Papers of William Henry Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 4th Duke of Portland (1768-1854) in the Portland (Welbeck) Collection

Scope and Content

Much of the collection is in the form of correspondence and concerned with estate matters. There are two long runs of letters from the 4th Duke's estate stewards, Edward Turner (Welbeck Abbey) and George Kelk (Welbeck Abbey and Ayrshire), indicating the very active role he took in estate management - such as requesting weekly reports on the state of the animals and weather. The discussion includes planting methods, fertilisers and livestock.Estate business is also reflected among the miscellaneous papers, which include accounts, bills, and inventories.A considerable quantity of correspondence concerns political affairs. There is an extensive series of letters from his son, Lord George Bentinck, and from his friend, George Canning. The correspondence also reflects local politics, and there is a large section of letters from and to the duke's wife.The papers also illustrate the Duke's interest in ship design. Much of the correspondence to his wife was written when he was at sea conducting trials, and contains day to day accounts of the proceedings.A small additional deposit (Pw2 H) consists mainly of medical records and bills.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck (1768-1854), 4th Duke of Portland, was schooled at Ealing, Westminster and Christ Church Oxford, before being sent to complete his education at the Hague. In 1790, as Marquess of Titchfield, he followed his father's path into politics and was elected M.P. for the borough of Petersfield. In 1791, however, he exchanged this constituency to become Knight of the Shire for Buckinghamshire, which enabled him to sit in five successive parliaments without having to contest an election. In 1795 he married Henrietta Scott, daughter and heiress of General J. Scott of Belcomie, and added her surname to his family name.He succeeded his father as duke in 1809 and from this time became more and more closely associated with Canning. Indeed, through Canning's influence he accepted a Cabinet post as Lord Privy Seal and he was later appointed to the post of Lord President. The duke, however, had no real desire for political office, and after his period as Lord President ended he took little further part in national political life. He did, however, take an active interest in political affairs through the activities of his son, Lord George Bentinck.A particular interest of the 4th Duke's was the study of shipbuilding and naval design. He arranged a number of trials with the Admiralty, in which his own and other private yachts competed with some of the fastest ships in the navy.The duke was also a keen devotee of horse racing. He was a tenant of the Jockey Club at Newmarket, and was responsible for many improvements there, including the turf, the gallops and the building of the Portland stand.The 4th Duke was heavily involved in the management of the family estates, and, after finding them burdened with debts when he inherited, was highly successful in reversing the financial situation. He was particularly interested in farming methods and techniques and undertook several drainage schemes, gaining a reputation as an agricultural improver.Towards the end of his life, the Duke retired to the family seat of Welbeck Abbey, Nottinghamshire and made repeated, though unsuccessful, attempts to persuade his son, Lord John Bentinck, Marquess of Titchfield to take over the running of the family estates.


The letters are arranged alphabetically by correspondent, in chronological sequence. Unless stated otherwise, all letters are to the 4th Duke. Other miscellaneous papers are to be found at the end of the catalogue, arranged in the order in which they were removed from Welbeck.

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:Typescript Catalogue, 73 pp At the National Register of Archives, London:Typescript Catalogue, 73 pp On the World Wide Web:Catalogue accessible from the website for Manuscripts and Special Collections, Manuscripts Online Catalogue.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Custodial History

These papers form a sub-group of the Portland (Welbeck) Collection (Pw) and were part of the first deposit received from Welbeck Abbey in 1949 from the 7th Duke of Portland.

Related Material

Letters to his father William, 3rd Duke of Portland (Reference GB 159 Pw F 1271-1311)

British Library

National Archives

Corporate Names