Manuscripts and Special Collections

Portland of Welbeck Abbey

Detail of a painting showing Welbeck Abbey

Manuscripts and Special Collections at The University of Nottingham holds a number of collections relating to the Portland family of Welbeck Abbey, the two most significant being the Portland (Welbeck) Collection (Pw) and the Portland (London) Collection (Pl).

In October 2005, the Portland (London), Portland of Welbeck and Newcastle of Clumber papers were Designated as Outstanding Collections by the Museums, Libraries and Archive Council (MLA).


Portland (Welbeck) Collection (Pw)

The Portland (Welbeck) Collection consists of the personal and political papers of a number of members of the Portland family which had been part of the Library at Welbeck Abbey, Nottinghamshire.  

William Arthur Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, 7th Duke of Portland (1893-1977) had control over a vast family archive. By his wish, it was divided between a number of repositories, chosen as appropriate to look after different elements within the archive. In 1986 the Portland papers from Welbeck Abbey were accepted by the nation in lieu of tax, and were allocated to the repositories where they had already been held for many years. Subsequently, further deposits have been added to these collections. The collection now contains:    

  • Cavendish Family Papers (Pw 1) Papers of members of the Cavendish (Dukes of Newcastle upon Tyne) family which became part of the Portland family archive through the marriage of Lady Margaret Cavendish Harley to William Bentinck, 2nd Duke of Portland in 1734.
  • Holles Family Papers (Pw 2) Papers of John Holles, Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne, and his Holles forebears which also came into the Portland family through the 2nd Duke of Portland's marriage to Lady Margaret Cavendish Harley.
  • Harley Family Papers (Pw2 Hy) Papers of a number of members of the Harley family including Sir Robert Harley (1579-1656), Sir Edward Harley (1624-1700), Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford (1661-1724) and Thomas Wharton, 1st Marquess of Wharton (1648-1716) which came into the Portland family on the marriage of the 2nd Duke to Lady Margaret Cavendish Harley.
  • 1st Earl of Portland (Pw A) Hans William Bentinck (1649-1709)
  • 1st Duke of Portland (Pw B) Henry Bentinck (1682-1726)
  • John Achard (Pw C) scholar and tutor to 2nd Duke of Bentinck, 1721-1770
  • 2nd Duke of Portland (Pw D) William Bentinck (1708-1762)
  • 2nd Duchess of Portland (Pw E) Margaret Bentinck, née Cavendish-Harley (1715-1785)
  • 3rd Duke of Portland (Pw F) William Henry Cavendish Cavendish-Bentinck (1738-1809) and in Pl C.  This section also contains correspondence of Charlotte Sophie, Countess Bentinck (1715-1800) with her granddaughter Sophia H. Hawkins-Whitshed, née Bentinck.
  • 3rd Duchess of Portland (Pw G) Dorothy Bentinck née Cavendish (1750-1794)
  • 4th Duke of Portland (Pw H) William Henry Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck (1768-1854)
  • Lord William (Cavendish-)Bentinck (Pw Ja-Jg) (1774-1839) soldier, politician and statesman
  • 5th Duke of Portland (Pw K) William John Cavendish-Bentinck-Scott (1800-1879) A short biography.
  • Lord (W.) George (H. Cavendish-)Bentinck (Pw L) (1802-1848) soldier and politician
  • George Augustus Frederick Cavendish-Bentinck (Pw M) (1821-1891) politician
  • Charlotte, Countess Ossington (Pw N) (1806-1889) née Bentinck who married John Evelyn Denison, Viscount Ossington, in 1827 and in 1882 assumed the surname Scott on inheriting family property following the death of her brother the 5th Duke of Portland in 1879.


Portland Literary Collection (Pw V)

Portland Literary Collection (Pw V). Literary manuscripts from 16th - 19th centuries. These papers are part of the Portland (Welbeck) Collection but are known in their own right because of the richness of their contents. The Collection comprises several series of literary, personal and official papers from the Library of the Dukes of Portland at Welbeck Abbey. 

The Collection is primarily known as a resource for English and Latin satirical verse of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Collection's literary strengths are particularly associated with the Cavendish and Harley periods of the family's history. The majority of the items are manuscript verse on loose sheets, but the Collection also includes verse anthologies, both in the form of scribal copies of various authors and gatherings of the manuscripts of particular poets. There are over 1,000 texts (mainly early 18th-century) in Latin and a further small quantity in French, Italian, Greek and in one case, Hungarian. Examples of prose works and drama are also present.

The Collection has been catalogued and indexed in detail. Researchers searching the Manuscripts Online Catalogue can choose to search in specific fields for the 'Title of Work', 'First Line of Poem', and 'Last Line of Poem'. We also have a printed Index of First Lines within the Portland Literary Collection, which is accessible in PDF form.


