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If you are a visitor to this area you may be surprised by the number of vast country estates that are in close proximity to each other. In the late 17th century, parts of the Royal Hunting Forest of Sherwood were carved up and the land transferred to powerful aristocrats – most of whom were Dukes – who built grand country houses and developed stunning landscaped gardens. For this reason, the area between Ollerton and Worksop is known as ‘The Dukeries’.

All the families that owned these estates were inter-related and the story of their lives is fascinating to learn about - from the reclusive 5th Duke of Portland who built tunnels under Welbeck Abbey, to the cause celébre of the 18th century - the trial for bigamy of Elizabeth Chudleigh, who married both the 2nd Duke of Kingston (Thoresby Hall) and Lord Hervey, who became the third Earl of Bristol.

Welbeck Abbey and Worksop Manor are still privately owned and are not publicly accessible. However Clumber Park and Rufford Abbey, owned by the National Trust and Nottinghamshire County Council respectively, are both open to the public. Although Thoresby Estate is owned by Warner Holidays, non-residents can enjoy the Park, Courtyard, and some of the some of the restaurants/café facilities in the Hall.

Clumber Park
One of the largest country parks in Europe, covering over 3800 acres, Clumber Park was once the seat of the Dukes of Newcastle-under-Lyme. The grand house built in 1770 was demolished in 1938, though the stable block (now used as a café), walled garden and dramatic gothic chapel remain. The National Trust now owns the estate and, through a careful management programme, ensures that the diverse landscape of heathland, woods and parkland is preserved for the public. Highlights of the Estate include the vast lake and the beautiful 'Lime Tree Avenue' - a sight not to be missed in Autumn.


Location/parking: There is a small charge for parking (free to NT members)
Admission: Free
Open: The park is open daily from dawn to dusk, but there are special opening times for some of the buildings
Contact: The National Trust on 01909 544917 or visit their website.

Rufford Abbey and Country Park
Founded in 1147 by Gilbert of Ghent, the Cistercian Abbey of Rufford later became home to the Lords Savile who developed the building as a country residence. Although many of the buildings were destroyed, those remaining have undergone restoration, and now house an internationally-respected ceramics and craft centre, a restaurant and café. A display explaining monastic life can also be found in the dark, and reputedly haunted, abbey undercroft. The sculpture garden continues the artistic theme into the wooded country park and there are formal gardens as well as a 25-acre lake.

Location/ parking: near Ollerton, signed from the A614. There is a small charge for parking, except for the disabled
Admission: Free
Open: Park (8.30am-5.30pm daily throughout year), Craft Centre (January-Feb 10.30am-4pm, March-December 10.30-5pm); Abbey (Easter-end of September 10.30-4pm). However, times may vary, please check
Contact: 01623 822944 or email: rufford.park@nottscc.gov.uk
You can find out more about the history of Rufford from The Friends of Rufford website and there is more information about the Craft Centre specifically at www.ruffordcraftcentre.org.uk.

Thoresby Estate
Thoresby Estate was originally the seat of the Earls and Dukes of Kingston. The imposing Grade I–listed Hall we see today was not the first mansion to be present on the estate, but was designed by the revered Victorian architect Anthony Salvin to be a romantic palace in an ‘Elizabethan style’ for the 3rd Earl Manvers. In recent times the Hall became empty and was put on the English Heritage ‘at risk’ register. However, Warner Holidays acquired the Hall and renovated it and it is now a luxury hotel. Non-residents can take a stroll through the picturesque parkland, visit the courtyard shops and gallery (read more about this) [internal link] and pop into the Bay Tree Café for a bite to eat. Parts of The Hall, such as the vivid and ornate ‘Blue Room’ are accessible to the public, as they have been converted into dining areas.

 

Location/parking: Signposted from the A614 at Ollerton Roundabout. Parking is free of charge
Admission: Free
Open: The Park is open daily from 10.30-5pm
Contact: Gallery Tel: 01623 822009 or visit www.thoresby.com. Thoresby Hall Tel: 01623 821000 or visit www.thoresbyhall.co.uk.
Full acknowledgement for photographs used on this website can be found in the About Us section.
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