Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, England
Chatsworth House is a large country house in central Derbyshire, England, 3½ miles northeast of Bakewell and 9 miles west of Chesterfield. It is the seat of theDuke of Devonshire, and has been home to his family, the Cavendish family, since Bess of Hardwick settled at Chatsworth in 1549.
Standing on the east bank of the River Derwent, Chatsworth looks across to the low hills that divide the Derwent and Wye valleys. The house is set in expansive parkland, and backed by wooded, rocky hills rising to heather moorland and contains a unique collection of priceless paintings, furniture, Old Master drawings, neoclassical sculptures, books and other artifacts. Chatsworth has been selected as the United Kingdom's favourite country house several times.
The name 'Chatsworth' is a corruption of 'Chetel's-worth' meaning 'the Court of Chetel'. In the reign of Edward the confessor a man of Norse origin named 'Chetel' held lands jointly with a Saxon named 'Leotnoth' in three townships; Ednesoure to the west of the Derwent, and Langoleie and Chetesuorde to the east. Chetel was deposed after the Norman Conquest and in the Domesday Book the Manor of Chetesuorde is listed as the property of the Crown in the custody of William de Peverel. Chatsworth ceased to be a large estate, until the 15th century when it was acquired by the Leche family who owned property nearby. They enclosed the first park at Chatsworth and built a house on the high ground in what is now the south-eastern part of the garden. In 1549 they sold all their property in the area to Sir William Cavendish, Treasurer of the King's Chamber and the husband of Bess of Hardwick, who had persuaded him to sell his property in Suffolk and settle in her native county.
Bess began to build the new house in 1553.The house was on the same site as the present main block and had the same quadrangle layout, approximately 170 feet (52 m) from north to south and 190 feet (58 m) from east to west, with a large central courtyard.
The front entrance was on the west front, which was embellished with four towers or turrets, and the great hall in the medieval tradition was on the east side of the courtyard, where the Painted Hall remains the focus of the house to this day. Sir William died in 1557, but Bess finished the house in the 1560s and lived there with her fourth husband, George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. In 1568 Shrewsbury was entrusted with the custody of Mary, Queen of Scots, and brought his prisoner to Chatsworth several times from 1570 onwards. She lodged in the apartment now known as the Queen of Scots rooms, on the top floor above the great hall, which faces onto the inner courtyard. She bequeathed Chatsworth to her son Henry Cavendish who sold it to his younger brother William, who was 4th Earl of Devonshire in 1618 and who was to become the 1st Duke in 1694. He was an advanced Whig and was forced to retire to Chatsworth during the reign of James II. This called for a rebuilding of the house, which began in 1687. Cavendish initially planned to reconstruct only the south wing, so he decided to retain the Elizabethan courtyard plan, despite the fact that this layout was becoming increasingly unfashionable.
The south and east fronts were built under the order of William Talman and were complete by 1696. The 1st Duke's Chatsworth was a key building in the development of English Baroque architecture. The facades to the central courtyard were also rebuilt by the 1st Duke. The courtyard was larger than it is now, as there were no corridors on the western side and the northern and southern sides only had enclosed galleries on the first floor (second floor in American English) with open galleries below. In the 19th century new accommodation was built on these three sides on all three levels. The only surviving baroque facade is that on the eastern side, where five bays of the original seven remain, and are largely as built. There are carved trophies by Samuel Watson, a Derbyshire craftsman who did a lot work at Chatsworth in stone, marble and wood. A richly appointed Baroque suite of state rooms open one from another in an enfilade across the south front. Other surviving interiors from this period include the chapel and the painted hall.
The 6th Duke (known as 'the Bachelor Duke') was a passionate traveller, builder, gardener and collector who transformed Chatsworth. In 1811 he inherited the title and eight major estates; Chatsworth and Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, Devonshire House, Burlington House and Chiswick House in London, Bolton Abbey and Londesborough Hall in Yorkshire, and Lismore Castle in Ireland. These estates covered 200,000 acres (810 km2) of land in England and Ireland.
The 6th Duke wrote that he was tempted to demolish the state apartment, to make way for new bedrooms. However, sensitive to his family's heritage, he left the rooms largely untouched, making additions rather than change the existing spaces of the house. At around the same time, Queen Victoria decided that Hampton Court, with its state apartments in the same style, was uninhabitable.
The 6th Duke employed architect Jeffry Wyatville to modernise Chatsworth, meeting 19th century standards of comfort and suiting a less formal lifestyle than that of the 1st Duke's time. The Oak Stairs were built at the northern end of the Painted Hall to improve internal communications. The Duke was a great book collector and had the long gallery converted into a library with an elegant white decor embellished with green malachite columns. He soon found that he needed more shelf space, so he had the room stripped bare and installed a new interior with bookcases covering nearly all of the walls and a wooden gallery for access to the higher shelves. Changes to the main baroque interiors were restricted to details such as stamped leather hangings on the walls of the State Music Room and State Bedroom, and a wider and shallower, but less elegant staircase in the Painted Hall, which was itself later replaced.
Originally this room was the 1st Duke’s Long Gallery. The ceiling of gilded stucco by Edward Goudge, with paintings by Verrio, survives from this time and its design is reflected in the Axminster carpet which was woven when the room was altered.
In the 1st Duke's house the most important service rooms were in the main block. There was also a straggle of service buildings to the north of the house, which was replaced with an unassuming neoclassical service wing in the second half of the 18th century. The 6th Duke and Wyatville built a new North Wing, doubling the size of the house. Most of this wing only has two storeys, compared to the three of the main block's. It is attached to the north-east corner of the house near the library, and is around 400 feet (120 m) long. On the first floor, facing west, were two sets of bachelor bedrooms called 'California' and 'The Birds'. The entire ground floor was occupied by service rooms, including a kitchen, servants' hall, laundry, butler and housekeeper's rooms, and many others.
