The decline of an aristocratic stud: the stud of Edward Lord Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford and Mortimer, at Welbeck (Nottinghamshire), 1717–29

Peter Edwards
Published Online:
03 Dec 2015
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 69 Issue 3

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In 1716 Edward Lord Harley took possession of one the country's most iconic studs when his wife, Henrietta, inherited Welbeck Abbey (Nottinghamshire) on the death of her mother. At the time, the stud, made famous by her great grandfather, William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle, was in temporary eclipse and run down. He resolved to restore its fortunes. However, beset by debts and with other expensive interests to distract him, including the purchase of books and manuscripts, he allowed the stud to decay, winding it up just over a decade later. With careful management and sound, timely investment, Harley could have restored its fortunes. However, he hoped to re‐establish the stud ‘on the cheap’, utilizing the top class stallions and mares he had at his disposal to produce first‐rate foals, from which he would select the best as replacements. Sadly, too few of the foals came up to expectations. In vain, his agent advised him to retire the ageing mares and invest in suitable replacements. His failure to do so soon impacted on the quality and the number of horses produced. Inevitably, he failed, providing contemporaries and historians alike with an object lesson on how not to run a ‘top‐end’ stud.

© Economic History Society 2015

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