Chapter XI.
The Dukeries, Mansfield, Worksop.

THE district known as the "Dukeries," begins about twenty miles north of Nottingham, and extends about ten miles in the Worksop direction, its average width being about five miles. Part of the ancient Forest of Sherwood, this district now presents a combination of park and forest not to be met with elsewhere in England. Anciently the forest was at least three times its present size, and relics of its former existence are to be found, as we have seen, in and about Nottingham. The demesnes to which the word Dukeries refers are:— Welbeck, Clumber, and Thoresby, belonging respectively to the Dukes of Portland and Newcastle, and Earl Manvers; and to these we must add Worksop Manor Park, part of the Duke of Newcastle's estate, at present let to Sir John Robinson; and Rufford Abbey, the seat of Lord Savile, lying a short distance south-east of the others. The principal owners of the Dukeries trace their descent to the famous Bess of Hardwick, who had a passion for house-building and the creation of great estates. She lived from 1520 to 1607, was married four times, and on each occasion managed to vastly increase the territorial influence of her family. Hence it happened that this huge Dukery has been kept in one piece, the owners of the various sections into which it is divided, all co-operating to maintain its primeval simplicity.

How to see the Dukeries.

The Dukeries can be "seen" in a day by means of a circular driving tour, starting from Worksop or Mansfield, but if the visitor has time it would be well worth his while to see the forest more leisurely by staying a few days at Edwinstowe, Ollerton, Normanton Inn (near Clumber), or Worksop. In the summer the principal railway companies issue excursion tickets from Nottingham for a day's trip. It is usual to take train to Worksop, and drive round the Dukeries in a day, returning home by train from the same place. Carriages meet the train at Worksop and proceed by way of Clumber and Thoresby to Edwinstowe, where lunch can be obtained, after which the route is by Welbeck back to Worksop. Mansfield is also a convenient centre, but the circular drive takes longer, as that town is further from the forest than Worksop. At Edwinstowe and Ollerton there are stations on the Dukeries Railway, now belonging to the Great Central Company, to which places there are frequent half-day excursions by the principal lines running into Nottingham.

The parks are all private, and many of the gates are kept locked, hence the advantage of going with a properly organized party, as all the chief posting-houses have keys. Visitors staying at inns and hotels in the district can generally be supplied with passes for the private drives. Clumber, Thoresby, and Welbeck are open to ticket-holders on Mondays, Thurs­days, and Saturdays, but strangers should make full inquiries at one of the places already mentioned before arranging a visit. The necessary passes and all informa­tion can be obtained from the Duke of Newcastle's agent, Worksop; the Duke of Portland's agent, Mansfield Wood­house; Earl Manvers' agent, Thoresby.

Mansfield, seventeen miles from Nottingham by road, fourteen by rail, fare 1s., 1s. 3d. return on Thursdays and Saturdays, Midland. Market, Thursday and Saturday. Hotels and posting-houses, The Swan, Bridge Street; Midland, near the station. Long before we reach Mansfield we begin to hear echoes of Robin Hood. We pass the "Robin Hood Hills," cycling from Annesley to Mansfield, and the Outlaw's "Well" is not far distant (Route vii., p. 169). Robin Hood's stable is at Papplewick (Cycling Route vi.) The famous archer was well-known at Blidworth, an interesting village on an elevated site, affording excellent views, and situated to the right of the Mansfield and Nottingham main road, nearly opposite Newstead. In this neighbourhood too, are "Friar Tuck's Well," and "Fountain Dale," the supposed resort of the "Clerk of Copmanhurst," who forms so vivid a figure in the romance of Ivanhoe. It is said that Robin died at Kiriees Priory, Yorkshire, December 24th, 1247. The following inscription, rendered into modern English, is placed over his grave:—


Mansfield is a busy thriving town of over 20,000, having rapidly increased in size owing to development of new collieries, and the manufacture of lace thread, ironworks, and other industries. The Midland Station is within a short distance of the Market Place, where are situated the Town Hall, erected 1836, and the stone Gothic monument in memory of Lord George Bentinck, M.P., dating from 1849. The old Parish Church of St. Peter is in Bridge Street. It is of mixed architecture, chiefly Decorated and Perpendicular.


The Major Oak, Sherwood Forest.
The Major Oak, Sherwood Forest.

