The Dukeries is a district in the county of Nottinghamshire so called because it contained four ducal seats. It is south of Worksop which has been called the Gateway to the Dukeries. The ducal seats were: Clumber House: principal seat of the Dukes of Newcastle, Thoresby Hall: principal seat of the Dukes of Kingston and later of the Earls Manvers, Welbeck Abbey: principal seat of the Dukes of Portland and Worksop Manor: a seat of the Dukes of Norfolk. A fifth large country house, Rufford Abbey, was not a ducal seat.
The Dukeries was remarkable not only for the number of ducal families in close proximity to each other, (there were at most times fewer than one English ducal family for each two English counties) but also because the parks of the houses were largely contiguous.
Welbeck Abbey is the only house that remains in traditional ownership. Until 2005 it was leased to the Ministry of Defence and occupied by the Army Sixth Form College, while the descendants of the last Duke of Portland occupied Welbeck Woodhouse which was built in the park for the 7th duke in the early 1930s when he was Marquis of Titchfield. The house is three quarters of a mile to the north east of the main house, and while much smaller than the abbey, is some 200 feet (61 m) long.
The incumbent Duke of Norfolk sold Worksop Manor to the Duke of Newcastle in 1839. The Norfolks preferred to spend more time at Arundel Castle and the Duke of Newcastle wanted the land to enlarge his estate and had the main part of the house demolished. The service wing was adapted into a smaller (but still substantial) country house later in the 19th century, which survives. Clumber House was demolished by the Dukes of Newcastle in the 1930s because they could no longer afford the upkeep, but the Victorian chapel survived, and the 3,800-acre (15 km2) park now belongs to the National Trust. Thoresby Hall opened as a country house hotel early in the 21st century after a long period of neglect.
In the early 20th century the economic and social base of the Dukeries was dramatically influenced by the development of its underlying coalfield, the eastern extension of the Nottinghamshire coalfield.
Five coal mines were opened after the first shaft sinking commenced in 1920. The coal mines were at Clipstone (coal won 1922), Ollerton (1925), Blidworth (1926), Bilsthorpe (1927) and Thoresby near Edwinstowe (1928). The landowners auctioned or leased their mineral rights: Earl Manvers’ Thoresby estate in May 1919 and Lord Savile of Rufford Abbey’s lease for Ollerton in 1921. Colliery companies such as the Butterley Company at Ollerton and the Stanton Company at Thoresby bought the rights. The companies financed the construction of pit villages to house the miners and their families, who migrated from older coalfields throughout Britain.
The villages offered facilities, such as a distinctive heating system provided by the mine running in pipes between houses in New Ollerton. While displaying characteristics of paternalism the villages were restrictive, as some companies employed company policemen and discouraged trade unionism, apart from the breakaway Nottinghamshire Miners' Industrial Union (NMIU) of George Spencer in the 1930s. Work at the Dukeries collieries did not cease even during the coal and general strike of 1926. The Labour party was not electorally successful in the mining villages until 1946, after the Second World War had weakened the power of the employers.
- Waller, Robert (1983). The Dukeries Transformed (Oxford Historical Monograph) (1st ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-821896-6.
- Waller (1983), p.5
- Waller (1983), p.14
- Waller (1983), p.15
- Waller (1983), pp.25-53
- Waller (1983), p.79
- Waller (1983), pp.98-100
- Waller (1983), pp.108–130
- Waller (1983), pp.131–162
- The Dukeries at Worksop Heritage Trail
- Welbeck Colliery History website
- Aerial photo/map from multimap.com - Welbeck Abbey is in the bottom left quadrant near the largest lake; Worksop Manor was between it and the town of Worksop; Clumber Park is on the bank of the second largest lake and may be seen by zooming in; Thoresby is labelled bottom right.