Address: Bakewell, Derbyshire DE45 1PP, UK

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Phone: +44 (0) 1246 565300

 

Chatsworth House History

Chatsworth has been the home to the Cavendish family since Bess of Hardwick lived here in 1549. She married William Cavendish, from Cavendish in Suffolk, and persuaded him to move to Derbyshire and in 1552 they built a Tudor mansion in the grounds. The Hunting Tower, built in the 1580’s still stands today.

Bess’s fourth husband was George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury. Queen Elizabeth I appointed Shrewsbury custodian of Mary Queen of Scots during her imprisonment, and he took Mary to Chatsworth on a number of occasions between 1568 and 1584.

When Bess died in 1608, she passed the estate on to her second son, William Cavendish and he became the 1st Earl of Devonshire, a vacant title, as the ‘Earl of Derby’ was a title that was already taken. The line of Earls and Dukes of Devonshire, that have lived on the estate for over 400 year, had now begun.

Major reconstruction took place in 1687 when the 4th Earl (1st Duke) retired to Chatsworth from the service of James II. He embarked on a twenty year building programme, recruiting some of the finest architects and landscape gardeners of the time. The water feature ‘The Cascade’, designed by Gillet, was built in 1701. Edensor village was pulled down to enhance the view, with little of it remaining today.

The 6th Duke inherited the estate in 1811 and transformed it into much of what we see today. Staff were plentiful, with over 80 gardeners employed. He took over 8 major estates across the country, but many were sold off over the years. It may well be in the selling of various estates that Chatsworth became so proliferous in terms of furnishings and possessions, with many of the items coming from Devonshire House in London.

In the twentieth century, economic problems begat the family in terms of taxes and death duties. Measures were taken by selling estates and cutting costs and as a means of protecting the estate, the Chatsworth House Trust was set up, being granted a 99 year lease at an annual rent of £1.

To bring the house up to modern living standards and to comply with ever increasing legislation, the house has undergone a fair amount of modernisation in recent times in terms of electrical work, plumbing etc. This all out of sight of the visitors, but essential work that needed to be done. Running costs for the estate amount to about £4m per year.

 

Chatsworth House Visit

This is certainly a magnificent spectacle. You expect a grand country house, but get the feel that its a little more special as you approach it from a distance. If you enter through the stables area, you get a taste of the architectural charm, but then when moving on to the house, this is something else!

On paying your entry fee, you enter the house and embark on a one way system, with certain passages tastefully roped off to ensure you all go on the same route through the rooms. This saves you missing anything. There’s a loop of downstairs, followed by a loop of upstairs, then down a stone staircase, through the sculpture gallery and shop and out into the garden. You can take as much time as you want, and it’s certainly worth it!

In looking back, the one thing that crosses your mind are the number of rooms closed off in the house. I’m sure they wouldn’t have been as opulent, but interesting nonetheless. I think there may be one bedroom on show, but in the whole house there must be dozens. The kitchen isn’t on the tour, but some of these unseen parts must still be fascinating. In seeing the level of detail in other parts of the estate, you wonder what is behind these closed doors. The kitchen, the cellar, the attic, the roof space, the view from the roof garden. It would be good to see details, even if only a series of tasteful photographs on display.

You also wonder what life was like in the old days of coach and horses. They say London was a five day ride from here. You can imagine the grand parties, the horse drawn carriages in the distance being viewed through the windows as they arrive to a log fire. The garden parties, the summers and snow covered winter landscapes. Admittedly, not much fun in the Great Plague of 1666 and being in a society without a police force and a proper health service couldn’t have been ideal, but generally it must have been a grand existence here.

The farmyard is interesting, but best for kids, as is the playground, obviously. Stand Wood, the woodland area behind the house and accessed near the farm/adventure entrance is a beautiful area and a wonderful walk at any time of the year.

The grounds are nice, and it’s lovely to visit the various landmarks scattered around. The weather makes a big difference and on a nice day it’s a glorious walk in beautiful surroundings. And timewise,  if you take in Stand Wood, you can be out all day.

Opening their doors to the public must have been a hard decision, but an economic necessity. Once the decision was made, and paying customers arrived, it probably soon became obvious that it was more a day out for couples and those wanting a relaxing day, than kids. But kids’ needs are a necessity to a family day out and to attract them, they’ve opened the farm buildings as a commercial venture. Next to it, they’ve built an nice adventure playground with a sand area.

Dogs aren’t allowed in the farmyard/adventure playground area, but there are posts to tether them to just outside the farm area gate, with water bowls provided.