(Five miles from Mansfield. Leave the town by Ratcliffe Gate, and turn to the left at the top of the hill.) This place is interesting historically, because it was anciently the site of an ancient palace, used by the early Kings of England when they came to hunt in Sherwood. The ruins of "King John's Palace" are shown, but doubtless this building was used both before and after his time. Not far from the ruins is a stone Gothic arch, a copy of Worksop Priory Gateway, and known also as Clipstone Lodge. It is situated in a long grassy drive, having been erected by the fourth Duke of Portland in 1844. The arch is fittingly adorned with figures of Robin Hood, Maid Marion, and their fellows. About a mile from Clipstone is the famous Parliament Oak, so called from a tradition that King John, or as some say Edward I., held a Parliament under its branches. This ancient tree is passed on our left, taking the other road from Mansfield to Edwinstowe, which leaves the Worksop high road near Mansfield Woodhouse. Like many of the other trees with a "history," this one is much shored and buttressed by timber props. Two miles beyond Clipstone, we come to


(Seven miles from Mansfield. Close to some of the most interesting scenery, and a capital centre from which to make excursions. Good accommodation may be had.) The name is Saxon, but we are not told definitely which of the "Edwins" built it. The grey old church, with its handsome spire, goes back in part to Norman times. The long, narrow village street presents a very pretty picture with its vista of forest scenery at the far end. Every excursionist knows the way to the "Major Oak," a spreading tree of majestic size and untold age, noble even in its decay. The "Forest" is close to Edwinstowe, and many most interesting rambles can be taken. The Railway Companies issue return tickets at reduced rate to Edwinstowe, in connection with driving tours starting from that place, including practically the whole of the Dukeries.

Ollerton, two miles east of Edwinstowe, should, if possible, be visited for the sake of the charming forest scenery passed by the way. Ollerton is a quiet little place, and a few days could not be better spent than in exploring the adjoining part of the Thoresby estate, and the many interesting spots in the neighbourhood.

Rufford Abbey, the seat of Lord Savile, is two miles south of Edwinstowe, on the Nottingham road (about twenty miles to Nottingham), standing in a beautiful park ten miles in circumference. Once a Cistercian Abbey, it came after the dissolution into the hands of the powerful Earl of Shrewsbury, who was fourth husband of the famous Bess of Hardwick, and who possessed a large slice of what is now the Dukeries. King Edward VII. has frequently stayed at Rufford for the Doncaster Race Week, and on such occasions Ollerton is full of his loyal subjects. Little of the original abbey now remains visible, and a splendid mansion has been erected at various dates on the old foundations. Visitors wishing to see Rufford should communicate with Lord Savile's agent, but the house is not so accessible as others in the district.

Worksop may be reached from Ollerton by the high road which here passes through the heart of the forest, the pretty little village of Budby, at the back of Thoresby House, being seen on the way; or by Perlethorpe and Normanton Inn, where a delightful night may be spent in presence of the great silent forest. From Normanton there is no difficulty in getting to Worksop through Clumber Park.

There was no doubt a settlement at Worksop in very early times, possibly before the Conquest. The ancient abbey was in existence early in the twelfth century, and tradition says a Norman castle occupied the height known as "Castle Hill." Worksop Manor was the first of the great Dukery estates to be enclosed as a park, for we hear of William de Furnival, 1366-1383, being punished for not keeping his fencing in repair, and so allowing the King's deer to stray out of Sherwood into his own domains. Afterwards the property came into the hands of the Talbots, who became Earls of Shrewsbury, and also acquired the rich lands of the Austin Canons of the old Priory at the dissolution of monasteries. In the fifteenth century, the Earl of Shrewsbury built a great Manor House, but this was destroyed by fire in 1761. A new house, of which the present Manor forms part, was commenced in 1765. The entrance is in Park Street. After passing the gates beautiful views of wood and water delight the visitor, who will find the Manor Park well worth seeing. Mary Queen of Scots, in charge of the Earl of Shrewsbury, was sent here for change of air in 1583, and in Miss Strickland's Lives will be found a letter from the Queen referring to this event.

Some little distance down Potter Street will be found a ruinous Market Cross, and opposite the fine Gateway of the Monastery of the Canons of St. Augustine's Order, who once had their abode here. The architecture of the Gate­way is fourteenth century work, and presents an archway and gable on the side facing us. Canopied niches contain the figures of the Virgin, St. Cuthbert, and St. Augustine. The monastery itself has in great part disappeared. Having passed the archway, we are in sight of the twin towers of the west end of the ancient Priory Church. Notice the round-headed windows of Norman design, and the rich ornamentation of the mouldings of the great west and cloister doorways. The battlemented parapets of the towers do not belong to the original church, which probably had low spires like those at Southwell. There was probably a central tower near the present east end, and the old choir has disappeared. The interior presents beautiful Norman arcades, the ornaments showing transi­tion to the Early English style. The triforium storey presents a very beautiful series of arches. The ruined Chapel of St. Mary, on the south side of the old choir, is a very fine example of Early English architecture, while the remains of the Cloisters on the north are transitional.

