Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House is probably the best known of the stately homes in Derbyshire and has been voted Britain’s favourite country house several times. It is situated nine miles west of Chesterfield and three and a half miles north-east of Bakewell.

Location of Chatsworth House in Derbyshire

The house stands on the east bank of the River Derwent, looking across to the hills between the Derwent and the Wye valleys.

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The river bridge and the house at Chatsworth,  Author: Rob Bendall

The magnificent yellow-stoned house, set in expansive parkland and backed by wooded, rocky hills rising to heather moorland, is the seat of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and has been passed down through sixteen generations of the Cavendish family.

The original Tudor House was built in 1552 after the estate was acquired in 1549 by Sir William Cavendish. Sir William died in 1557 with the house partly constructed and it was left to his formidable wife, Bess, also known as Bess of Hardwick, to complete it. Little of that original house remains today.

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17th century painting of the west front of the Elizabethan Chatsworth. 1680s or earlier. Artist unknown. Pubic Domain

Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned here at various times between 1569 and 1584, and although the rooms of her apartment have since been rebuilt, two rooms are still called the Scots Apartment.

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Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-87) painted by François Clouet (1510-72) Public Domain

After Bess’ death in 1608, Chatsworth passed to her second son, also named William. In 1618 he was created the first Earl of Devonshire and in 1694 the fourth Earl was created the first Duke of Devonshire. (For anyone who doesn’t know, a duke/duchess is higher in the ranks of nobility than an earl/countess. A duke/duchess comes after prince/princess who is second to king/queen).

Between 1686 and 1707 the first Duke rebuilt Chatsworth in Classical style and between 1720-64, the park was landscaped by the fourth Duke. The famous ‘Capability’ Brown was hired to reshape the then formal gardens to how we still see them today. The stables and the bridges over the Derwent were also added in the 18th century.

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A late 18th century oil painting by William Marlow. It emphasises the romantic aspects of Chatsworth’s setting on the edge of the Peak District. Public Domain

The library and north wing were added to the house by the sixth Duke between 1790 and 1858.

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A view of Chatsworth from the south-west circa 1880. The stables can be seen behind the house and the Hunting Tower is visible in Stand Wood. Public Domain

On entering the house through the North Entrance, we made our way to the Painted Hall and Great Staircase. There were a lot of people in the room, but we managed a few photos during a relatively ‘quiet’ time. This is a magnificent hall, the artwork on the walls and ceiling being particularly stunning. Our photos don’t do it justice due to the glare from the many lights.

We continued along the Chapel Corridor, with lots of sculptures, paintings and other items of interest to  look at…

Chapel corridor with various sculptures and ornaments (2)

…which, unsurprisingly, took us to the Chapel. This is another fabulous room, richly ornamented with a colourful ceiling.

Next to the Chapel is the Oak Room. No prizes for guessing why it is called that:

Though it lacks the colour of many of the rooms, the Sculpture Gallery contains some really beautiful pieces.

Other rooms in which we managed to take photos include the Great Dining Room, the State Music Room,  the Library, the State Bedchamber and one of the Guest Bedroom. I’ve added a mix of these rooms to the gallery below, including a few of the many paintings on display. The images showing wallpaper are included because, as in a few other stately homes we’ve visited, many wallpapers were of a Chinese design and hand painted. I believe the imitation European versions were called Chinoiserie, and although the first were seen in Europe in the 16th century, they were particularly popular in stately homes in the 18th – 19th centuries. A dictionary definition of Chinoiserie is: a decorative style in Western art, furniture, and architecture, especially in the 18th century, characterized by the use of Chinese motifs and techniques.

Last year (2019) Chatsworth was celebrating all things ‘dog’. It was officially titled, The Dog: A celebration at Chatsworth. It explored the Cavendish family’s enduring love of dogs. Around the site are a variety of dog sculptures, paintings, drawings and photos, some from the Devonshire collection and others on loan from public and private collections. These are just a few of them:

Surrounding the house, the extensive parkland, farmyard and playground would take more that a day to fully explore and we had little time to see much of it during our visit. What we did see was impressive, but we would have loved to have got down to the Arboretum and Trout Stream. In the afternoon, we spent some time wandering around the immediate lawns and kitchen gardens. We had planned another visit this year – but I think that will now have to wait until next year.

These are some of the many photos we took around the immediate grounds and gardens:

There are plenty of places to eat at Chatsworth, and a number of talks and activities are available. Chatsworth is a place for family days out as well as for couples, singles, and anyone who loves a good dose of history or lovely scenery. Chatsworth is not a National Trust property and entry prices for both house and grounds are not cheap and can be as much as £17.50 per adult for last minute bookings – as was ours. However, many local families come to just enjoy and picnic in the grounds, which is considerably cheaper. All I can say is that Chatsworth is a truly fabulous place and, at very least, well worth a visit. This amazing fountain has a history all of its own. But I’ll leave that for another post.

Canal Pond and Great Fountain 2

14 thoughts on “Chatsworth House

    1. Thank you, Molly! Walking into any of the stately homes feels like going back in time, but Chatsworth is a particularly spectacular house with so many wonderful paintings and other artefacts. It’s easy to lose yourself in the past as you walk around the corridors and rooms. 😀

  1. It really is magnificent. We’ve been many times and always learn something new. They work very hard at providing all sorts of events there, special Christmas features, art exhibitions, concerts, but, for me, the house and grounds are more than enough to keep me interested.

  2. It must be a fair drive for you, Peter. It took us and hour and a half (from near Newark) and you’re further east than we are – or perhaps I’ve got that wrong. I agree with you that Chatsworth if magnificent and we’re hoping to go back next year to finish off our tour of the grounds.

    1. Thank you, Arv. I thought about you when I was writing this post. After seeing the fabulously colourful places you post about, I thought you might like to see one of the most colourful country houses in England.

    1. Thank you for reading my post, Shivangi. I agree, Chatsworth is a magnificent building but there were just so many visitors the day we were there. I was really hard to take photos, which is what I need for my blog posts! The grounds and gardens are also impressive, and we only had time to see a small part of them. Hopefully, we can go again next year. 😀

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