Portland (London) Collection (Pl)

Portland (London) Collection (Pl) Legal, financial and estate papers of the Dukes of Portland, 1304-1940 from the office of their London solicitors, Bailey, Shaw and Gillett. The records relate to property not only in London but in Ayrshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Cumberland, Derbyshire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Surrey, Sussex, Worcestershire and Yorkshire. It also includes some family correspondence, most notably that of the 3rd Duke of Portland (Pl C), missing from the Portland (Welbeck) Collection.


Papers of the Bentinck Family, Counts of the Holy Roman Empire, 1658-1841 (BK)

Papers of the Bentinck family, Counts of the Holy Roman Empire, largely concerning their estate at Doorwerth, The Netherlands (BK).

This collection mainly concerns Charlotte Sophie, Countess Bentinck (1715-1800), née Countess of Aldenburg, wife of William, 1st Count Bentinck (1704-1774), who was the eldest son of the 1st Earl of Portland and his second wife, Jane Martha Temple. The bulk of the collection relates to Charlotte Sophie's estate at Doorwerth in The Netherlands, which was inherited by her English descendants. The collection also contains naval correspondence of her son Captain John A. Bentinck (1737-1775).


Other collections


Principal Subject areas within the collections

Designation Logo - Designated as an outstanding collectionThe Portland collections provide a wealth of research resources for a wide range of studies, especially when considered in conjunction with the Newcastle and other family collections held in the Department.   Although the main collection of estate papers of the Portland estates is held at Nottinghamshire Archives Office, many of the collections held at The University contain materials that relate to the management of their various estates at different dates, and to all aspects of land ownership and exchange. The extensive Portland (London) Collection (Pl) in particular contains legal and financial records for Portland properties throughout the country from an early period. The papers of individual dukes in the Portland (Welbeck) Collection (Pw) - most notably the 3rd, 4th and 5th Dukes and Lord William Bentinck (Pw F, Pw H, Pw K, Pw J) - include estate related correspondence with their agents about tenancies, the use of land, developments in agriculture and the drainage of the Fens (Pw J). The Portland (London) and the eccentric 5th Duke's papers are particularly rich in material concerning the extensions and redevelopment of Welbeck Abbey.

There are extensive sources for studies of local Nottinghamshire places connected to the Portlands and of families involved with the dukes and their estates either as employees or business and political friends and acquaintances. Local and national elections and the management of 18th and 19th century politics and patronage are also especially well covered throughout the Portland collections. The personal correspondence of most of the Portland family members reveals their relationships with the major political figures of their times who were their relations, friends and neighbours.

A wide variety of national political issues and events through the 17th to 19th centuries feature in the collections - from the English Civil War (Pw 2Hy), the Glorious Revolution of 1688 (Pw A), the South Sea Bubble (Pw B) and Protectionism (Pw L). International diplomacy and conflicts are strongly represented including the American War of Independence (Pw F), the French Revolution and Revolutionary Wars (Pw F, Pw J, Pw M), British involvement in Sicily and the government of India (in Lord William Bentinck's extensive and comprehensive papers, Pw J). The papers of the 1st Earl of Portland, Hans Wilhelm Bentinck, the friend and confidant of William of Orange (later King of England), are especially rich sources for diplomatic and political events of the late 17th century but are mostly in French, Dutch or German.

Of major significance are the literary papers (Pw V) which include literary manuscripts and correspondence from the 16th-19th centuries and in particular of the 1st Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne. The cultural interests of other family members are reflected in the papers of Margaret, Duchess of Portland (Pw C) and a small but interesting group of papers concerning Rawdon Brown, the historian (Pw M).

Throughout the collections there is rich evidence of aristocratic family life and relationships, education and social and leisure activities - some less obvious than others. Lord George Bentinck had a keen interest in horse racing and breeding, the 4th Duke had a serious involvement in the development of ship design and Lord William Bentinck was concerned with the development of steam ship communication with India through the Suez Canal. In addition the relationship with the Dutch branch of the Bentinck family brought European connections which are documented in the fascinating correspondence of Countess Charlotte Sophie Bentinck (mostly in French) (Pw F) and the papers of the Bentinck Family, Counts of the Holy Roman Empire (BK).


