The Portland Archive

Mike Curtis explroes an important collection of papers from the Cavendish-Bentinck family, Dukes of Portland.

Earlier this year the Minister for the Arts, Richard Luce, announced that the Portland Archive had been accepted for the nation in lieu of capital transfer tax. Over the centuries the Cavendish-Bentinck family, Dukes of Portland, and their predecessors have accumulated a very large and important collection of legal, estate, personal and literary papers, ranging from twelfth-century charters to the papers of a Governor-General of India, a poet and two Prime Ministers.

The collection as a whole is one of the most important to have been acquired for the nation since 1973 under the in-lieu arrangements, the closest parallel being with the Blenheim Papers that were accepted in 1977. The Portland Archive, however, is larger and more diverse in character. Its acceptance has been possible under new financial arrangements announced by Lord Gowrie, Mr Luce's predecessor, in July 1985, enabling supplementary funds to be taken from the Public Expenditure Reserve.

From the mid-eighteenth century the landed estates of the Dukes of Portland centred on the Welbeck estates in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, inherited from the Cavendish Dukes of Newcastle. Extensive records survive for these and other properties, including the former Ogle estates in Northumberland, the Herefordshire estates of the Harley Earls of Oxford, and the Hampshire lands formerly belonging to the Wriothesley Earls of Southampton. The extensive Scottish estates, however, accumulated mainly by purchase in the nineteenth century, are not substantially represented in the present collection.

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