Stately Homes in Derbyshire and the Peak District

...Chatsworth, Haddon, Tissington, Hardwick and more

Between around the mid-12th century and the early part of the 20th century, hundreds of unfeasibly large and magnificent properties – AKA stately homes or country houses - were built in Britain. And the Peak District and Derbyshire can boast more than their fair share, with the number up in double figures.

Arguably the best known stately home in England, and certainly the most majestic of all Derbyshire’s great houses, is Chatsworth – regular star of the big screen and home to a unique collection of priceless art. Their famed art ensemble represents thousands of years of European culture and craftsmanship, from the ancient Greeks to modern works by British artists.
 
Bess of Hardwick, the Countess of Shrewsbury, began work to build Chatsworth House in 1552 and completed the job in the 1560s. Ever since it has been home to the Duke of Devonshire and the Cavendish family, and later the 1st Duke demolished parts of the house to make way for a Baroque rebuild.
 
Everything about Chatsworth screams majesty, from the opulent interiors to the extravagant and lush ‘Capability’ Brown-designed gardens. The expansive and colourful parkland in which it is set forms the perfect backdrop to this stunning country house.
 
The house and gardens are both open to the public, with large groups and school parties always welcome. No visit to the Peak District is complete without a trip to Chatsworth.
 
Haddon Hall, near Bakewell, is an unspoilt medieval manor house, and one of the finest examples of its kind in England. Like Chatsworth, Haddon Hall is often used as a film location for period drama productions, and over the years Moll Flanders, Jane Eyre and several others have all taken temporary residence here. Indeed, Haddon Hall doubles as Thornfield Hall in the 2011 box office smash and remake of Jane Eyre.
 
The house is outstandingly well-preserved and looks every bit as magnificent as it surely did when it was built in the 12th century. Today it is the home of Lord & Lady Manners, whose family have owned the building since 1567.
 
Haddon Hall is open all year round, generally from midday until 5pm.

Hardwick Hall is a truly breathtaking sight, and one of the most splendid and imposing houses in England. Built near Chesterfield by Bess of Hardwick in the 1590s, and unchanged since, its huge array of enormous windows gave rise to the rhyming couplet ‘Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall’.

The 300 acres of parkland, complete with woods and meadows, offer great walks and an abundance of stunning views. Visitors can enjoy picnics by the lakes, enjoy lunch in the licensed restaurant, or browse the gift shop.

Ashbourne’s Sudbury Hall is an 18th century redbrick mansion owned by the National Trust.  Many of the hall’s original features have been restored by the Trust, who opened the hall to the public in 1972.
 
The house boasts the National Trust Museum of Childhood, located in the 19th century servants’ wing of Sudbury Hall, containing intriguing displays and information about kids of the 18th century and beyond.
 
The smaller, more intimate halls of the area have strong connections with the villages in which they reside. Home to the Sitwell family since the early 17th century and known by many as ‘Derbyshire’s best-kept secret’, Renishaw Hall was inspirational not only to its trio of literary owners - Dame Edith, Sir Osbert and Sacheverell Sitwell - but also to novelist DH Lawrence. He was taken by the Hall's grandiose beauty, and used it as the setting for Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
 
Tissington Hall, home to the Fitzherbert family for almost 500 years, is a Jacobean mansion in the quintessentially English estate village of Tissington, near Ashbourne. This Grade II listed building is open to the public and is also available for private functions such as parties and weddings.
 
Eyam Hall, in the famous plague village of Eyam, is a ‘small’ manor house and home to the Wright family. Built around 11 years after the plague, the house is open to the public and a café and craft workshops help make it a rewarding family day out.
 
A number of country houses can also be found just across the Peak District’s borders.
 
Kedleston Hall, a few miles north-west of Derby, is a spectacular Neo-classical mansion enveloped by over 820 acres of parkland. Both the hall and the gardens at Kedleston are stunning examples of the work of architect Robert Adam. As with many Peak District manor houses, Kedleston is popular with film location managers and was used as a key location for the recent Hollywood blockbuster The Duchess.
 
Kedleston Hall is open between February and the start of November, from midway until 5pm.
 
Lyme Hall is a spectacular mansion house on the grounds of the delightful Lyme Park, in Disley, Cheshire. In recent years it is perhaps best known for the iconic lake scene which catapulted Colin Firth to fame, in his role as Darcy in the BBC’s 1995 production of Pride & Prejudice.
 
And last but by no means not least, Calke Abbey in Ticknall, south Derbyshire is a Grade I listed country house now in the hands of the National Trust.
 
So whether you’re a period drama superfan hoping to indulge in a spot of film tourism, or you simply wish to enjoy a classically English day out for all the family, the Peak District is a goldmine of stately homes and country houses.

Sean Cummins

Last Updated: 15 Jun 2015