The Chatsworth tale | tori's tales: The Chatsworth tale

4 May 2013

The Chatsworth tale

Warning - this is a photo-laden post! Not only that but I must apologise for the blurry/soft-focus of some of the photos, my camera didn't do well at adjusting to the difference in light (some of the rooms have the curtains closed at all times so as to prevent fade of paintings etc).

Two weekends ago I found myself with a couple of visitors in the shape of a Moom and a Dodge (that’ll be Mum and Dad to you guys!) - the very same weekend the boy was away (thank goodness, because the Thursday of the same week I had driven myself mad through having no company but my own in the flat!) - and on the Saturday we took a trip up (maybe more up and across) to the Peak District, Bakewell to be exact, to visit the glorious Chatsworth House (one of England's most visited stately homes - quite the unsurprising fact once you marvel at it's beauty!).

Yes, that was all one sentence.

The stable block, built in the 18th century, that now houses the Carriage House Restaurant
After a pit-stop treat of a cuppa and cake (let them eat cake, you say?!) we made our way over to the house, ready for a walk through it's many (some 30+) rooms open to the public, including bedrooms, dining rooms, a library, 'Sketch Galleries' and the stunning work of art seen below....

For any of you who have a keen film eye, you may have noticed this is the room in which Elizabeth Bennett (of Pride and Prejudice fame) walked through on her way to meet a certain Darcy (of course, I'm making reference to the 2005 film adaptation featuring one Miss Knightley - have a click on the photo and it will link you through to the scene I'm talking about).

I, for one, don't blame her for stopping in her tracks; the room is, indeed, quite breathtaking. I could probably have spent hours (and then some) walking, inspecting and taking in every inch of the spectacularly-painted ceiling. I'm not sure, if I were a resident, that I'd ever leave this room - what would be the point? It's certainly large enough to house all my necessities (with room to spare) and there’s enough going on to keep me interested (and my mind occupied) forevermore. So, Duke and Duchess, have you room for another?

My parents, on one of the staircases in a beautifully detailed hall 

Another magnificent ceiling - not really one to do things by half, were they?!

The 'Drawing Room' complete with a trompe l'oeil-style violin
Another breathtaking ceiling - crick in the neck time for visitors!

The bedrooms are all individually decorated, with their own theme (although I did note a re-occurrence in the form of bird-resplendent wallpaper!) and colour scheme. Not only that, but each was packed within an inch of its life with desks and fireplaces, wardrobes, chest of drawers, chairs, tables, vases, candelabras and pretty much anything else you could think of (and that they could get their mitts on!).
It's truly amazing when you reflect on just how much thought must have gone into each room. Each was sumptuous; awash with colour and texture. I can't even begin to imagine the cost of a room like this (and the mind boggles at the thought of the cost of decorating the house in total!)

I dub this one 'The Green Room' (I am all for originality, of course!)

Imagine sleeping in this bad boy!! 

The estate has been residence to the Cavendish family since 1549 (and to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire from around 100 years later). Again, for those of you with film knowledge (particularly that of a period/costume-drama nature) you may just recognise the young lady in the portrait above. This is Georgiana Cavendish, nee Spencer, who, in 1774 at the age of just 17, wed the Duke of Devonshire, William Cavendish. Her life was portrayed in the 2008 film The Duchess - again staring Miss Knightley (one presumes she just couldn't keep away) and, boy, what a life it was, full of ups and downs. If you haven't I would suggest watching the film - at times a little too hollywood-ified, but visually a marvel.

I’ve actually just received Georgiana’s biography in the post after buying it a few days ago (the cover photo is of the very same painting I photographed in the house) because her life is one that's most definitely worth reading about. She was revered by the public yet rejected behind closed doors (for her marriage stemmed from the Duke’s necessity to produce a male heir; a feat Georgiana, thankfully for her, succeeded though not first without having two daughters - and, may I add, the added surprise of having to raise William's illegitimate daughter, Charlotte, as her own - and going through numerous miscarriages) and it seemed Georgiana became adept at creating two very different persona's; the public one, where she lead the way, and the private one, where all she could do was follow. As well as being known for her political affiliations and gambling addiction which bred from the socialising that came with supporting the Whig party (at the time of her death she owned £3.7 million, a figure her husband had not known of beforehand, but dismissed with a ‘is that all?' upon finding out!) she was quite the fashionista of her time, and people constantly looked to, and were influenced by, her latest style of dress. In fact, she was known in society as the 'Empress of fashion'. 

Sound like anyone else you know?
On the left - from a tumblr search, Top - wikipedia Marie Antoinette, Bottom - website
I learnt this very interesting fact only after I had visited - Georgiana and Marie-Antoinette forged a friendship, writing many letters (Marie known as 'Mrs Brown' for the said correspondence by Georgiana and her husband) in which they kept each other informed of the fashion - in fact, Marie-Antoinette introduced the chemise a la reine to French society in the early 1780s, a piece which Georgiana received as a gift. If you look at photographs of women from this period, you can see not only what an influence Marie-Antoinette had on Georgiana  (in the portrait of Georgiana she can be seen wearing one) but also the influence Georgiana had on English society due to the number of women who were seen wearing the same garment once she introduced it to society - and daily goings on in their respective countries. I’m not sure where exactly their letters now reside, but I can imagine them to be quite the read, so I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for any information the book might offer.