At Worksop there is good railway communication with Retford, Sheffield, Mansfield, and Nottingham.


We leave the town by Sparken Hill, passing Worksop College on the left—one of the Woodard Schools for the education of the children of Church of England parents— and in about a couple of miles Clumber Park is reached. Trees of every sort and every hue surround us in all directions, and forest stillness reigns around, except for the songs of the countless birds, and the rustle of the rabbits and squirrels disturbed by our presence. The towering Scotch firs are a feature of this part of the forest. We must pause to admire the famous Lime Tree Avenue which runs at right angles to our path. Soon afterwards we come in sight of the graceful spire of Clumber Church, and the Mansion beside the magnificent Lake.

The Church.

was built by the Duke of Newcastle in 1886-9, from designs of Messrs. Bodley and Garner. The building is of white stone, the tower and facings being of red, and cost £40,000. The carving and ornaments are of the most costly description, and there are some fine stained windows. The nave is separated from the choir by a handsome carved screen, and the high altar is of alabaster.

Clumber House was erected in 1772, but the oldest portion was destroyed by fire in 1879, after which the new west front was erected. The best view of the house is obtained from the bridge or from the opposite side of the magnificent Lake, and presents on the ground floor an elegant Ionic colonnade and a small tower and spire at one end. Lincoln Terrace, in front of the house, forms a splendid promenade, ornamented with flower-beds, vases, and sculpture.


The grand hall has a lofty arched roof supported on marble columns, and contains some fine sculpture. The works of art are of a most valuable description, comprising canvasses by Vandyke, Murillo, Rembrandt, Rubens, Canaletti, Poussin, Teniers, etc. The various saloons contain numerous objects of interest, while the windows afford splendid views of the lake and park.


At the handsome Stone Bridge we turn back for a last look at the house, keeping straight on through Ollerton Lodge for Thoresby. The road to the left leads to Normanton Inn, a very picturesque spot to spend a day or two. We soon pass the last lodge on the Clumber Estate, cross the road separating the two estates, and find ourselves in Thoresby Park. At once we find ourselves in the heart of the most ancient part of the forest, surrounded on all sides by venerable oak-trees. Thoresby Hall soon comes in sight, a building of Elizabethan design, erected by the third Earl Manvers, 1864-71. It is justly spoken of as one of the best examples of modern domestic architecture to be seen anywhere in England. The original mansion was destroyed by fire in 1745, and rebuilt by its owner, the Duke of Kingston, from whom the present family is descended. On the erection of the existing mansion—the third—the former one was converted into stables. The hall, with its numerous towers and gables, forms a splendid object standing out on the wide expanse of green.


The Grand Hall has a fine open timber roof, and its walls are adorned with arms and armour. We should notice the gobelin tapestry in the drawing-room and the oak floors, made of oak from the estate, which is found in such abundance. Note the exquisitely carved marble mantel-pieces, and in particular the overmantel of the library, carved to represent the Major Oak, supported on each side by figures of Robin Hood and Little John. The visitor will be shown over the house by a competent guide, and we feel that any attempt on our part to enumerate the splendid pictures and other treasures contained in this noble store-house must be imperfect.

After leaving the house we return to the drive through the Park. Here we notice great herds of deer of various kinds, and cattle browsing in the shade. So numerous and so tame are the rabbits that in places the grassy sward is actually brown with them. Gradually park again gives place to forest. We find ourselves in Bilhagh, famous for its old oaks, rearing their hoary heads in scorn of the modest saplings a century or two old. Mingling with the gnarled and knotted branches of the oak we find the light, feathery festoons and graceful stems of the silver birch, which here grows in great profusion and to a very fine size, giving the name to Birklands, through which our journey lies after we enter Welbeck Park. Ere this, however, we pass the well-known Buck Gates, where the animals stand facing one another on ivy-clad pillars on either side of the drive.


From the Buck Gates to Edwinstowe is only a short distance (see p. 130), which can be visited now if this has not already been done. But instead of this we may pass the Major Oak, already referred to, and proceed by way of the splendid avenue of Spanish chestnuts, through forest scenery, the same and yet ever varying, as it extends for miles around us. We are now in Birklands, the silver birch, which gives the name to the district, here attaining a lofty height and great beauty of form. After about a couple of miles we veer round to the right and notice the Butcher's Shambles Oak or Robin Hood's Larder, an old decrepit tree, held up by props. On our right we pass the Russian Log Cottage, a shooting box of the Duke's, of uncommon, picturesque appearance.

