William John Cavendish Bentinck-Scott, Fifth Duke of Portland

It was estimated that between two and three millions sterling were spent by the Duke in putting his ideas into execution, and the one beneficent effect of his expenditure was the employment of a large number of men in work that was not altogether of a useless nature, as witness his great improvements in agriculture, following up his father's ideas, adding to the national wealth by the crops this hitherto uncultivated area was made to produce.

The Portland Peerage Romance

The fifth Duke of Portland may have seemed peculiar to many - but he was certainly not mad. In a time of abject poverty in Worksop, Mansfield and district, the Duke's preference for excavations and underground workings provided a living for 15,000 workmen for 18 years at an annual cost of £100,000. The subterranean work included the digging of flood dykes and millponds. Other projects included an underground chapel, a library and ballroom. It was said at the time that the prime reason for all of the work was to provide a living for as many of the locals as possible.

Charles Barlow, "The Gentle Mole"

Internet Resources

In this work of historical detection, the authors reconstruct a century of controversy surrounding the Cavendish-Benticks, culminating in one of the most bizarre and publicized cases the British courts have ever seen. A man steeped in layers of deliberately manufactured mystery, the fifth Duke of Portland—unmarried and childless—started life as Lord John Bentick, became the Marquess of Tichfield upon the suspicious death of his elder brother, and passed on his title to a cousin when he perished in 1879. But some claimed that he had forged a second identity as Thomas Druce, owner of the Baker Street Bazaar and subject of countless rumors about his secretive lifestyle throughout British high society.
Tom Freeman-Keel, Andrew Crofts
The Portland collections provide a wealth of research resources for a wide range of studies, especially when considered in conjunction with the Newcastle and other family collections held in the Department. Although the main collection of estate papers of the Portland estates is held at Nottinghamshire Archives Office, many of the collections held at The University contain materials that relate to the management of their various estates at different dates, and to all aspects of land ownership and exchange.
University of Nottingham
The fifth Duke was a kind man. He was often called "The workers friend". New workers were provided with a suit of clothes, a top hat, an umbrella and a donkey. Now that is starting to seem a little mad but the logic was that many workers had to travel some distance across the estate, regardless of the weather and the Duke did not want workers exhausted before they arrived at their place of work.
Charles Barlow
He was "The Invisible Prince," he liked to take men unawares, he enjoyed a grim joke at their expense, though whether he ever showed signs of merriment, at least in after life, is not so much in the memories of those who knew him, as his eccentricities. He is more associated with the character of an ogre and a cynic who shunned his fellow-men, yet there are some of his employees still living who give him a good word as a kind and considerate master.
Charles J. Archard
The passion for building, which was developed by "Bess of Hardwick," has shown itself in several of her descendants—in her grandson, the first Duke of Newcastle; in the Countess of Oxford, who spent her widowhood at Welbeck making improvements; and most notably of all, in the fifth Duke of Portland, whose surprising erections draw thousands of wondering spectators to Welbeck every year. Of the buildings on this estate there are few, if any, in better taste than the entrance lodge to the grounds from Sparken Hill, Worksop, built a few years ago. It does honour to every one concerned with the work.
J. Rodgers
What would move the son of a Duke, and later a Duke himself, to construct an underground kingdom for himself beneath an ancient abbey? Why would the child of a former Governor-General of India, heir to one of the great houses of England (and one of the few of those houses to have avoided the Royal ire in the years since it was established...the Dukes of Portland were never beheaded or drawn and quartered by an irate King despite the centuries of internecine warfare between houses) eschew the trappings and pleasures of power, avoid the entanglements of his admitted friendships with men like Disraeli and Palmerston, who held the position of Prime Minister in turn (as did his own grandfather, the 3rd Duke of Portland) and in general sink into a silent vigil so extraordinary that it prompted a woman to claim he had in fact spent his time pretending to be a simple tradesman, Thomas Charles Druce?
As for the original duke, much legend crystallised around him, including an unfair tale of a bonfire of paintings worth a fortune. His death led one commentor to write that he was seen either "as a baleful wizard or as a benevolent spirit like Robin Goodfellow."
Paul Screeton
On a visit to the Duke's establishment, which still more or less stands, Mick Jackson became fascinated not only by the tunnels but by the stories that surrounded the memory of this strange man. He began to embroider them with fictional ideas of his own, and with the tales the local people passed on to him... The actual narrative is, however, pure invention, filled not only with tales of the Duke, but also with the excitement and discoveries of the age in which he lived, and the mysteries that we are still exploring.
Mick Jackson
There are many people who given the chance would opt to live a life of - what is regarded as - eccentricity, and avoid contact with other people, but their circumstances do not allow it. People like Howard Hughes and the Duke of Portland, simply possessed the financial means to fulfil their ambitions.
Follies and Monuments
The Duke was very introverted - he did not want to meet people and never invited anyone to his home. His rooms had double letterboxes, one for ingoing and another for outgoing mail. His valet was the only one he permitted to see him in person in his quarters - he would not even let the doctor in. His tenants were told to ignore him if they saw him. All the other business with his solicitors, agents and an occasional politician he handled by mail correspondence. He maintained some correspondence with Benjamin Disraeli and Lord Palmerston. He is not known to have kept company with any ladies, and his shyness and introverted personality increased over time. He did, however, have a wide-ranging network of family and friends with whom he maintained an extensive correspondence. He undertook major developments at Welbeck, and was actively involved in the management of the Portland estates, both of which activities are reflected in his papers.

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