The Summer Excursion

"THE operations of the Thoroton Society in the direction of the collection and preservation of records of the historical spots and relics in what has come to be known as the "Thoroton country," do not prevent the members from indulging each year in a summer excursion which, while embracing features of antiquarian interest, partakes more of a social than a scientific nature. There is at least one day in the year on which the members of the Thoroton Society become for the nonce even as one with the most irrepressible of trippers— anxious to see all that they can, and desirous of gratifying that instinct for the beautiful and rare which is the common heritage of all. Such a day of intellectual relaxation was Tuesday, June 6th, when the members of the Society, accompanied by their friends, made their usual summer excursion; that magnificent stretch of country in North Nottinghamshire popularly known as "The Dukeries" being the district visited. To suggest that the weather could be too fine for a holiday in the country sounds paradoxical; yet it is certain that had the sun been less fierce the enjoyment of the party would have been greater. Sight-seeing, even with the wonders of Welbeck as its objective, is fatiguing, and when carried out with the thermometer standing above 70 degrees in the shade is apt to make toil of what would otherwise be pleasure. Still, as a great part of the day was spent in an exhilarating ride through forest scenery the conditions might, obviously, have been worse. The excursionists, numbering about 130 in all, left the Midland Station, Nottingham, by the 9.35 train for Mansfield, travelling in first-class saloon carriages.

Amongst those who constituted the party were the Revs. W. E. Addis (Nottingham), T. W. Swann (Orston), H. Pearson (Lambley), A. D. Hill (East Bridgford), F. Brodhurst (Heath Vicarage, Chesterfield), R. F. Smith (Minor Canon of Southwell), T. B. Chamberlain (Worksop), A. J. L. Dobbin (Cropwell Bishop), C. W. Collinson (Laxton), and E.M. Evans (Ilkeston); Mr. G. Fellows, J.P. (Beeston), Mr. R. Enfield, Mr. A. Hey-mann, J.P., Dr. Paul (Nottingham), Mr. H. Ashwell, J.P., and Mrs. Ashwell (Nottingham), Mr. and Mrs. J.Wright (Nottingham), Messrs. W. Stevenson (Hull), W. R.Gleave (Nottingham), T. M. Blagg (Newark), R. White (Worksop), Arthur Ward, James Ward (Nottingham), F. Swire (Orston), J. Thorpe (Nottingham), A. H. Reeves (Scarrington), J. T. Radford (Nottingham), W. B. Cooke (Nottingham), Edgar Simpson (Nottingham), Samuel Page (Nottingham), J. Burton, G. A. Burton, F. E. Burton, H. W. P. Pine, Charles Gerring, F. R. Pickerill, A. Stapleton, G. E. Hore, T. K. Gordon, F. W. Neale, G. D. Laing, F. A. Morgan, W. Bradshaw, W. Wells, F.  W. Dobson, and W. J. Hannah (Nottingham), Mrs. M. B. G.  Thorold (Welham), Mrs. Williams, and others, with the Rev. John Standish (Scarrington), and Mr. W. P. W. Phillimore (Honorary Secretaries), and Mr. J. C. Warren (Hon. Treasurer).

Welbeck Abbey.
Welbeck Abbey.

