CHATSWORTH HOUSE, DERBYSHIRE

Grid Ref: SK 260 701
Date: 17 July 2013

 

Chatsworth
Part of Chatsworth House, showing the East Elevation and Belvedere Tower

I can scarcely claim that Chatsworth is one of my hidden gems; it must be one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. You can walk in the parkland along the riverside, explore the house with its great collection of art, wander through the gardens, paddle in the cascade and visit the farm. As a National Trust volunteer, even I have to admit that the restaurant at Chatsworth is as fine as any you will find at a country house. Because they have so many visitors they can afford to offer a good range of dishes and the stable building housing the restaurant provides a wonderful ambience. Here then are a few photographs illustrating my visit in 2013. It was unfortunate that in July 2013 there was scaffolding on large parts of the building so I was unable to get the full range of architectural shots that I would have liked.

 

Chatsworth House spacer Cascade
South front of the house   Looking down the cascade to the house
Orangery   Loggia
Orangery   Loggia with elephant
Ch   Stables
The fountain viewed across the lake. South elevation   The Stable Block
Statue   Pan
Hercules with fig leaf   Pan with pipes

The Chatsworth Estate was purchased in 1549 by Sir William Cavendish and his wife, Bess of Hardwick and a large, new Tudor house was built.  The house was in the form of a quadrangle with a central courtyard. The entrance was on the west side and had four turrets. The Great Hall was on the east side of the courtyard.

Sir William and Bess's son was created Earl of Devonshire in 1618 and his great grandson, the 4th Earl, became the 1st Duke of Devonshire in 1694.  William Cavendish was the 4th Earl and 1st Duke of Devonshire and lived from 1640 to 1707. He was one of the seven who signed the original paper inviting Prince William of Orange from Holland to England. William Cavendish was amply rewarded by the new monarchs. He received the Order of the Garter at the time of the coronation and in 1694 was made Marquis of Hartington and Duke of Devonshire. To this day the eldest son of the Duke has the title Marquis of Hartington. The 1st Duke of Devonshire rebuilt the south and east fronts in the English Baroque style and they were completed in 1696. Work on the west and north fronts was followed with the latter being the last to be completed. In the 19th century the 6th Duke altered the north front with the architect Jeffry Wyatville and built the new North Wing attached to the north-east corner of the house. At the end of the North Wing is the Belvedere Tower.

The 11th Duke, Andrew, died in April 2004 having succeeded in 1950.  He succeeded because his elder brother, William, was killed in the Second World War.  His wife was Deborah Mitford one of the celebrated Mitford sister. Her son, Peregrine and his wife Amanda have become the 12th Duke and Duchess.  

Books about Chatsworth

The following notes were taken on a course Biography of a Country House taught by Roger Mitchell at Alston Hall, an Adult Education College in Lancashire. Important books about Chatsworth are:

Handbook of Chatsworth and Hardwick by 6th Duke of Devonshire, 1845
A History of Chatsworth by Francis Thompson, 1949.  He was the librarian and archivist.
The House, A Portrait of Chatsworth by The Duchess of Devonshire, 1982.

James Lees Milne, for many years the secretary of the Buildings Committee of the National Trust, wrote his biography, entitled, The Bachelor Duke: A life of William Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire, 1790-1858, published in 1991

In the three books mentioned at the beginning of this article the house is the centre of the story.  The Devonshires by Roy Hattersley is a story of a house and a nation. 

The bachelor Duke had been an ambassador to Russia.  He restored Hardwick and extended Chatsworth. His Handbook of Chatsworth and Hardwick, is written in the first person and is in large part anecdotal rather than a scholarly work.  Bess of Hardwick’s house was finished in the 1570s or 80s so by the Bachelor Duke’s time it had already been in existence for about 250 years with a mixture of late medieval and Tudor styles.  The 1st Duke had rebuilt the house as a square with a courtyard in the Baroque Style.  The Bachelor Duke, was the son of the 5th Duke and his wife Georgiana, added a huge extension to the square building.  He employed as his architect Sir Jeffrey Wyatville.

Queen Victoria first visited the house at the age of 13 (1832) and apart from a practice the day before, the meal she was served was the first to be served in the new dining room.  Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited in 1843 and six months later the Duke wrote the preface to his book on the house.  He did not use documentary sources on the house so it is more of a personal account than a formal history.  The Duke’s account mentions some but not all of the pictures.  The Oak Room is filled with carvings purchased at a saleroom by the 6th Duke; they are from a German Monastery.  Grinling Gibbons was credited with some of the carvings in the house but much was done by Thomas Young in 1688 and 1693 and also by Joel Lobb and Samuel Wilson.  Joseph Paxton was head gardener for the 6th Duke and built the conservatory, which was demolished in 1920.  This was his model for his design for the Crystal Palace built for the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Francis Thompson went to Chatsworth as librarian in 1921 and lived at Ensor the neighbouring village.  He died there in the 1960s.  His book on Chatsworth is more scholarly than that of the Bachelor Duke. As might be expected for a librarian and archivist, he consulted the documentary records. In addition to the book mentioned above he also wrote A Short History of Chatsworth. 

Sources

Wikipedia articles on the the Dukes of Devonshire, Chatsworth House.
The 1902 Encyclopaedia article on the 1st Duke of Devonshire
Notes taken on a ourse at Alston Hall College, Longridge, Lancashire on the Biography of Country Houses, given by Roger Mitchell

 

 

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