Group of people looking at contemporary artwork in the Harley Gallery

Our Story

Go behind the scenes at the Harley Foundation and find out more about our projects, history, and people.


Since the Foundation was set up by Ivy, Duchess of Portland in 1978, the charity has worked to create spaces where creativity can flourish.

In all our work we celebrate the handmade and encourage an enjoyment of the visual arts. The Dukes of Portland and their families have owned Welbeck since 1607. The 2nd Duchess of Portland married Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford and Mortimer. The Foundation is named after Edward, who was one of history’s greatest collectors. His book and manuscript collection formed the basis of The British Library (you can still visit The Harleian Collection there today).

Edward Harley with his daughter Margaret, later Duchess of Portland. Detail from a miniature by Christian Zincke, 1727. (c) Harley Foundation, The Portland Collection


The Foundation funds two public gallery spaces, subsidised artist studios, and an education programme.

The Harley Gallery opened in 1994 with funding from the European Regional Development Fund. It shows contemporary exhibitions, with a gallery shop and activity space. It has won numerous awards including the Civic Trust award for Architecture, and Loo of the Year!

The Foundation’s most recent building is a purpose-built museum for the Portland family’s historic art collection. The building was designed by Hugh Broughton Architects and won many architecture awards including RIBA East Midlands Building of the Year 2016.


Learn about Ivy, Duchess of Portland, and discover how she started the Harley Foundation to ‘encourage creativity in all of us’



Work with us

"...the building creates a subtle design that sits perfectly in the grounds of the Grade 1 listed Welbeck Abbey, integrating new and historic elements with a careful selection of materials and crisp detailing to create a highly sophisticated design".

RIBA Judges

The Foundation is committed to providing access to arts education – whether working with local primary schools, training teachers, or offering talks on art history. These events are free or subsidised by the Foundation.

We have a dedicated education studio and pottery studio, which can both be found in our secluded artists studio complex.

Here, 21 affordable artist studios are available with facilities suitable for a wide range of different creative businesses.