After a lunch stop involving tea and sarnies in the sun, we ventured out into the gardens (phew, does that house have some land - 105 acres to be precise!). Our first stop was the display house (or as us commoners would know it, the greenhouse!) showing off some rather astounding flower and fauna; a giant Amazon water lily, named Victoria amazonica, flowered here for the first time back in the mid-1800’s (apparently quite a race ensued amongst botanists when the seeds were first received from South America!), and the house holds a yearly flower exhibition known as Florabunda, showing off the talents of a designer (this year Jonathan Moseley) who decorates both the house and gardens with flowers from the estate in celebration of them.

We then headed over to The Cascade - a 300 year old water feature that comprises 4 sets of 24 steps, each with their own pattern which causes the water to emit different sounds depending on where you stand. Here’s Dodge and I standing in front of it (and yes, I know I look a little trussed up, but it was one of those British day’s whereby the sun was out but the temperature just didn't seem to match).

From here we had a walk through the rock gardens and the climb up and through them afforded us this view...

...which one definitely cannot complain about! After making our way to the maze (and giving up trying to find the centre before we’d even started!) we took a little trek up, passing by lots of streams, ponds and unusual yellow flowers before coming across the Grotto Pond. We sat there for a few minutes, chatting about the vast size of the estate (honestly, the gardens went on forever - and not just across, but up. Waaaay up!) before making our way back down and across to the Emperor Fountain.

The weather was so delightful (I am too British for words at times!) all day, and the views we were able to enjoy because of it truly were wonderful. The building itself is stunning, and I’m hoping the boy and I will visit at some point, so he can marvel at all that we, lucky as we were, managed to.

So, here’s some additional trivia for you. My dad is an antique restorer (I’m hoping that title is self-explanatory!) and he’s a handy one when it comes to going round places like this due to the fountain of knowledge he is regarding furniture/furnishings etc. On the day I learnt stuff from him like the table on the top right (below) was painted gold (possibly spray-painted although that sounds wrong so it’s likely I’ve made it up) and that the head of the cherub is broken (I would have had no clue), that the wallpaper on the wall bottom right is in fact made of leather (who’d have thunk it?) and also the different types of wood, for example, that furniture throughout the house was made of (this ugly wardrobe on the left is made of mahogany. I think. Oh to have a mind that lets me remember such things) In every room he either had a story to tell, or some fact to point out; it felt like I had my very own tour guide!

Not only that, but we found a book about Chatsworth in the shop and nestled inside was a photograph of a piece my dad went on to restore, known as the Chatsworth Monkey Table (yep, you guessed it, monkeys are involved). In the photo below you can see the before and after (I apologise as they aren’t the clearest of photos, click through to this link to have a better look). I’m completely amazed by the skills and talents my dad has. Watching him meticulously work on this table (he sourced hair at one point - hair - to use to restore the monkeys fur) was quite the eye-opener. Pure amazement. I’ve no idea how he does what he does, but I’m super proud of him and in completely in awe of his talents. Alongside his restoration work he’s also currently designing and prototyping (is that even a word?!) pieces of furniture for an interiors company based in London. Ooooo, posh huh?!

Before and after

And there we have it! A wonderfully perfect day was had by all, topped off by a Tori special; paella! Who could ask for anything more?

My favourite view of the house


  1. It's absolutely gorgeous and I love your photographs! My mum used to force me along to visit lots of National Trust properties and stately homes but i'm glad she did now, because I really do appreciate them and love imagining what it would be like to have lived there!! Bella xx

    1. Thank you Bella! We used to go to lots of stately homes when I was young too and I do remember enjoying myself - it seems to have followed suit into adulthood :) It really is a stunning house, I'm so glad we visited! xx

  2. Ohh, I LOVE Chatsworth House! I went there almost exactly a year ago when my boyfriend came to visit me for my birthday! We stayed in a B&B in Bakewell, and took the bus to Chatsworth one day and had afternoon tea. It was so amazing! This post is making me all nostalgic. And I can't believe you gave up on the maze! We spent a good 45 minutes or so trying to find the middle, but at last we made it. Such a gorgeous place! :D

    1. I can't believe you visited Chatsworth when you were here! Amazing! I'm so happy this post evoked feelings of nostalgia, it's so nice to hear that sort of comment. Thank you for saying.

      Haha, there were a lot of people who kept stopping and my Dad and I got a little frustrated :P Mazes are good when not so busy :)


  3. Replies
    1. Well that is super duper kind of you to say! I'm not sure I deserve that accolade, but thank you so very much! :)

  4. I adore Chatsworth house :)
    I have been many times before and cannot get enough of all it's beauty and glory, stunning <3

    1. I really do hope I'll go again - I think my boy most definitely missed out so I'd love him to see it!

  5. My gosh, that house is absolutely stunning! Have i maybe seen it in one of the Pride and prejudice adaptations?

    1. Yes indeed!! If you scroll up and click on the 'Painted Hall' photo it'll take you through to the scene in which Elizabeth Bennett visits Darcy - the house was used as Pemberton!

  6. I really want to go to Chatsworth! If you're interested in the decor, a large part of it was down by the previous Duchess, Deborah Devonshire, who pretty much saved it by opening the restaurant and the farm shop, and sorting most of the restoration, after her husband was hit with some pretty huge inheritance tax! Her autobiography is really interesting if you're a Chatsworth fan :)

    1. Oh wow, I had no idea! Thank you for the info, I'll have to look it up :D


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