife of the 3rd Duke, who frequently entertained King George III, Queen Charlotte and their family there.

When the 4th Duke of Portland inherited the title in 1809, however, he quickly disposed of the estate. It passed into the hands of the Seymour family, Dukes of Somerset. Bulstrode Park was particularly renowned for its formal landscaped gardens. Today the estate is in divided ownership, though part of it is a grade II listed landscape on English Heritage's Register of Parks and Gardens of special historic interest.


Engraving showing Bulstrode Park from 1787

'Bulstrode Hall, Buckinghamshire', by Corbould, published 1787



The Theobalds Estate on the Hertfordshire-Middlesex border was another acquisition of Hans William Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland. Originally created by James I as a hunting park, the house was a significant royal palace. It passed into parliament hands following the execution of Charles I, and the palace, which had fallen into disrepair, was demolished. Following the restoration, the estate was restored.

It remained in Portland family hands until 1763 when it was sold by the 3rd Duke to George Prescott M.P.. Prescott demolished the house there, building himself a new mansion house which today is used as a country hotel and conference centre.



Doorwerth was a small estate near Arnhem in the province of Gelderland, The Netherlands. It was acquired in the mid-17th century by Anton I, Count of Aldenburg (1633-1680), whose main estate was the fiefdom of Varel and Kniphausen in modern-day northern Germany. Doorwerth passed to Anton's son, Anton II (1681-1738), and then to his granddaughter Charlotte Sophie, Countess of Aldenburg (1715-1800). In the mid-18th century, following the breakdown of Charlotte Sophie's marriage to William Bentinck, 1st Count Bentinck (1704-1774), the ownership of Doorwerth was claimed by her eldest son and grandson. After a legal case at The Hague in 1781, Charlotte Sophie was confirmed as Doorwerth's owner. In her will, she gave Doorwerth to another grandson, Vice-Admiral William Bentinck (1764-1813) of Terrington St Clement, Norfolk. The estate passed to William's son, Charles A. Bentinck (1810-1891) and was sold by him in 1837 to Baron J.A.P. van Brakell.



Next page:  Portland Family biographies


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