On arriving at Mansfield a number of brakes were in readiness to convey the party to Welbeck, a drive of about a dozen miles. It was an attractive sight to see one vehicle after another, drawn by three or four spirited horses, and rolling along through mile after mile of lovely woodland, the summer costumes of the ladies lending just the touch of animation necessary to complete the scene. Cresswell Craggs were taken en route. These craggs, which are five miles from Worksop, on the estate of the Duke of Portland, at the head of a picturesque ravine. They consist of weatherworn masses of rock, clothed with vegetation and varying in height from 30 feet to 80 feet. From exhaustive explorations of recent date, it would appear that Cresswell Craggs have formed part of a range of hills of magnesian limestone, extending from Yorkshire into Leicestershire, and running across the natural drainage course of the rivers of the country. At one time they must have been the escarpment of a tributary of one of the rivers which formerly crossed the country when it was joined to the mainland of Europe and the seaboard extended continuously into the Atlantic from Spain to Scandanavia. From the large number of hyaena teeth and jaws found in these caverns, and also from the gnawed condition of many of the bones, it is evident that these caves have been used during the prehistoric period as the dens of hyaenas, who dragged their prey into these lairs and devoured it there. The most remarkable amongst the animals discovered are the Glutton and the Arctic Fox, showing that the filling in of the caverns must at any rate have begun not much later than the close of the glacial period. The stream gliding by the foot of the craggs was dammed into a lake by the late Duke of Portland, and is a boundary between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. On each side of it are fissures and caverns formed by the water, and of these caves there are quite a number, some of them running tortuously into the rock for a considerable distance. Tradition has it that they were used as hiding places by Robin Hood and his " merry men," and there are certainly far more unlikely things, as in many respects these holes would have made an ideal retreat for the bold and successful outlaw. The caves are very similar to those at Matlock, possessing some fine stalactite formations, but are not so extensive as those in Derbyshire. The party reached Welbeck Abbey about half-past twelve. The privilege afforded by the Duke of Portland of inspecting Welbeck Abbey was particularly acceptable from the fact that his Grace is the President of the Society, in the work of which he manifests a keen and generous interest, and the opportunity could not have been exercised under more pleasing conditions. From the moment one enters Welbeck Park objects of interest abound on every side. In addition to the famous racing stables, where a number of the Duke of Portland's most celebrated horses (including "St. Simon") were to be seen, there is a group of substantially built almshouses, known as "The Winnings," which were erected by the Duke at the request of his wife out of the money won in seven races, viz., the Two Thousand Guineas in 1888 by "Ayrshire," the Derby and St. Leger in 1889 by "Donovan," the Oaks and St. Leger in 1890 by "Memoir," and the One Thousand Guineas in 1890 by "Semolina." The houses, which are excellently furnished, are occupied by pensioned servants whom age or illness has compelled to retire from the service of the duke. After a stroll round the stables and kennels, the visitors were conducted via the famous underground passage to the riding school. This passage, by the way, is one of the many extraordinary features of Welbeck. It was constructed by the late Duke of Portland, whose eccentricities have made him memorable. For one thing he spent between two and three millions in constructing underground apartments and tunnels running in every direction about the estate, the one connecting the riding school with the abbey being nearly a mile in length. The riding school is a magnificent erection 385 feet long, 104 feet broad, and 51 feet high. The glass roof is supported by lofty columns, and the place is lighted by 8,000 gas jets. A short distance away is the "tan gallop," a glass-roofed arcade, 1,266 feet long, built for the exercise of horses in inclement weather. The hothouses are on a similarly gigantic scale, and are unsurpassed for size in England. To attempt even a suggestion of the interior of Welbeck would occupy too much space. (See "Descriptive Notes on Welbeck Abbey and Park" appended hereto.) Everything that is costly and wonderful in stone, glass, tapestry, woodwork, and painting is there. In the Library are priceless manuscripts, and from the Library are reached the famous underground apartments. One of these— and it is, above all else, the greatest marvel of Wonderful Welbeck—is the picture gallery, which is also used as a ballroom. It is a splendidly proportioned room, 158 feet by 63 feet, and on the walls are numerous examples—(see "Descriptive Notes," etc.)—of Van Dyke, Reynolds, Holbein, Teniers, and many other of the world's greatest painters. One drawing-room, which contains a unique collection of jewels, heirlooms, miniatures, and cabinets, is entirely hung with Van Dykes. Every facility was afforded by the Rev. James Butterwick, the chaplain, and by the retainers of the Duke, for a thorough examination of the various features of the house and grounds, and the experience was one which will constitute a happy event in the Society's record.

After a luncheon, served in the Riding School, the drive was resumed through Sherwood Forest. It had been contemplated that on the return, the drive would be through one of the prettiest parts of "the Dukeries," taking in Thoresby and Clumber, but there had been so much of interest to see, that unavoidable delays occurred, and so a direct course had to be shaped for Edwinstowe. Here the members had tea, and after visiting the "Major Oak" and other gigantic specimens of forest growth, the visitors returned to Mansfield, and reached Nottingham by the train leaving a few minutes after eight.

It should be added that as an aid to the visit some interesting notes (already referred to) on the history of Welbeck Abbey and Park had been prepared by the Rev. J. Standish, together with special explanatory notes upon the building and some of the works of art, by Mr. G. H. Wallis, F.S.A.