Country Images Magazine May 2015 - North Edition - Page 12

The Dead Duke, and the Steve Orme interviews qualified lawyer, former BBC television producer, and author of The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse, Piu Marie Eatwell Visitors to the 15,000-acre Welbeck Estate near Worksop in Nottinghamshire are generally captivated by how it has continually been regenerated without losing its historic, individual character. Yet most people who take advantage of the state room tours, run daily during August, or who indulge in homemade treats in the Harley Cafe will probably be unaware of some of the estate’s secrets hidden beneath the great house. 10 | In the winter of 1851-52 the reclusive, eccentric 5th Duke of Portland, also known as Lord John, was involved in a serious accident, with a horsedrawn cab causing him a severe head injury. This is said to have been one of the reasons for his becoming more and more withdrawn. He began an extraordinary programme of building works at Welbeck, including a maze of underground passages. One of them featured a set of tracks along which his dinner would be delivered from the abbey kitchens to the dining room. This underground world and the fact that the Duke communicated with his staff by writing notes for them meant he could disappear for months at a time. It fuelled speculation that the Duke was leading a double life, resurfacing as Thomas Charles Druce who eventually became a partner in the Baker Street Bazaar in London – a forerunner of the modern department store. The 5th Duke, William John Cavendish-Bentinck, to give him his full name, died in December 1879. Twent y-four years later George Hollamby