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TRCH Robin Hood

Welbeck - Andrew 'Mulletproof' Graves

2 December 14 words: Andrew Graves
"Whether barmy, reclusive, or simply a rebel with an urge to build, the 5th Duke of Portland remains a truly unique local legend"


"Here have I provided for you at enormous expense a clean pathway underground, lighted with gas too, and you will persist in walking above ground"
The Duke, a sort of one-man freak show with a mole fixation, spent much of his life residing at the once-impressive Welbeck Abbey, taking up the title when his father died in 1854. Although no-one has been able to pinpoint the beginning of his strange behaviour, certain historians believe it stems from the period up to the assumption of his duties. With a mid-life crisis looming and all other toff-related avenues explored and blocked off, there was nothing else for it but to devote time and money into being a full-time eccentric. But did madness run in the family? An early letter from his father seems to indicate not only that there were skeletons in the cupboard but perhaps a whole graveyard.
"My Dear John,
You’re approaching an age when ideas of courtship may be entering your head, if they have not done so already. Something you must understand, as must your brothers, is that the normal life of married bliss cannot be for you. The strain of madness that ran in my mother’s family is more than likely to appear in any offspring you might produce…"
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Copyright Michael Patterson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The first thing one would have noticed was his appalling dress sense; it would have had the Victorian equivalent of Gok Wan reaching for his pistol. On a good day, he would wear up to three frock coats – yes, all at the same time - and his wig-encased head would be topped with a two foot-tall stovepipe hat. He would also fasten pieces of string around his ankles, for no apparent reason, finishing off the ensemble with the application of false beards and moustaches.
His true legacy though was his insatiable mania for building projects.
"Rest assured that as you grow older you will find many pleasant distractions in life, far more diverting and worthwhile than the production of mewling infants"
These included a ballroom (that was never used), a mirror-lined riding stable, with 4,000 gaslights (where overfed mares grew fat through lack of exercise) and a miniature railway network. What’s more, they were all built underground, and linked by a secretive network of dimly lit tunnels. His subterranean obsession made it difficult to cope with those - who - strangely - preferred walking on the ground, in daylight.
Whether barmy, reclusive, or simply a rebel with an urge to build, the 5th Duke of Portland remains a truly unique local legend.
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Artwork: Toni Radev. Words: Andrew Graves. Dawn of the Unread: Drunk and Disorderly



Beneath the weight of a century,

its spare change seasons

under jet fighter trails

a future and reason

wrapped in ambiguity

and garments of wire,

the house that never rests

welcomes or smiles.


Where tunnels spread as arteries

pulsing under woodland skin.

where bleeding gaslight scabs old wounds

from long forgotten things.

where ghosts of obese horses

stare forever at themselves

where no dancers waltz to memories

and distant church bells.


Where time takes a holiday

and masterpieces hide

to consider tin-box options

of oil-based suicides,

shadow of a workforce

digs deep and shields its eyes


And chambermaids skate eternally,

This piece originally featured in Duke and Disorderly for Dawn of the Unread.

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