Kedleston Hall, located in Kedleston Village, Derbyshire, stands as a true vision of grandeur and wealth – gratuitously so – as it was built, not to house the family that commissioned it, the Curzons, but almost solely as a display of power, and in order belittle the other stately homes in the Derbyshire district – namely, Chatsworth. Originally billed as a ‘temple of arts’ by its commissioner, Sir Nathanial Curzon, the dual-winged, Palladian-styled home was completed in 1759, and has been home to the Curzon dynasty ever since.
It stands today as a National Trust-protected marvel, with a vast marble hall, a saloon with an oculus dome, a grand kitchen, and a plethora of guest bedrooms that have been restored to their original appearance. Kedleston is also home to the rather unique Eastern Museum, which showcases objects collected by former heir of the house, George Curzon, during his voyages through Asia during the colonial period.
Kedleston’s gardens are also worth meandering through, with a man-made lake, an impressive 3-arched bridge, a temple, and a neoclassical fishing room – complete with a plunge pool, a viewing tower, a lake, and a small waterfall.
History of Kedleston Hall
The Curzon family arrived in England during the Norman conquest and took possession of the Kedleston lands during the late 13th century; a medieval, Curzon-built house stood where Kedleston now stands.
The 1st Baron Scarsdale, Nathanial Curzon, had made grand plans for the Kedleston estate before he even inherited the property, having hired landscapers to update the lakes and water features of the surrounding gardens. Finally gaining inheritance in 1758, Curzon immediately hired two of the most renowned Palladian architects of the time, Matthew Brettingham and James Paine, and requested them to design a house a cut-above the rest of the stately homes in the area. The two architects didn’t get much further than constructing the Palladian, however, at the advent of the arrival of a new, totally unknown, architect. Robert Adam, fresh from working in the Mediterranean, was hired to design temples and other structures to fill the Kedleston gardens; Curzon was so impressed by his minor designs, and on the strength of these alone, sacked Paine and Brettingham, and hired Adam to finish Kedleston Hall by himself. Adams redid the front of the Palladian, and then built the east and the west wings, inspired mainly by Rome’s Arch of Constantine; Adams carried the Roman aesthetics over to the interior, with a design heavily influenced by that of Emperor Diocletian’s palace in Split.
Adams also completed his original job of landscaping the gardens; he created a lake by damming a section of the Markeaton Brook, and then made a ‘ha-ha’- a ditch designed to keep livestock from escaping – around the perimeter of the estate.
Kedleston was utilised heavily, like many other stately homes, during the Second World War, mainly as a Y-station for gathering radio transmissions; it was also used as a training camp and a mustering point.
The Curzon’s could no longer afford to maintain Kedleston by the 1970s, which lead to the manor being taken over by the National Trust.
Things to see and Do in Kedleston Hall
The Hall – The interior is truly a neoclassical image of wealth and grandeur; upon entering the north-side of the building, visitors are immediately greeted by a lofty marble hall that’s designed to evoke the allure of a courtyard in a Roman villa; this opens onto the saloon, featuring an impressive glass oculus dome, 62-feet high. Much of the interior rooms have been restored wholly to their original intentions, except from what once was the Great Kitchen, which is now the visitor’s restaurant.
The Gardens – Visitors are free to meander through Kedleston Hall’s extensive pleasure gardens, which are complete with a wide range of flora and several curious outbuildings. Some of Adams original landscaping is still featured within the grounds, but most of the garden’s present features were added during renovations that occurred between 1922 and 1924. Adams’ neo-classical fishing pavilion stands as the most interesting piece of the garden, which rests beside the lake, and once acted as a tea house, a boathouse, and a plunge bath. The garden is also home to an orangery, a man-made lake, non-native trees, rhododendrons and roses.
The Eastern Museum – Former Kedleston Hall resident, George Curzon, was a keen collector, and brought home a vast number of antiques and curiosities from India, where he served as the British Viceroy; many of his collections are now on display in Kedleston’s Eastern Museum. Located on the ground floor of the house, the museum is a must visit for anyone interested in colonial history.
Mary Curzon’s Peacock Dress – This fascinating dress is so captivating that it has a whole room to itself, and upon looking at it, visitors will understand why. Worn by Lady Curzon over 100 years ago at the Delhi Durbar ball, this gold and silver dress is a perfect example of the premium embroidery of the period.
The Restaurant – Located in what used to be Kedleston’s Great Kitchen, the Restaurant features much of the original interior, making it easy for visitors to envision the great banquets that would have occurred here over the centuries. Offering traditional breakfast and lunch, the restaurant is also suitable for afternoon tea or a quick coffee.
The Shop – Located on the ground floor, the shop offers an extensive selection of books, clothing, garden and homeware, artwork, alcoholic beverages, and jewellery.
How to get to Kedleston Hall
Directions – Follow the A38 northward and take the first exit for Derby University. Follow Kedleston Road and turn left at the sign for Hulland and Kedleston. Follow Kedleston Road for one more mile.
Address for Satnav – Derby, Derbyshire, DE22 5JH
Public Transport – Take the 114 bus from Derby in the direction of Ashbourne. This bus calls directly to Kedleston on Saturdays; for any other day of the week, get off at Smithy, which is only 1 mile away from Kedleston.
Parking – The carpark is only accessible for pre-booked visits.
Good to Know (Top Tips)
– It is best to book your ticket online in advance, as the house only allows in so many visitors at a time.
– There are plenty benches throughout the garden for picnics.
Kedleston Hall, car park, and gardens – 10.00am – 5.00pm
Hall, Park and Gardens
Park and Grounds