Chatsworth is the country seat of the Duchy of Devonshire, and has been home to their family, the Cavendish family, since Bess of Hardwick settled at Chatsworth in 1549. One of Britain's best loved historic estates, it lies at the heart of the Peak District National Park. The house was re-built by the 1st Duke between 1687 and 1707, on the site of Bess of Hardwick's original Tudor mansion (Bess was the Countess of Shrewsbury). The chapel and dining room date from that time, and have been hardly altered since. The main alterations were made by the 6th duke (1790 - 1858). The nearby town of Edensor dates to the 13th century.
During the second world war, the house was turned into a girls' boarding school. It cared for 3000 pupils between 1939 and 1946. The house was then changed back to a private residence, although it was to remain open to the public for a fee, which was in aide of maintaining the estate.
Chatsworth's park covers about 1,000 acres (4 km²) and is open to the public free of charge all year-round, except for the south-east section, known as the Old Park (though it is not the oldest part), which is not open as it is used for breeding by the herds of red and fallow deer.
Bess of Harwick's park was entirely on the eastern side of the river and only extended as far south as the Emperor Fountain and as far north as the cricket ground. She is believed to have used the small, turreted tower on the hill north-east of the house, which is now known as the Hunting Tower, to view the hunting in the park.
Lancelot 'Capability' Brown did at least as much work in the park as he did in the garden. The open, tree-flecked landscape which is admired today is not natural. Brown straightened the river and there is a network of drainage channels under the grass.
Brown filled in most of Bess's fishponds and extended the park to the west of the river.
In 1823 the Bachelor Duke acquired the Duke of Rutland's land to the north of Chatworth in exchange for some land elsewhere. He extended the park around half a mile (800 m) north to its present boundary.
On the hills at the eastern side of the park there is a wood called Stand Wood, which is named for Stand Tower, the original name of the Hunting Tower. At the top of Stand Wood there is a plateau covering several square miles with lakes, woods and moorland. There are public paths through the area and Chatsworth offers guided tours with commentary in a 28-seater trailer pulled by a tractor. This area is the source of the water for all the gravity-fed waterworks in the garden. The Swiss Lake feeds the Cascade and the Emperor Lake feeds the Emperor Fountain. The Bachelor Duke had an aqueduct built which water tumbles over on its way to the cascade (below).
The upper part of the great 'painted' hall has not been changed since it was painted in 1692, with scenes from the life of Julius Caesar by Luois Laguerre.
The ground floor and stairs have been altered several times and the original stone floor has been replaced with a marble one.
The first floor landing up the stairs in the hall is decorated with grisaille panels, painted to resemble sculptured relief panels. On the middle of the landing is a large bronze statue of Mercury, modeled on an otriginal sculpted in the 16th century by Giambologna.
The Chapel was built between 1688 and 1693 and has not been altered at any time. Over the altar hangs a Verrio painting of Doubting Thomas, the rest of the walls and the ceiling are painted with scenes form the life of Christ. The surrounding alabaster reredos was carved by Cibber out of local alabaster. The 4 marble columns (of which you can see 2 below) were hewn from the same piece of stone found on a nearby moor.
The stables originally had stalls for 80 horses, and all necessary equine facilities including a blacksmiths shop. The first floor was occupied by granaries and accommodation for the many stable staff. The 6th Duke added a carriage house behind the stables in the 1830s. The last horses left the stables in 1939 and the building was then used as a store and garage.
Photos below from our 2005 visit to Chatsworth: