Ottoline's brother-Portland's estate of Welbeck at Christmas

Christmas is one of the events of the season at Welbeck and the Household Ball its main festivity. The Ball is held to celebrate the Duke's birthday, which falls on December 28th. It is held in the vast underground picture-gallery, with the subjects of the old painters looking down from their canvases upon the gay dancers-

Winifred Anna Cavendish Bentinck (née Dallas Yorke),
6th Duchess of Portland,1912 
portrait by Philip de László

Choice exotics, stately palms and seasonable shrubs add to the variety of the decorations. The band is almost hidden in a bower of foliage in the centre of the great saloon, and there are 500 guests of all ranks of society from peers and peeresses to the humblest domestic servant.


About ten o'olock the Duke and Duchess appear with their house party, and dancing commences with a Circassion Circle. The Duke has the housekeeper for partner and the Duchess the house-steward, while the aristocratic guests find partners among other chiefs of departments in the Welbeck household.

portrait by John Singer Sargent, 1902.

 With midnight comes supper, served in two adjacent underground rooms, that owe their excavation to the grim hobby of the old Duke. All the festive party sit down to supper at the same time, the Duke's French chef providing the menu. The house-steward presides and proposes the health of the ducal family. This is welcomed in the manner it deserves and then dancing is resumed in the picture-gallery.

On another evening the children on the Welbeck estate are invited to a party when the head of a giant Christmas-tree is reared in the centre of the ball-room, laden with toys for distribution to them, and the pleasures of the entertainment are varied with the tricks of a conjurer and ventriloquist. Thus is afforded a glimpse of the happy relations existing between the Portland family and their retainers.

this Christmas story from Nothinghamshire history here

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