Chatsworth House & Park
Chatsworth House, the seat of the Cavendish Family, lies at the heart of the Peak District National Park and is the magnificent home of the 12th Duke & Duchess of Devonshire. Known as the Palace of the Peak, Chatsworth House is generally regarded as the finest palatial home in England; it is one of the countries greatest treasure-houses with a vast collection of art treasures and ancient artefacts from all over the world, gathered together over the five hundred years of it’s history – and has justifiably been called the `National Gallery of the North’. The house is open to visitors for most of the year, closing just before Christmas and re-opening the following Easter. The wonderfully landscaped park, with its large herd of deer and five miles of walks, is open to the public all year round with free admission.
The History of Chatsworth
Prior to the Norman Conquest there were three settlements here, owned by a Saxon named Chetel & his partner Leofnoth. At Domesday the settlements, named as Chetelsuorde (Chatsworth), Ednesovre (Edensor), and Langeleie (Langley) were divided between the King, who claimed Chatsworth & Langley, and the High Sheriff of Derbyshire, Henry de Ferrers, who took Edensor. The divided manors were not re-united until 1549 when Sir William Cavendish and his wife, the famous Bess of Hardwick bought them in 1549, along with other large tracts of Derbyshire land, and began building the first house here in 1552. The Hunting Tower which stands on the wooded hill to the east was built in the 1580’s, and frequented regularly by Bess and Mary Queen of Scots, who was kept prisoner here under the wardship of Sir George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury (Bess’s 4th husband) at various times between 1569 and 1584. Her rooms on the east side of the house, though changed beyond recognition are still called the Queen of Scots Apartments and are accessible to visitors. The fourth Earl was created the first Duke of Devonshire in 1694 for his role in bringing William of Orange & Mary to the English throne and he made major changes to the original Elizabethan house. He rebuilt the south front, adding the magnificent State Apartments, before rebuilding the east front including the Painted Hall and Long Gallery. The Duke then built the new west front between 1699 and 1702 to his own design, and finally the north wing with its bowed front, to create the masterpiece seen today. He also added the Canal Pond, formal gardens on a grand scale, and the famous Cascade, and the `New Chatsworth’ was finished just before his death in 1707. The Fourth Duke (1720-1764) made massive changes to the landscape after altering the main approach to the house from the east to the west. He employed the famous landscape designer `Capability’ Brown and architect James Paine to straighten out the river and extend the park up the slope to the west. A new north/south road was laid above the west bank of the Derwent, and all the village dwellings of Edensor visible from the new West Front of Chatsworth house were demolished. Paine also designed and built the ornate stone bridge upstream of the house in 1762. The Sixth Duke, known as the Bachelor Duke (1790-1858) engaged Sir Geoffrey Wyatville to build the long North Wing and appointed Joseph Paxton as his Head Gardener in 1826. Paxton designed and constructed the Emperor Fountain, which can reach a height of over 280ft, and the Great Conservatory, three quarters of an acre of glass, which was demolished a century later; today the Maze grows in its place. Paxton also designed and built the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Edensor -Estate Village
The sixth Duke also had the village of Edensor reconstructed further west, and today this unique ducal village, with every house built in a different European style of architecture, is home mainly to the Chatsworth estate work force, and well worth a visit. Edensor (pronounced Ensor) has it’s own magnificent church, elegant tea-rooms and own post office – and in St. Peters churchyard are the much visited graves of many Dukes of Devonshire, including that of the Sixth Duke alongside that of his Head gardener, Sir Joseph Paxton. Nearby lies Kathleen Kennedy, sister of the late US President John F Kennedy and widow of the Tenth Duke’s eldest son, the Marquis of Hartington, who killed in action in 1944.
The one thousand acres of the Chatsworth Estate are easily accessed from either the main A619 Chesterfield Road, or from the A6 at Rowsley. Admission to the park is free, and like the Chatsworth Farm Shop and its restaurant, is open all the year round. The house, gardens, farmyard, gift shops, restaurant and adventure playground are open to the public up to December 23rd , and with the admission price still under a tenner per adult, a visit is not only a must, but a completely fascinating and unforgettable experience which you can take all day to enjoy! There is no time limit. Chatsworth house contains one of the worlds finest private art collections with many Old Masters, and represents 4,000 years of European culture and expert craftsmanship with artefacts from ancient Greece marble to modern British paintings. This wonderful array of treasures are seen in magnificent rooms on three floors, and include the sheer grandeur of the First Duke’s Painted Hall & lavish State Apartments with their richly decorated ceilings, to the 19th century Library, Chatsworth House Great Dining Room and Sculpture Gallery. The sanctity of the Chapel has remained unaltered since it was built in 1688, and amongst many other noteable historic artefacts on display are four Royal Thrones!
The Chatsworth House Garden has evolved over almost 500 years and is around 105 acres of magical landscape which is beautiful in all seasons. There are five miles of walks with rare specimen trees, formal hedges, temples, sculptures, streams and wildlife ponds, and you are welcome to picnic, there are no signs saying `keep off the grass – and dogs on leads are very welcome. Water features include the famous Emperor Fountain, with the highest jet in the world, the twenty-four steps of the 200 yard, 300 year-old Cascade, the Willow Tree Fountain, trough waterfall, and the fascinating water-powered sculpture known as Revelation. The late 11th Duke added many new features including the Serpentine Hedge, the Maze, Kitchen Garden, Cottage Garden, and the new Sensory Garden, and recently gardener and television presenter, Alan Titchmarsh called it “one of the best and most vibrant gardens in Britain”. Chatsworth House offers something for everyone to enjoy, from famous works of art and spectacular fountains, to the finest food and drink, and many miles of free walking pleasure in a truly magnificent landscape. The Palace of the Peak is a family home which was built to be shared with visitors. You are invited to walk at your own pace through this beautiful house, absorbing centuries of history, and welcome to walk, picnic and play here in the surrounding park. *Visitors should note that there are more than 160 steps up and down on the visitor tour through the house, which is a third of a mile long. Large bags are not allowed and should be left at the gate-house entrance, and due to the number of stairs, pushchairs or prams cannot be taken inside.
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