Family history

Earls and Dukes of Portland

Other Notable Family Members


Collections held elsewhere

Other Repositories holding archives of the former Dukes of Portland from Welbeck Abbey

  • Nottinghamshire Archives holds the deeds and estate papers of the Dukes of Portland's Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Northumberland estates.
  • The British Library holds the Harley family papers, principally the papers of Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford (1661-1724) and Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford (1689-1741) with those of Matthew Prior (1664-1721), diplomat and poet, and Humphrey Wanley (1672-1726), antiquarian and archivist.
  • Hampshire Archives and Local Studies holds the Dukes of Portland's Hampshire estate papers.
  • Bodleian Library, Oxford holds the civil war papers of Reverend John Nalson (c.1637-1686).

Other Portland Collections

  • Longleat House, The Estate Office, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 7NW. Access by prior appointment only to bonafide researchers.
  • Details of other smaller Portland and related collections in the UK can be obtained by searching for Record Creators in The National Archives Discovery Catalogue.
  • Gelders Archief, Arnhem, The Netherlands, holds Doorwerth estate papers and Bentinck (Van Aldenburg) family papers. 


Useful publications relating to the Portland family and their papers

Details of printed works and theses held in the University of Nottingham Library are available via the Library's online catalogue NUsearch. Reference numbers given here are to holdings available in the Manuscripts and Special Collections Reading Rooms.

  • Bentinck, Lord Charles Cavendish, Lord Henry Bentinck's foxhounds (Hutchinson & Co., 1930) [King’s Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection Not 1.R64 BEN]
  • Bentinck, Lady Norah, My wanderings and memories (Unwin, 1924) [King’s Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection Rut 29.V30 NOE]
  • Bentinck, William, 6th Duke of Portland, Men, Women and Things; Memories of the Duke of Portland (Faber & Faber, 1938) [King’s Meadow Campus Oversize Not 468.V38 BEN]
  • Bradbury, David J., Welbeck Abbey: treasures (Mansfield Wheel Publications, 1986) [King’s Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection os.Pamph Not 468.D64 ABB]
  • Colville, Sir John, Strange Inheritance (Michael Russell, 1983) [King’s Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection Not 468.V30 BEN]
  • Darroch, S.J., The Life of Lady Ottoline Morrell (New York, 1975) [King’s Meadow Campus D.H.Lawrence Collection Lazarus PR478.B5.D27]
  • Disraeli, B., 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, Lord George Bentinck: A Political Biography (London, 1858) [King’s Meadow Campus Ref DA536.B39]; (9th edition, 1874)
  • Grew, Marion E.T., William Bentinck and William III (Prince of Orange): the life of Bentinck, Earl of Portland from Welbeck correspondence (London, 1924) [King’s Meadow Campus Ref DA462.B4.G7]
  • Jackson, Mick, The Underground Man (a fictional 'biography' loosely based on the life of the 5th Duke of Portland) (Picador, 1997) [King’s Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection Not 1.W8 JAC]
  • Jones, Clyve, The Harley Family and Papers' in The British Library Journal Vol. 15 No.2 Autumn 1989, with a number of other articles relating to the Harleys
  • Koolman, Antje,Die Bentincks; eine Niederländische Adelsfamilie in Nordwestdeutschland im 18. Jahrhundert (Oldenburg, 2003)
  • Le Blond, Mrs Aubrey,Charlotte Sophie, Countess Bentinck; Her Life and Times (2 vols, Hutchinson, 1912)
  • Olney, J., 'The Portland Papers' in Archives Vol. XIX No. 82 Oct. 1989 [King’s Meadow Campus Manuscripts Department Periodicals]
  • Philips, C.H. (ed.), Correspondence of Lord William Cavendish-Bentinck (2 vols, OUP, 1977) [King's Meadow Campus Ref DS475.8.B4]
  • Rosselli, John, Lord William Bentinck and the British occupation of Sicily: 1811-1814 (CUP, 1956) [King's Meadow Campus Ref DA536.B4.R6]
  • Rosselli, John, Lord William Bentinck: The Making of a Liberal Imperialist 1774-1839 (Chatto and Windus, 1974) [King's Meadow Campus Ref DA536.B4.R6]
  • Schazmann, Paul-Emile, The Bentincks: The History of a European Family (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1976) [King’s Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection Not 468.V38 BEN]
  • Seth-Smith, M., Lord Paramount of the Turf: Lord George Bentinck 1802-1848 (London, 1971) [King’s Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection Not 468.V38 BEN]
  • Seymour, Miranda, Ottoline Morrell: Life on a grand scale (Hodder and Stoughton, 1992) [King’s Meadow Campus D.H.Lawrence Collection PR6023.A9.Z5.M67]
  • Turberville, A.S., A History of Welbeck Abbey and its Owners (2 vols. London 1938-39) [King’s Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection Not 468.D14 TUR]


Next page:  The Portlands of Welbeck Abbey - a Brief History


Manuscripts and Special Collections

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