Featuring the only first hand account of the Duke and various objects from his life including a miniature railway carriage that transported food from the kitchens to his single room in Welbeck Abbey and a door with 2 letterboxes he used to pass communications to and from staff.
The 5th Duke became a recluse who shunned his social equals. Rumour and myth surrounded his life and tales of disfigurement and madness spread throughout society. But to his staff he was a considerate employer, known for many acts of goodwill, to his friends and family he was lavish with gifts and to many charities he was a generous supporter.
The Duke is probably best known for the architectural legacy he left on the Welbeck Estate. Combining new Victorian engineering technologies and the architectural styles of his ancestors, his buildings became the biggest and grandest of their time. His projects included the largest Kitchen Gardens in Britain and the second largest riding school in the world.
But perhaps The Duke’s most extraordinary and famous construction is a network of underground tunnels and structures beneath Welbeck Park. He employed up to 1000 Irish workmen, using their experience in railway building to construct 2.5 miles of tunnel, some large enough to pass 2 carriages side by side. The Harley Gallery is built within the ruins of the gasworks that fuelled the thousands of lamps in these underground buildings.
Tunnel Vision aims to dispel the many rumours surrounding the Duke using original letters and documents. Most exciting are the memoirs of Elizabeth Butler, a laundry maid who worked at Welbeck for 62 years. In 1932 at the request of the 6th Duke she wrote an account of the 5th Duke and life at Welbeck. In it she recalls daily working life and her respect and admiration for the way the 5th Duke managed the estate and his employees.
Tunnel Vision looks into one of the most exciting periods of Welbeck and one of its most eccentric owners.
With thanks to:
The Portland Collection for the loan of objects and original documents
The Nottingham University Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections
Image: Long tunnel interior