Chatsworth and The Devonshires
...Devonshires in the Peak District?
Many visitors, especially those from overseas, are often bemused to find that the family seat of the Dukes of Devonshire is to be found, not in the West Country, but on the banks of the River Derwent in the heart of Derbyshire.
The quirky English system of peerage meant that when William Cavendish was ennobled on payment of about £10,000 in 1618, he was made the 1st Earl of Devonshire, despite the fact that he possessed no property nor interests in Devon.
In fact, the family had originated from Cavendish in Suffolk. They did not become Dukes until William’s great great grandson, the 4th Earl and another William, was granted the dukedom in 1694 for his part in bringing William of Orange to the throne.
It was this 4th Earl and 1st Duke who transformed Chatsworth from the original Tudor mansion built by the legendary Elizabeth Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury, better-known as Bess of Hardwick, who had married Sir William Cavendish as her second husband. Nothing remains now of Bess’s house except for the Hunting Tower on the hill behind the house.
The 4th Earl (1640-1707) rebuilt the South Front to then-fashionable Palladian designs by the Dutch architect William Talman to provide a suite of five new state apartments and family rooms.
But William didn’t stop there, and over the next 20 years he replaced the entire Tudor building wing by wing, commissioning the finest craftsmen to decorate the interior and giving us much of the Chatsworth we see today.
The 4th Duke, yet another William, who lived from 1720-1764, completed the transformation aided by architect James Paine. Among the 4th Duke’s changes were the demolition of some of the houses of the estate village of Edensor which were visible from the house; the construction of the kitchen wing, and the Stable Block, now the restaurant to the house.
The 6th Duke (1790-1858), known as ‘the Bachelor Duke’, employed Sir Jeffry Wyatville to built the North Wing and transformed the grounds, rebuilding the village of Edensor with the assistance of architect JC Robertson and his head gardener Joseph Paxton, designer of the Crystal Palace.
Chatsworth today is rightly known as ‘the Palace of the Peak’, and a treasure house of priceless works of art from all over the world collected by the Cavendish family over the years. It is still the home of the 12th Duke and his family.
Check out Chatsworth Photography by Michael Cummins
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Last Updated: 31 Mar 2018