Clumber by the Duchess of Newcastle


By the Duchess of Newcastle

CLUMBER is difficult to describe, as it has practically no history, and was built only in the middle of the eighteenth century. The antiquarian will not find much to help him in his researches on Clumber, for the notices which have appeared are meagre in the extreme. Thoroton in his Antiquities of Nottingham mentions it twice; he says, "A Hamlet of Mansfield, certain lands in it belonging to William the Conqueror," and, "In 1310, one William Fitzwilliam held a sixth part of a fee under Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln." These, and a reference to tithes paid to the Vicar of Worksop, and a grant of land, value eleven shillings per annum, made by Henry VIII. to Roger and Robert Tavener, are the only historical records I can find.

The present house stands on a site formerly occupied by a shooting lodge belonging to the Dukes of Newcastle; they themselves, until 1711, resided at Welbeck.

Perhaps it would be as well to show how Clumber came into this branch of the family.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

In 1709, John Holles, fourth Earl of Clare, and great grandson of William Cavendish, the Duke of Newcastle of the Civil War, now perhaps better known as the author of the famous book on horsemanship, received permission to enclose three thousand acres of Sherwood Forest, of which he was then Steward, to make a private park. He did this, and, dying two years later, left it to his sister's son, Thomas Pelham, second Baron Pelham of Laughton in Sussex ; who was created Marquis of Clare and Duke of Newcastle in the county of Northumberland, and, in 1756, Duke of Newcastle under Lyme, with special remainder to the heirs of his brother, Henry Pelham, and his sister Lucy, who had married Henry, seventh Earl of Lincoln. Thomas, Duke of Newcastle, died in 1768, and was succeeded by his nephew Henry, ninth Earl of Lincoln, he having married his first cousin, Catherine, daughter and heiress of Henry Pelham. He assumed also, by royal licence, the surname of Pelham; and, dying in 1794, was succeeded by his third son, Thomas; his eldest having died young; while the second, Henry Fiennes, who in 1775 married the lovely Lady Frances Seymour Conway, had died in 1778, leaving an only daughter, who afterwards married William, Lord Folkestone. Thomas, the third Duke, married in 1782 Anna Maria, the youngest daughter of William, second Earl of Harrington. Only two of their children lived — a son and a daughter; the latter married Lord Combermere. Henry, the son, succeeded his father in 1795. I have discovered a most interesting diary of his, carefully kept, from the death of his wife (to whom he was greatly devoted), in 1822, until his own in 1851.

Amongst other things in it of great interest relating to the politics of the day (for he was a most keen politician, absolutely upright and honourable, though perhaps, for his own sake, too out­spoken), I found an old letter of Mr. Gladstone's —to whom I cannot say, as it has no beginning, but presumably to someone who had been asking pertinent questions as to why the Duke of Newcastle should have offered him the seat of Newark. I will give it in full:

"1. Our acquaintance began at Eton, but was very slight.
"2. It grew at Oxford mainly, or firstly, I think, in consequence of Lord Lincoln having attached himself to a small Society which took for its name my initials, and which was formed for literary and mental effort by the composition of essays, and discussion upon them.
"3. It is true that I shewed the alarm generally felt at the Reform Bill and attended the Union, which I did not habitually attend, to make a speech against it. Beyond this I know only little; I cannot affirm, still less can I deny, the statement made by Sir F. Doyle. I have always taken it for granted that some statements from Lord Lincoln must have moved his father the Duke, to whom I was unknown, to write to my father and offer to recommend me to his friends at Newark. All I know is that early in July of 1832, having just reached an Hotel in Milan, I received to my unbounded astonishment a letter from my father conveying this offer and favouring its acceptance which followed. I reached London at the end of the month, joined my family at Torquay, and in September was summoned to begin the canvass at Newark, which I always considered as the opening of my political life."

The only mention of Mr. Gladstone by the Duke at the date of the election is this :

"August 6, 1832. Mr. Gladstone, who is to come in on my interest at Newark, has just published his address — he is a friend of Lincoln's, and a very talented and highly principled young man, as he tells me, for I do not know him."

Mention of the Reform Bill brings back to one's mind the fearful Nottingham Riots, all directed against this Duke of Newcastle in consequence of his bitter opposition to the Bill; I will copy the account of them, also the preparations for the defence of Clumber, from his diary:

"11th October. This day has passed off quietly — the people are standing about, and I have seen more drunkenness than I have seen for a long time. In the House of Lords we had some talking, and as the conversation turned to it, I thought it might be attended with public good if I alluded to the attack on my house [in Cavendish Square the day before] and the state of town and country. Lord Melbourne answered me with great propriety, and afterwards told me that he had had very bad news from Notts, that Nottingham was in a shocking state, and that the Rioters had set fire to the Castle — and it was thought had also attacked the jail, but his information only came from the guard of the mail coach. The mob have attacked the jails and liberated the prisoners in Derby, besides attacking several houses. They have vowed the destruction of Belvoir. I hope Clumber is also not in their black books.