Our way then lies for some distance along a beautiful wide clearing in the forest, with stretches of turf on either side, then, after passing through a more wooded country, we reach the brow of a hill, where a splendid prospect greets us, with the glassy expanse of the lake at our feet on the right, and, beyond, undulating park-land as far as the eye can reach. Taking a course parallel with the lake, we pass the Greendale Oak, very old and very worn. It is said its end has been hastened by artificial means used to make a way through the trunk of the tree, through which a coach-and-four was driven. Half a mile further we reach the model village of Welbeck, passing on our left the "Winnings," a handsome stone building for housing old servants of the estate, and built out of the racing winnings of the Duke in and about the year 1890. The names of "Donovan" and his famous stable companions are commemorated on a stone slab built into the wall.

Welbeck  Abbey lies on the edge of the lake, a little below the level of the village. Once a Premonstratensian Abbey, it was granted at the dissolution, resembling in its fate the other religious houses mentioned in this book, to a powerful temporal magnate, the fortunate recipient being in this case Richard Whalley of Screveton (ancestor of Whalley the Regicide, see p. 101). But it afterwards came into the possession of Sir Charles Cavendish, son of "Bess of Hardwick" by her second husband. From this branch of the Cavendishes it passed by marriage to William Bentinck, Duke of Portland, in 1734. The present mansion is of immense size, built at various times, and only slight traces of the old monastic buildings are to be seen. The present Duke, the sixth of the line, occupied the position of Master of the Horse during the Salisbury and Balfour administrations, and is known, along with his graceful and amiable lady, far and near, for his hospitality and benevolence. The Duke has fre­quently entertained His Majesty King Edward VII. A great part of the mansion, known as the Oxford wing, was burnt down in 1900, and has since been rebuilt.

The inside of the Abbey is not shown, but the visitor may see the wonderful series of underground apartments, constructed by the late Duke. Long subterranean passages run in all directions through the grounds, being lit by huge "bulls-eyes" of glass level with the surface and, in some cases, by gas.

A charge of one shilling is made for showing the Gardens, Tan Gallop, and Riding School, and one shilling for the Grand Picture Gallery, open on week­days, except Saturday, during the summer months. The receipts from these sources form a handsome sum annually, which is distributed to local charities. The gallery contains paintings by Vandyke and other famous masters, and many family portraits.

Worksop is about five miles distant (see p. 131), and to reach it we leave Welbeck by a tunnel, which takes us on to the Worksop and Mansfield Road. Another short tunnel takes us into a road which brings us in about a couple of miles to Cresswell   Crags, a remarkable ravine between limestone cliffs, through which runs a stream, dammed to form a small lake; there are numerous caves, one of which is known as Robin Hood's Cave. These recesses have been explored by many eminent antiquarians, who have discovered the bones of man along with those of the cave-lion, bear, hyaena, etc., and numerous prehistoric implements, arrow­heads, flints, etc. Before leaving the Sherwood neighbourhood, a visit should, if possible, be paid to Hardwick Hall, on account of its association with "Bess of Hardwick," who formed connections with so many families who have come into possession of the Dukery estates. This interesting Elizabethan mansion is about five miles from Mansfield, whence it may be reached by train (Midland Railway, Rowthorne and Hardwick Station). It was commenced by Bess of Hardwick in 1587, and was not quite completed at the time of her death in 1590. The motto E.S., worked in stone, standing for "Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury," and surmounted by a coronet, ornaments the parapet of the towers. This remarkable woman was married no less than four times, and on each occasion managed to greatly increase her territorial influence. She was the daughter of Squire Hardwick, of Hardwick, in Derbyshire, and at fourteen years of age married her first husband, Robert Barley of Barley. Secondly she married Sir William Cavendish, and from this union spring the Dukes of Devonshire, who are owners of Hardwick, Chatsworth, etc. Her third husband was Sir William St. Loe, who left her his estates. Lastly she married the Earl of Shrewsbury, one of the richest and most powerful nobles in the land, whom she survived seventeen years.

Inside the Hall the visitor will notice the prominence given to the motto of the Cavendish family:—Tute Cavendo. Mary, Queen of Scots, was for some time at Hardwick, in charge of the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury, and specimens of her needlework are exhibited to visitors. There are many objects of interest. Among these being the contents of the Library, Picture Gallery, and State Room, or Presence Chamber, containing magnificent gobelin tapestry.