Kings and Queens may have visited Newark and Sherwood, but did you know that Dukes actually called it home? And what an illustrious home it was!
The Four Ducal Seats
The Dukeries is an area in Nottinghamshire where four ducal seats sit within close proximity to each other; something which is extremely rare for Britain.
The four seats and residences of these Dukes were Clumber House, seat of the Dukes of Newcastle; Thoresby Hall, seat of the Dukes of Kingston; Welbeck Abbey, seat of the Dukes of Portland; and Worksop Manor, which was the home of the Dukes of Norfolk. A fifth large country house was also added to the area and belonged to the Savile Baronets.
A very powerful area of land indeed! Visitors to Newark and Sherwood can experience the legacy of these abodes as they exist today.
In 1670, the first grand house at Thoresby was built by Henry Pierrepont, the 2nd Earl of Kingston-Upon-Hull after acquiring the land from his father who died during the Civil War. The house was remodelled during 1685-87 by William Pierrepont and the Earl was granted the right in 1683 to create the park by enclosure from Sherwood Forest.
A fire destroyed the house in 1746 and it was rebuilt some twenty years later by the architect John Carr, who also designed the magnificent Newark Town Hall.
However, the current house you can visit today (pictured above) is not the version John Carr built. In fact during 1868-1874, Sydney Pierrepont commissioned Anthony Salvin to demolish the house and replace it with the present house, which is just 500 metres to the north…the view must not have been to his liking!
It is currently Grade I listed and is now a luxury Warner Leisure Hotel and Spa. With such luxurious surroundings, visitors can feel like royalty as they relax and unwind.
The nearby (and separately run) Thoresby Courtyard is equally worth a visit. It is home to a variety of different shops and workshops, the Queen’s Royal Lancers & Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Museum, Thoresby Gallery and the fabulous Bay Tree Café. It is free for the public to access and visitors to the courtyard can wander through the extensive wood and parkland surrounding the estate via a series of way marked walks.
Nearby Thoresby is Rufford Abbey, which is not one of the original ducal seats but is an equally splendid mansion of note located in the Dukeries area. Originally a Cistercian abbey, it was converted to a country house in the 16th century after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Currently it is a Grade I listed building and scheduled as an Ancient Monument…fancy!
Originally acquired by the Earls of Shrewsbury, it later passed into the hands of the Saviles. It was made the seat of the Savile family after their original home was burnt down, and to prevent it from being used as a Parliamentarian garrison during the Civil War.
In 1679, a north wing was constructed on the site and contained reception rooms and a long gallery, as well as a large stable block to the right of the house.
During World War II, Rufford Abbey was requisitioned for wartime use and housed cavalry offices, a tank regiment and later Italian prisoners of war.
You can now enjoy a walk around the stunning surroundings of Rufford Abbey, either setting out for yourself or joining one of the rangers on a walking tour as they guide you around the fascinating history of over 870 years. Rufford Abbey Country Park hosts a number of events throughout the year. Some events coming up include Valentine’s Day at the Lord Savile’s Kitchen on 14 February 2018 and an Enchanted Fairy Trail during the half term break on 17 – 25 February 2018.
And, if you like the spooktacular, the Abbey has gained a reputation of being haunted by a spectre of a giant monk carrying a skull! Take a wonder around the ruins of the abbey and try and spot the mysterious apparition yourself!
While you are here…
…you can also travel to nearby Worksop to visit some of the other Dukeries. You can visit the Welbeck Estate, where you will find great food, art and shopping, and Clumber Park, which is managed by the National Trust and is a fabulous place to walk, shop and eat.
Written by Rebecca Firmin (BA) Hons in History
Apprentice Projects Assistant, Newark and Sherwood District Council
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