"12th October. Having received authentic information of the destruction by fire of Nottingham Castle by the mob, of the sacking of Colwick, which they stripped of everything and afterwards set fire to, I am determined to go to Clumber this evening. I went to the Duke of Wellington and bad a long consultation with him how I should proceed. The cry of the mob was that they would proceed to Clumber, and many think they will go — but the Duke thinks, and justly, that they will never get so far. I returned home about 3 o'clock, having finished all my business. The assemblage of persons in the streets was enormous. The people everywhere wore the appearance of insolence and self-importance, as though their hour of rule had at length arrived. Lord Londonderry on going to the House was very seriously injured by the mob, and the Duke of Wellington's windows were broken in the daytime in a very orderly manner, by a well organized mob. The day was wet, and towards evening it rained in torrents, for which we have to thank God for the prevention of much mischief which must otherwise have happened. As I was writing my letters this evening and settling all my affairs, a letter arrived by coach from Georgiana [his daughter] telling me that they were all in Mansell's [the Keeper's] house, whither they had been sent for safety, in the apprehension of an immediate attack upon Clumber, of which  such  repeated information had been received that Lincoln thought it necessary, and was advised, to take every precaution and make every preparation for defence. I retired, as I cannot get away this evening as it rains in torrents, to lie down in my clothes, and start at 4 in the morning.

"13th October. Started at 4, everything being ready; at Wandsford I received a letter from Mr. Tallents [his Agent] advising me to be cautious in going through Newark and recommending me to change horses out of the town. I however changed at the Inn and nothing happened. On the road I heard that there had been disturbances at Mansfield and an attempt to get into Wollaton by the Nottinghamers; a fire the night before, at Plumtree, and another in Rutlandshire. I stopped at Mansell's, where I arrived at 9 o'clock and found my dear daughters perfectly well and as happy as possible under the circumstances. Miss Spencer, the Swiss governess, and their maids were with them, so that they must have been very closely packed. I stayed about an hour and then went to Clumber, notwithstanding the wishes of Mansell that I should stay, as he thought it very likely that I should be shot at as I went through the woods, where several men had been seen for some days lurking about. I reached Clumber at about 11 o'clock, having met videttes of Yeomanry patroling within two miles of the house; on my arrival the garrison expressed their rejoicing and welcome by loud and continued cheers. In the house I found my dear Lincoln, Charles, and Thomas; I could not believe I was at Clumber, the whole was so changed, everything removed that was valuable, such as pictures, ornaments, furniture, statues, etc., nothing left but bare walls, and the house filled with men in every room, with cannons, of which I have 10 3-pounders and 14 little ship guns, fire arms, muskets, and pistols and sabres planted in their proper positions, and in all the windows. The scene is beyond my description; the confusion and joy occasioned by my arrival might have formed several glowing pages for the pen of an experienced novelist. Before I went to bed I visited all the arrangements made in the different rooms. The preparations are indeed formidable — sufficient to repel 20,000 men. In the house are 200 men, and out of it a great many more, including a Troop of Yeomanry, 70 men and horses. It was late when I retired, and it was not long before I fell into a deep sleep.

Clumber, the west front.
Clumber, the west front.

"14th October. I would not give any orders, not wishing without full deliberation to alter anything that Lincoln had done — but this morning I determined to make a change in our mode of defence. I therefore settled that the Yeomanry should be dismissed, all but a sergeant and 12 men, whom I kept until the next morning— I reduced the number of men to 20 picked men who had nearly all been old soldiers. I admit none of them into the house, but have made a barrack for them in the offices adjoining, where they sleep and mess, and I mount a chain of sentries in a ring round the house extending to the gate near the tool-house in the Pleasure Ground. In this manner we shall command regularity, and something like system and efficiency.  I think we shall be perfectly secure against attack in this manner. Towards evening I had made some progress in putting the house to rights and making it more as usual, for I found it scarcely habitable, and my own room full of people with guns mounted and full of litter and dirt. At night I went to see that all my arrangements were carried properly into execution and found them well done; on my return home, from not knowing the countersign, I was taken prisoner by one of my own sentries. I have heard of no fresh aggressions.

"15th October. My report of this morning was that two men had been taken last night, who pretended to be gentlemen, and who said it would be very disagreeable to be taken before one who would know them, and offered 20 sovereigns to my people to let them go; they refused their money, but told them as they saw they were gentlemen they would liberate them. Nothing could have been more unfortunate; there, can be no doubt that they were incendiaries, and that they were the very people we had been looking for, and who had been frequently seen in various parts evidently bent upon mischief. I hear to-day that disturbance is expected at Mansfield, and that a Troop of Hussars, which had been ordered to Worksop, had been counter-ordered to Mansfield. Nottingham is in a feverish state but quiet for the present.

"16th October. I have had a great many people here to-day who all report that things are quiet for the present. One report arrived that there was a rising in Sheffield and that Lord Wharncliffe's house had been burnt down. This night a man came and sent me in a letter saying that he came from Nottingham and wished to tell me the little he knew about the late riots in Nottingham; and I had a long conversation with him and found him to be a very shrewd fellow — but he told me nothing that I did not know, and I dismissed him, ordering him some supper and 5/- for his night's lodgings as he had come so far. I thought the man might be come for no good purpose, and I thought it fair to deceive him and ordered that the guard should be trebled, on the road he was going, to make him report the number of guards he met with, and how difficult it was to get in and out. My servants carried this trick further and disguised themselves and lay in his way and got into conversation with him, when they found that he was a cheat and abused me dreadfully, and that he came here as a spy. They managed to take him. I shall send him by a Constable to Worksop for examination before a Magistrate.

"17th October. I went to Blyth to-day to confer with the General of the district, Sir H. Bouverie. I have heard of nothing but tranquility to-day, nothing has happened here.

The south front of Clumber House.
The south front of Clumber House.