The 6th Duke's main dining room
The main rooms in the new wing face east. The link to the main house is a small library called the Dome Room. The first room beyond this is a dining room, with a music gallery in the serving lobby where the Duke's musicians played. Next is the sculpture gallery, the largest room in the house, and then the orangery. At the end of the North Wing is the North, or Belvedere Tower. This contains a plunge bath and Chatsworth's private Theatre. Above the theatre is the belvedere itself, an open viewing platform below the roof. The Duke built a gatehouse at this end of the house with three gates. The central and largest gate led to the North Entrance, then the main entrance to the house. This is now the entrance used by visitors. The north gate led to the service courtyard, and the matching south gate led to the original front door in the west front, which was relegated to secondary status in the Bachelor Duke's time, but is now the family's private entrance once again. The work was carried out in an Italianate style that blends moothly with the elaborate finish of the baroque house. The Duke had a passion for marble, and used it repeatedly to embellish the new interiors. A Latin transcription over the fireplace in the painted hall translates as, "William Spencer, Duke of Devonshire, inherited this most beautiful house from his father in the year 1811, which had been begun in the year of English liberty 1688, and completed it in the year of his bereavement 1840". 1688 was the year of the Glorious Revolution, supported by the Whig dynasties including the Cavendishes. The year 1840 saw the death of the Duke's beloved niece Blanche, who was married to his heir, the future 7th Duke. In 1844 he published a book called Handbook to Chatsworth and Hardwick.
The Duke’s architect was Jeffry Wyatt, who was recommended to him by the 6th Duke of Bedford, for whom Wyatt had worked as Woburn Abbey. A few years later, having changed his name to Wyatville, he was to gain fame by his remodelling of Windsor Castle for George IV.
In October 1832, Princess Victoria (later Queen Victoria) and her mother, the Duchess of Kent, visited Chatsworth. The 6th Duke had another opportunity to welcome Victoria in 1843 when the Queen and Prince Albert returned to be entertained by a large array of illuminated fountains.
In the early 20th century social change and taxes began to affect the Devonshires' lifestyle. When the 8th Duke died in 1908 over £500,000 of death duties became due. This was a small charge compared to what followed forty-two years later, but the estate was already burdened with debt from the 6th Duke's extravagances, the failure of the 7th Duke's business ventures at Barrow-in-Furness, and the depression in British agriculture that had been apparent since the 1870s. In 1912 the family sold twenty-five books printed by William Caxton and a collection of 1,347 volumes of plays acquired by the 6th Duke, including four Shakespeare folios and thirty-nine Shakespeare quartos, to the Huntington Library in California. Tens of thousands of acres of land in Somerset, Sussex and Derbyshire were also sold during, and immediately after, World War I. In 1920 the family's London mansion, Devonshire House, which occupied a 3 acres (12,000 m2) site on Piccadilly, was sold to developers and demolished. Much of the contents of Devonshire House was moved to Chatsworth and a much smaller house at 2 Carlton Gardens near The Mall was acquired. The Great Conservatory in the garden at Chatsworth was demolished as it needed ten men to run it, huge quantities of coal to heat it, and all the plants had died during the war when no coal had been available for non-essential purposes. To further reduce running costs, there was also talk of pulling down the 6th Duke's north wing, which was then regarded as having no aesthetic or historical value, but nothing came of it. Chiswick House—the celebrated Palladian villa in the suburbs of West London that the Devonshires inherited when the 4th Duke married Lord Burlington's daughter—was sold to Brentford Council in 1929.
Most of the UK's country houses were put to institutional use during World War II. Some of those used as barracks were badly damaged, but the 10th Duke, anticipating that schoolgirls would make better tenants than soldiers, arranged for Chatsworth to be occupied by Penrhos College, a girls' public school in Colwyn Bay, Wales. The school later merged with Rydal School to become Rydal Penrhos a co-educational private school. The contents of the house were packed away in eleven days and 300 girls and their teachers moved in for a six-year stay. The whole of the house was used, including the state rooms, which were turned into dormitories. Condensation from the breath of the sleeping girls caused fungus to grow behind some of the pictures. The house was not very comfortable for so many people, with a shortage of hot water, but there were compensations, such as skating on the Canal Pond. The girls grew vegetables in the garden as a contribution to the war effort.
In 1981 the family trustees created a separate charitable trust called 'The Chatsworth House Trust', to preserve the house and its setting. This trust was granted a 99-year lease by the Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement of the house, its essential contents, the garden, park and some woods, a total of 1,822 acres (7.37 km2). The Chatsworth House Trust pays an annual rent of £1. The family sold some works of art, mainly old master drawings that could not be put on regular display, to raise a multimillion pound endowment fund. The family is represented on the trust council, but there is a majority of non-family members. The family pays a market rent for the use of its private apartments in the house. The cost of running the house and grounds is around £4 million a year.
The 11th Duke died in 2004 and was succeeded by his son, the current Duke, Peregrine Cavendish, 12th Duke of Devonshire. The 11th Duke's widow, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, is very active in promoting the estate and increasing its visitor income. She has been responsible for many additions to the gardens, including the maze, the kitchen, the cottage gardens and several commissions of modern sculpture. She has also written seven books about different aspects of Chatsworth and its estate.Chatsworth has 126 rooms, with nearly 100 of them closed to visitors.