Bakewell’s own Chatsworth House is a stately home which, despite being the the present home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, boasts 25 sizable rooms open to visitors, each of which being deeply rich in history. This 105-acre Baroque-styled building has been property of the Cavendish family – 16 generations worth – since 1549, having undergone several renovations and expansions throughout the centuries, and stands today as a collage of several different architectural styles.
Open to the public is several guest bedrooms – many of which have, over the centuries, hosted some of the countries most prestigious, including Mary Queen of Scots – each of which have been restored to their original appearances. Chatsworth also features a sketch gallery, a Victorian theatre, and, most importantly, the Devonshire Collections, which is home to select works of likes of Rembrandt, Veronese, Reynolds, while also showcasing ancient Roman and Egyptian artefacts and sculptures.
History of Chatsworth House
The first house built on the Chatsworth estate was constructed by the Leche family and stood in what is now the south-eastern side of the grounds. Sir William Cavendish, husband to the Bess of Hardwick, procured the lands from the Leche family in 1549. Construction started on the present-day Chatsworth in 1553 but was temporarily halted in 1557 by the death of William. Bess was able to finish construction with the aid of her new husband, George Tablot, Earl of Shrewsbury, during the 1560s.
It was through Tablot that Mary Queen of Scots came to be held prisoner at Chatsworth several times, from 1570-onwards, as the Earl had been ordered to keep custody of the abdicated queen. Having built somewhat of an acquaintance with Mary, Bess was known to join her in her room to collaborate on needlework.
Bess died in 1608, but it wasn’t until 1684, when the Fourth Earl of Devonshire inherited the property, that major renovations to the property were made, which included; reconstruction the Eastern Front, and the construction of the Painted Hall, the Long Gallery, the Parterre Gardens, West Front, and finally, the North Front, which he completed in 1707 – the year the Fourth Earl died.
Little change was made to Chatsworth for the remainder of the 18th century, however, those who inherited the house during this time, namely, the 2nd and 3rd Dukes of Devonshire, were massive contributors to the content that now makes up the Devonshire Collections, collecting mostly paintings and sculptures. This was expanded upon by the 6th Duke who, throughout the 19th Century, collected sculptures obsessively, and built the Sculpture Gallery to necessitate his burgeoning collections. One of the biggest socialites to ever inherent Chatsworth, the 6th Duke also added a theatre, a Turkish bath, a dairy, and a plethora of new bedrooms in order to accommodate his numerous guests; noteworthy names who visited during this time include Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria.
The house remained within the possession of the Cavendish lineage throughout financial struggles at the turn of the century, and only moved out temporarily during the Second World War. The 11th Duke and his family moved in during the 1950s, which witnessed the modernisation of the house.
In 1981, the Chatsworth House Trust was founded, with the aim of preserving the historic house for the benefit of the public.
A major renovation of the building was undertaken in 2008 and was only completed in 2018.
Things to see and Do at Chatsworth House
The Devonshire Collections – At the heart of Chatsworth House lies the treasure trove that is the Devonshire Collections; a diverse collection of sculptures, paintings, ancient artefacts, jewellery, books, and textiles, each item having been collected by one of the many Cavendish heirs of Chatsworth. Most notably, the collections feature the works of Rembrandt and Da Vinci.
Farmyard Café – Connected to the Estate Farm Gift Shop, the Farmyard Café offers traditional English breakfast and lunch services, with tweaks to the menu being made throughout the year, depending on the season. With coffee and high tea offerings also on the menu, the Farmyard Café makes for the perfect place to rest after exploring Chatsworth.
Estate Farm Shop – A unique feature for a stately home, the Estate Farm Shop delivers a diverse range of farm goods, including fish, meat, fruit and vegetables, delicatessen; alongside beer, wine, and soft drinks.
Orangery Shop – For gifts inspired by the Devonshire Collections, visit the Orangery Shop, which is located inside Chatsworth House itself; many of the gifts on-sale have been carefully selected by the Duke and Duchess themselves.
Farmyard and Adventure Playground – Definitely orientated more towards visitors of younger age groups, adults can, too, enjoy the attractions of the farmyard; whether that be through the thrill of being driven around in a trailer, or getting to know the Chatsworth-residing lambs, pigs, donkeys, and ponies. The Adventure Playground, on the other hand, is definitely for visitors of a younger age group, which boasts rope swings, climbing walls, trampolines, slides, and a giant sand park.
Chatsworth Christmas Market – Running throughout November and December each year, Chatsworth’s 100-stall Market is where you’ll find unique gifts, decorations, and traditional music.
How to get to Chatsworth House
Directions – Head along the M1 in the direction of Chesterfield, and then take the A617 until you reach Chesterfield. Then take the A616 for 8 miles; Chatsworth is signposted along the way.
Address for Satnav – Bakewell, DE45 1PN.
Public Transport – From Bakewell, the TM Travel 218 service stops directly outside Chatsworth. The 58 service from Buxton does the same, but only runs on Sundays.
Parking – There are two carparks nearby that are used regularly by visitors: the house carpark, located centrally to the house and farmyard; and the Calton Lees Carpark, found south of Chatsworth, with a postcode of DE4 2NX. Both carparks charge £4 for the day.
Good to Know
– Due to Coronavirus restrictions, tickets must be bought online prior to visiting; and some areas of the house are currently closed.
– There is a storage area located at the houses entrance.
– Picnics are permitted in the garden.
Chatsworth House – 10.00am – 4.30pm
The Garden – 10.00am – 5.30pm
Farmyard and Playground – 10am – 5.00pm
Car Park – 9.00am – 5.00pm
Estate Farm Shop & Café – 9.00am – 5.00pm
Garden Ticket (Adult) – £14.00
Garden Ticket (Aged 4 – 16) – £7.50
Garden Family Ticket – £36
House and Garden Ticket (Adult) – £23
House and Garden Ticket (Aged 4 – 16) – 12.50
House and Garden Family Ticket – £60