written for & published Clumber Spaniel Correspondence 50th Issue (Clumbers Celebrated) July 1995
Bradbury is the author of Clumber*, Welbeck Abbey*, and Welbeck and the Fifth Duke of Portland
published by Wheel Publications [* unfortunately out of print]
Wheel Publications, 42 Beck St, Carlton, Nottingham, NG4 1RU, United Kingdom
The home of the Clumber Spaniel has a long and, at times, extraordinary history. Doomsday Book (1086AD) lists three estates at Clumber, of which one belonged to the King, and the other two had been transferred by the Norman conquerors to a soldier named Roger de Busli. When Roger’s successor founded a priory at nearby Worksop, the monks were given much of Clumber, and turned the land into a sheep farm called “Hardwick”. Later, the King’s estate was given to Newstead Priory, so in effect the whole of Clumber was in monastic hands until King Henry VIII abolished all English monasteries in 1536-39.
The government sold the monastic estates to raise money: most were bought by smart businessmen and sold at a profit to the aristocracy. In the early seventeenth century, William Cavendish (later to become the first Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne) began to acquire pieces of Clumber, but one major landowner refused to sell. It was not until the 1690s that a later Duke of Newcastle completed the patchwork. John Holles, (who gained the estates and the title Duke of Newcastle by marriage to William’s granddaughter) made an unusual suggestion to Queen Anne in 1707; that he would allow most of his Clumber estate to be fenced off as a sanctuary for the deer of Sherwood Forest. The Queen was to provide timber for fencing from her woods in the Forest, and would pay the Duke £1,000 each year for maintenance, the hiring of wardens, etc. In 1709, work on the creation of Clumber Park began.
Two years later the Duke died, and the Queen followed in 1714. Neither the new owner nor the new King, George I, was keen to renew the contract, so it lapsed, leaving a vast private park.
The heir, Thomas Pelham (son of Holles’ sister) installed his own deer, leasing some areas out for farming. Continuing the family tradition of males failing to produce male heirs, he made arrangements for the family estates, and a new title (Duke of Newcastle under Lyme) to pass to his great-nephew Henry Clinton, ninth Earl of Lincoln.
In 1760, some years before Thomas’ death, he handed Clumber over to the young Earl, who proceeded to develop it as a stately home. The old manor house in the hamlet of Clumber itself was retained, and a new house built around it, with the main rooms in wings at the corners, resulting in a large X shape. Other old buildings were demolished, and replaced by a new square service block, as large as the house itself. Meanwhile, the farming hamlet of Hardwick was also transformed, so that it could more efficiently provide for the large number of guests who would be expected at the house.
More rigorous management of the whole park was needed for this development (before 1760 it had been noted mainly for its large rabbit population). Parts were set aside for farming, the ancient Hardwick Wood was improved and a tree nursery was created to provide saplings for future planting. A short distance upstream from the house, the little River Poulter which ran through the park was dammed to form a small ornamental lake and cascade, beside which were romantic wooded pleasure grounds through which guests could stroll.
In 1767, a strange problem arose. Various craftsmen and traders began writing to the Earl, complaining that they had not been paid. His agent on site, Fuller White, had been claiming the appropriate amounts of money, so where was he putting it all? Some eight years and two major court cases later, that question was still not settled. During those years, there were further alarming revelations about White’s behaviour at Clumber, relating to the design of the house itself.
I have been unable to find who drew the plans from which Clumber was built in the early 1760s, but it was certainly Fuller White’s job to make sure that they were correctly translated into brick and stone. Unfortunately, perhaps because of the difficulty of joining the new house to the medieval building it surrounded, he failed disastrously. In 1768, the Earl (who inherited the new Dukedom at the end of that year) asked his favourite architect, Stephen Wright, who may have made the original designs, to come and supervise the work in person. Wright, after correcting White’s mistakes, continued making alterations and additions at Clumber from time to time for the rest of his life. Most notable of these to modern visitors is the new lake , created about 1772 by making a new dam on the River Poulter by Hardwick. This was much longer than the original lake, and could be seen from the house. At Wright’s death in 1780, the whole estate still did not seem perfect, so the Duke hired another successful architect, John Simpson (who lived nearby). Simpson worked at Clumber until 1789, and oversaw the building of the lodges at all the main gates to the park (some to his own design, some apparently to Wright’s).
I cannot finish this description of the early development of Clumber without mentioning land manager John Marson. Like Wright (and indeed Fuller White) he had done good work for the family before being brought to work at Clumber. He remained in charge of estate management here for decades, and much of the layout of the park may be due to him.
Much was to change, however, after Marson’s death. The tyrannical fourth Duke, following his marriage in 1807, began a long programme of improvements throughout the estate. Among the designers employed were the Smirke brothers, later famous for the British Museum building. They were probably responsible for the terrace gardens between the house and lake.
At the heart of Clumber, however, remained a medieval manor house. Another renowned architect, Sir Charles Carry, made plans to replace it in 1857, but the fifth Duke did not have enough money. Just after the death of the sixth Duke, in 1879, the dilemma was resolved very simply. The old building, mostly of wood, caught fire and was completely destroyed, with numerous works or art. The four eighteenth century wings and other additions survived the fire, so a modified version of Barry’s plan was attempted. The whole site of the ancient house became a single huge room, nearly 15 by 30 metres, with a grand staircase and a gallery leading to the bedrooms on the upper floor. The seventh Duke also sponsored what is now Clumber’s best known building, St Mary’s Chapel. This beautiful church was built in 1886-9 to designs by Bodley and Garner, one of the best church design teams in Victorian England. The Duke than founded a choir school at Hardwick (which the fifth Duke had enlarged from a farm to a small village) to provide fitting music for the glorious new building. Also at Hardwick, in 1891, he had built a new set of kennels for the dog loving woman he had recently married.
He did not know then that he would be the last Duke to live at Clumber. He had no children, and was succeeded in 1928 by his brother. The eighth Duke’s son, the new Lord Lincoln, lived at the house for a few years, but the Depression of the 1930s was too much for him. In 1937 he sold the contents, and demolished the house itself (the materials were sold to builders). After the Second World War, having become Duke in 1941, he sold the estate (which had seen heavy use by the Army) to the National Trust, which still manages Clumber Park today. =