Portland (Welbeck) Collection

Scope and Content

The collection consists predominantly of the political, family and personal correspondence of leading members of the Bentinck and Cavendish-Bentinck families and their Cavendish (Pw1), Harley (Pw2 Hy) and Holles (Pw2) forebears.

Further information about the family members and details of their papers can be found under the references for the various sub-groups:

Hans William Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland (Pw A);

Henry Bentinck, 1st Duke of Portland (Pw B);

William Bentinck, 2nd Duke of Portland (Pw D);

Margaret, Duchess of Portland (Pw E);

William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland (Pw F);

Dorothy, Duchess of Portland (Pw G);

Henry Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 4th Duke of Portland (Pw H);

Lord William Bentinck (Pw J); and

William Cavendish-Bentinck-Scott, 5th Duke of Portland (Pw K).

The collection also includes smaller groups of private papers of:

Lord George Bentinck (Pw L);

G.A.F. Cavendish-Bentinck (Pw M);

Charlotte, Viscountess Ossington (Pw N);

John Achard (Pw C).

A significant part of the collection is the Portland Literary Papers (Pw V).

Administrative / Biographical History

Hans Willem Bentinck (1649-1709) came to England from the Netherlands and was created Earl of Portland in 1689 by his close friend William III. He acquired a number of estates including Bulstrode in Buckinghamshire; Theobalds in Hertfordshire; and properties in Cumberland and Soho, Middlesex. His son, Henry (1682-1726), who was created 1st Duke of Portland in 1716, married Elizabeth Noel, daughter of the 2nd Earl of Gainsborough, and through her acquired the Titchfield estates in Hampshire (formerly owned by the Wriothesley family, Earls of Southampton). It was through the marriage of their son Henry, 2nd Duke (1709-1762) to Lady Margaret Cavendish Harley (1715-1785) in 1734 that the former Cavendish-owned Welbeck estates in Nottinghamshire came into the possession of the Bentinck family, Dukes of Portland.

Lady Margaret Cavendish Harley was the daughter and heir of Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford (1689-1741), and his wife Henrietta (1694-1755), the daughter of John Holles, 3rd Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne (d 1711) and Margaret Cavendish, who was the daughter and heir of Henry Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne (d 1691). Through her mother and grandmother Lady Margaret inherited not only the Welbeck estates but also many of the family papers of her Harley/Holles and Cavendish forebears. These were inherited on her death by her son William Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland (1738-1809) who made Welbeck Abbey his principal seat.

Papers of nineteenth-century members of the family also form part of the collection. These include the extensive official and administrative papers of Lord William Bentinck, brother of the 4th Duke of Portland, covering his career in Sicily and India, and the papers of Viscountess Ossington, sister of the 5th Duke of Portland.

During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century most of the Bentinck and many of the other inherited estates were sold as were the Balcomie (Scottish) estates, which had been brought into the family through the marriage of William, 4th Duke of Portland (1786-1854) to the heiress, Henrietta Scott.

Although referred to as the Portland Collection, the papers at Nottingham are not those described by J.J. Arkwright, Papers of the Dukes of Portland, 10 vols (Historical Manuscripts Commission, 1891-1931), which are now held in other repositories.


The collection is arranged in a series of sub-groups formed by the personal papers of individual members of the Harley/Holles/Cavendish/Cavendish-Bentinck families.

Access Information

Accessible to all registered readers.

Other Finding Aids

Copyright in all Finding Aids belongs to the University of Nottingham.

In the Reading Room, King's Meadow Campus:

12 Typescript Catalogues

At the National Register of Archives, London:

12 Typescript Catalogues

On the World Wide Web:

Catalogues for most sections are available through website of Manuscripts and Special Collections, Manuscripts Online Catalogue. For some sections, the online catalogue is more comprehensive than the typescript versions.

Some sections of the catalogues to this collection are also available through A2A (Access to Archives). See individual sections for details.

Family and Estate Resource relating to the Cavendish-Bentinck family and their records, published on the Manuscripts and Special Collections website.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections (email mss-library@nottingham.ac.uk).

Custodial History

Nottingham's Portland (Welbeck) Collection was deposited from Welbeck Abbey by the 7th Duke of Portland in 1949; a second additional deposit (Pw2) was received in 1968. By the Duke's express wish the family archives were divided between the University (political and family correspondence); Nottinghamshire Archives Office (Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Northumberland estate papers); British Library (Harley family papers); Hampshire Record Office (papers relating to the Duke's Hampshire estate) and the Bodleian Library (civil war papers of Reverend John Nalson). The entire Portland (Welbeck) Collection was accepted by the state in lieu of estate duty in 1986.

There are two useful published articles about the complex custodial history of both the Portland and Harley papers: R.J. Olney 'The Portland Papers' in Archives, XIX, 82 (October 1989) and Clyve Jones 'The Harley Family and the Harley Papers' in The British Journal, xv, 2 (Autumn 1989)

Related Material

Other sections of the Portland (Welbeck) Collection (Pw 1, Pw 2, Pw 2 Hy, Pw A, Pw B, Pw C, Pw D, Pw E, Pw F, Pw G, Pw H, Pw Ja-Jg, Pw K, Pw L, Pw M, Pw N, Pw V)

Papers of Professor A.S. Turberville, GB 159 Tp.

Newcastle (Clumber) Collection, GB 159 Ne

Portland (London) Collection, GB 159 Pl

Bentinck of Terrington St Clements Collection, GB 159 BK

Correspondence relating to a painting by Cornelius Johnson or Janssen, 1929, GB 159 MS 710

Plan of the ground floor of a house, for the Duke of Portland; n.d. [1800-1850], GB 159 MS 350

British Library

>Nottinghamshire Archives

Other repositories through the National Register of Archives


Professor A.S. Turberville, 'A History of Welbeck Abbey and its Owners' (2 vols. 1938-39)