Tapestries, Treasures and Thoroughbreds: Welbeck Abbey State Room Tours
Having never visited the Welbeck Estate I wasn’t quite sure what awaited me as I stepped aboard a coach outside the Harley Gallery to embark on one of Welbeck Abbey’s exclusive State Rooms Tours.
Nested within the Welbeck Estate, which spans an area of nearly 15,000 acres in north Nottinghamshire, Welbeck Abbey has been home to the Cavendish-Bentinck family since 1607. Today the Abbey remains a private family home apart from a period of 30 days during August and September when the historical architecture and treasures of the building’s State Rooms are opened up to the public.
Part of the Gobelin Tapestries in the Red Drawing Room (credit: The Portland Collection).
As the coach weaved its way through the Welbeck village on our way to the Abbey, our guide Sheryl began the tour by pointing out key historical sites along the way including almshouses built for the estate’s workers after the 6th Duke of Portland had a horse racing windfall and the 5th Duke’s extensive Riding School.
As we were led through the entrance hall of the Abbey this equestrian theme continued as we were greeted by three large and imposing horse paintings. We were then led along the ground floor of the Abbey through the state rooms, many of which had been remodeled during the Edwardian period by Winifred, Duchess of Portland, including the magnificent Gothic Hall, the tapestry hung Red Drawing Room and the wooden panelled dining room, all used to impress and entertain important guests.
We were then treated to a unique opportunity to walk along the large curved Print Corridor providing yet another canvas for the family’s extensive art collection, taking in the Titchfield Library, once a riding school, and finally the Abbey’s ornate chapel.
Over the generations the Abbey has been redesigned and reinvigorated to reflect the changing tastes of the times and its residents, even being turned into a Ministry of Defence training college from the 1950s until as recently as 2005. If I had to describe these walking tours in one word it would be ‘intriguing’ – from the stories of the many generations of people who lived in the house to their beautiful book and art collections which fill each room, these tours just draw you into the fascinating and captivating world of Welbeck Abbey – a rare opportunity not to be missed!
Walking tours of the State Rooms at Welbeck Abbey run twice a day at 10.15am and 2.30pm Monday – Friday until Monday 22nd September. Tickets can be booked online or by phone on 0844 888 9991 and cost £16.50 plus p+p. Tickets can also be bought on the day at Gallery Reception, subject to availability. In 2015, the tours will run throughout August. Visit the website for more details.
The Harley Courtyard, once the setting of the estate’s gas works, houses the award winning Harley Gallery, the Lime House Café and the Welbeck Farm Shop. Current exhibitions at the Harley Gallery include a body of work by internationally renowned ceramicist, Claire Curneen, and leading artist-goldsmith Keven Coates. Both exhibitions run until the 19th October. Admission to the Harley Gallery is FREE.
All images used are courtesy of The Portland Collection.