The 5th Duke of Portland
‘I have a mole and I live in a hole’ - The 5th Duke of Portland
Special power: Mentalist toff
Comic Release Date: Oct 2014
William John Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, The 5th Duke of Portland (1800 –1879) was a mere Lord for his first 24 years, during which he was educated at home, served in the army and reputedly suffered from delicate health. He became Marquess of Tichfield on the death of his older brother in 1824 and inherited the Welbeck Estate in North Nottinghamshire on the death of the 4th Duke of Portland in 1854.
By this time his eccentricities had grown famous. Most notably, he was so severely introverted that he refused contact with any person other than his valet and insisted on conducting all his affairs by post. He would also carry an umbrella at all times, rain or shine, to hide behind, should anyone acknowledge him on his excursions into the outside world.
He is best known for the large-scale building work he undertook on his estate, particularly an underground network of galleries, rooms and tunnels that were painted pink and only ever used by the Duke himself. Although his motives for carrying out these works were undoubtedly eccentric, he was also known to be a good employer by the standards of his time, and may have been deliberately using his fortune to create work and offer secure incomes to local people.
5th Duke of Portland Facts
1: Among the 5th Duke of Portland’s building projects was a vast riding house lit by 4,000 gas-lamps to serve the 100 horses kept in his stables. He never used it.
2: An underground ballroom was excavated and furnished beneath Welbeck Abbey, its ceiling painted with a huge sunset, but no-one was ever invited to a ball or danced there during the 5th Duke’s lifetime.
3: He was sometimes rumoured to keep a pet mole that he would stroke for comfort when under stress.
4: Mick Jackson’s The Underground Man, a novel shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1997, features a fictionalised version of the 5th Duke of Portland as its main character.
5: The interiors on the Welbeck Estate during the 5th Duke of Portland’s time were almost all painted pink. Pink was, at this time, believed to be the more masculine colour, the softer tone of blue more appropriate for girls. These associations were only changed in the 1920s.