Chatsworth House is one of the few English manors that have stayed in a particular family to this day. It has been passed down for 16 generations from Sir William Cavendish and Bess of Hardwick who purchased the manor for 600£ in 1547 to today’s owner’s Peregrine Cavendish (the current “Duke of Devonshire”) and Amanda Heywood-Lonsdale, who live in part of the manor and let visitors from all over the world explore the rest.
My better half and I spent an enchanted day exploring some of the rooms, and grounds.
It boasts a compelling history, a vast collection of art, sculpture and rare artifacts from all over the world, incredible botanical gardens and innovative water features.
A collection of films have been shot at the property including: Pride and Prejudice, Death Comes to Pemberly, The Wolfman, and the Duchess. There is also a fascinating BBC documentary available on Netflix called “Secrets of Chatsworth House.”
The State Bedroom: this bedroom along with a succession of other state rooms was made by the 1st Duke of Devonshire for King William III and Queen Mary, whom bestowed upon him his title, however they never visited Chatsworth. The original bed was bought by the first duke for 470£ making it the most expensive piece of furniture in the estate at the time, however that bed now resides at Hardwick Hall and another rests in it’s place at Chatsworth.
The luxurious red and gold bed now in the state bedroom once belonged to King George II, and was built in 1723. King George II took his last breath in this bed. This bed was a gift to the 4th Duke of Devonshire. King George V (5th) and Queen Mary slept in this bedroom when they visited Chatsworth in 1913.
The silver chair that now sits in front of the state bed is Marc Newson’s Lockheed Lounge and is the most expensive contemporary seat in the world. In 2009, one of the editions of 10 sold for 1.1 million dollars at auction. It was made more famous when Madonna reclined on it in her music video for “Rain.” Currently there is a “make yourself comfortable” exhibition going on at Chatsworth featuring all sorts of seats.
The Wellington Bedroom: named after the Duke of Wellington who stayed here in 1843 and decorated in exotic Chinese-style wallpaper which was in fashion in the 17th and early 18th century.
The Queen of Scots Dressing Room:
A bathtub in the closet!
“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
― Jane Austen,
The libraries at Chatsworth consist of many antiquated editions though many books and plays were sold (including many of Shakespeare’s folios) in 1912 to pay off debts. Their basement (off limits to the general public) house all sorts of archives relating to Chatsworth House, including a letter written in Georgaina Devonshire’s own blood to her estranged husband the 5th Duke of Devonshire.
There are elaborately painted ceilings throughout most of the rooms and corridors.
The chapel dates from the late 17th century.
Virtually every bedroom and most rooms have their own fireplace.
The Painted Hall:
The Great Dining Hall
Art and Sculpture:
The sculpture room can be recognized in the film Pride & Prejudice. The 6th Duke of Devonshire, the “bachelor duke” (he never married) ordered many of the sculptures from Italy.
The middle bottom painting caught my eye in particular as there is a dark servant boy standing just behind the lavish ladies. The “lower” class were usually hidden away in the basement kitchens and it’s interesting that he’s shown hidden away behind the main focus but still there. These lavish lifestyles would not have been possible without the team of servants in the background. I’d love to find out more about this piece.
This bench made completely of American half dollars (part of the Make Yourself Comfortable exhibition) might be an ode to Kathleen “Kik” Kennedy, the sister of American president J.F.K. who married William Cavendish, the eldest son of the 10th Duke of Devonshire. He never did take over as the 10th Duke’s heir as only 4 months after his long-awaited marriage to Kik he was killed by a sniper in Belgium during WW2. Kik Kennedy is buried at the nearby church alongside many of the Cavendish family. If you take a drive down to the church, make sure not to let the sheep out!
In memory of John F. Kennedy, President of the United States of America, who visited this grave 29 June 1963.
Taken from the church overlooking fields.
The cascade steps at Chatsworth consist of 24 groups of steps of different shapes and heights to evoke a different sound, so that the water sounds almost musical as you walk up and down it.
The long pond was built on higher ground than the manor to make it appear as if the estate were floating on the surface of the water. The Great Fountain (renamed the Emperor Fountain by the 6th Duke) is completely gravity-fed and spurts water as high as 300ft (the highest it’s been recorded).
There is also a waterfall on the property and this life-like tree sculpture water feature.
We especially loved the gardens and greenhouses!
The 6th Duke along with gardener Joseph Paxton created the “Great Conservatory” (everything here is the great something, isn’t it?). They filled it with all kinds of exotic species. It was heated using coal which was transported via underground caves (which you can explore!) Unfortunately, during a coal shortage in WW2 it fell into disrepair and now hosts a (very confusing!) hedge maze.
My man in the entrance to the coal cave.
The first duke’s greenhouses are still used today and can be toured through. In this temperature-controlled greenhouse we found a curious specimen: a cross between a grapefruit and a lemon which apparently tastes like a lemon. Also found some exotic-looking flowers.
An old cheese press, just outside the men’s room.
The windows are plated in real gold.
We had a lovely, full day at Chatsworth. There really is a lot to see; much more than I realized even having seen the BBC documentary before we went. Take the time to really explore the grounds, they seem never-ending!
The parking is 3£ and entry is 20£ each, so this isn’t a cheap day out. I felt the parking fee was overkill, but what can you do. There is also a hop-on hop-off train that will take you around the property but alas, this costs extra as well! It was worth going though I do wish you got more included in the ticket price. I suggest bringing a picnic to eat on the grounds as we did to save on costs, and it was lovely.
There is also a gift shop in the manor, and a gift/flower/gourmet foods shop in the stable area as well as food for purchase. We brought a lovely Chatsworth-grown plant home; the prices for the plants were actually surprisingly reasonable.
I wish that I had learned a little more about the place while I was there and relied heavily on the BBC documentary to inform my understanding. There were some pamphlets and plaques to guide you but they seemed sparse and were easily missed. We did ask staff questions at some points when they were available, but felt a bit shy in doing so.