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Image: photocopy courtesy of Anne Carruthers
A recent note from one of Leisure Projects’ favourite independent researchers brought to our attention the mysterious wig collection of the illusive William John Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 5th duke of portland (1800-1879).
Excerpt from Bill Bryson’s Notes From a Small Island, Harper Perennial, 1997
He (W.J.C Scott-Bentinck) lived in just one corner of his stately home and communicated with his servants through notes passed to him through a special message box that was cut into one of the doors to his rooms. Food was conveyed to him in the dining room by means of a minature railway running from the kitchen. In the event of chance encounters, he would stand stock still and servants were instructed to pass him as they would pass a peice of furniture. Those who transgressed this instruction were compelled to skate on the duke’s private skating rink until exhausted.
...For reasons that can only be guessed at, the duke used his inheritance to build a second mansion underground. At its peak, he had 15,000 men employed in its construction, and when completed it included, among much else, a library nearly 250 feet long and a ballroom that could accomadate 2,000 guests.
...When it was necessary for the duke to travel to London, he would have himself sealed in his horse-drawn carriage, whcihc would be driven through a mile-and-a-half-long tunnel to a place near Worksop Station and loaded onto a specia lflatcar for the trip to the capital. There, still sealed, it would be driven to his London residence, Harcourt House.
When the duke died, his heirs found all of the above ground rooms devoid of furniture except for one chamber in the middle of which sat the duke’s commode. The main hall was mysteriously floorless. Most of the rooms were painted pink. The one upstairs room in which the duke resided was packed to the ceiling with hundreds of green boxes, each of which contained a single dark brown wig.
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