Review: Chatsworth House, Peak District
A trip 10 years in the making; I finally spent a few hours in Chatsworth House during my Peak District trip in 2020 and here’s a review of this famous stately home.
I wanted to visit Chatsworth House for a pretty popular reason: It served as the stately home of Pemberley in filming spots for the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie as well as the 2013 BBC series Death Comes to Pemberley.
Unfortunately I’m not too familiar with either adaptations and am more of a fan of the original book and the 1995 Pride and Prejudice series; the latter of which used Lyme Park and Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire to stand in for Pemberley.
However Chatsworth is the widely agreed inspiration in the original book series and this makes it more than worth a visit as a fan of P&P.
Hilariously Jane Austen thought Pride and Prejudice rather frivolous so I think she would be shocked at it becoming her most famous work. It’s certainly the only one I’ve returned to repeatedly and its charming lightness of touch is part of the reason why.
Arriving at Chatsworth House
Chatsworth House was opened in a limited capacity due to the global pandemic and we had to pre-book our tickets in advance online. The tickets covered the house, the gardens and car parking; which appeared to be the entirety of the gravelled grounds outside of the buildings.
On our way to the main house we passed the Cavendish Family official flag showing three stags as well as two animal statues. Chatsworth House has been the home of the Cavendish family since 1549. The family is currently headed by the 12th Duke of Devonshire, who once quoted the delightful line: “The aristocracy is not dying, it’s dead! The coffin’s nailed down, it’s in the ground. It doesn’t exist except that people have titles.”
That was said in 2010 and ironically we were now exploring his ancestral home 10 years later with the aristocracy still apparently alive.
We were welcomed into the house by a half naked statue and began exploring after collecting our passes.
Which was decorated for Christmas because it was October.
There were plenty of items the family collected strewn liberally around the building; including an amethyst geode, a giant Greek marble foot and a giant quartz crystal. One of the dukes in the past was a huge fan of collecting Greek historical items
The first room we entered was the Chapel which was the least changed room of the house since its decoration from the 1st duke’s time.
The key features are the elaborately carved altarpiece, the oil painting at the centre of the altarpiece and the painted ceiling.
To the right stood a matte black bench with a contrasting lit quartz one opposite. Created in 2015 for an art exhibition, the benches represented the minerals found in the Devonshire estates or what members of the Cavendish family enjoyed collecting.
Predictably the prettier bench showcases the purposeful collection.
The Oak Room
We next entered the Oak room which is strongly connected with the tastes of the 6th duke in the 19th century. The oak panelling came from a German monastery and thus showed carved
figures representing some saints as well as the lofty concepts of Justice, Faith and
The Painted Hall
Then came the most impressive room in the house; one used in the 2005 P&P movie for when Lizzy visited Pemberley: The Painted Hall.
Built in the late 17th century the room still kept the original painted decoration on the walls and ceiling in the 1st duke’s time.
It was such a shame that the Covid friendly rails and cleaning station ruined the appearance of the majestic stairway.
The Great Chamber
The most Christmassy room of them all was next in the Great Chamber, once labelled ‘useless’ by the 6th Duke. Coming from a man who lived in a house with 126 rooms this was really saying something.
This room was sparsely furnished and intended as a gathering space for meeting the monarchy but was never used for this at the time it was designed.
The day we visited it was stuffed with at least eight Christmas trees, which drew attention away from the painted ceiling depicting the Return of the Golden Age during the rule of William III and Mary II.
For some reason Mrs Hackett, the 1st duke’s housekeeper, was depicted as the oldest of the Three Fates. She represented Atropos, known as “The Inflexible One”, who chooses the manner of death and cuts the thread of life of mortals.
She sounds like a lovely lady who I’ll love to meet.
State Drawing Room
The State Drawing Room had a strong musical theme including a pianoforte and an French art illusion of a violin and bow painted on a door.
The State Bedchamber was lavishly decorated and had a huge four poster bed in the centre of the room.
I really liked the Christmas note left for Santa in the corner. In fact I really liked the other Christmas touches peppered around, some of which were quite unique.
The West Sketch Gallery
The West Sketch Gallery was stacked mostly with an inherited collection from the 4th duke’s wife. The Cavendish family ended up building quite a collection through marriage, which is a great incentive for matrimony.
The North Sketch Gallery
The North Sketch Gallery had a completely different and modern atmosphere. Named the North Sketch Sequence, this 20 metre long gallery is decorated with handmade ceramic panels.
650 protruding ceramic blocks organised into columns “G”, “A”, “T” and “C”, represents the unique DNA of the duke, duchess, their son and daughter in law. In a way it’s an untraditional portrait of the family.
A fifth central portrait made up of miniature mirror depicts the ‘Everyman’ and reflect our faces purposefully. Created by the ceramist Jacob van der Beugal; this piece won the prestigious international CODA award.
It’s too bad the piece kind of looked like bathroom tiling.
Before the next room I got scared by the veiled Vestal Virgin sculpture which was also shown in the 2005 movie. The website calls it beautiful but I found it ghostly in the morning light and it gave me the heebie-jeebies.
The Great Dining Room
The sumptuously red Dining Room with its beautiful chandelier is famous for hosting the first formal dinner of the then 13 year old Queen Victoria in 1832. The long and immaculately arranged table can sit 40 people and hold as many as 41 candles at any meal. A tall and arching gold ceiling really added to the grandiosity of the room.
In the interconnecting room I really liked a cute threaded portrayal of the last supper.
The Sculpture Gallery
Now this room really transported us to ancient Greece with its several marble statues from the 6th duke’s time.
The Sculpture Gallery was also used in the 2005 scene where Lizzie Bennet sees the bust of Mr Darcy and made out with it or something.
I have no clue because I never saw the movie fully.
The stark gritstone walls were really different from the rest of the house and really made the marble statues pop.
The Gift Shop
Right outside the Sculpture Gallery stood the Gift Shop, its high ceiling and glass roof streaming light into the room like a temple to consumerism. Combined with the floor to ceiling windows the room can be mistaken for a glasshouse.
Here the room was very much Christmas themed with lots of decorated trees placed throughout the shop and classy Christmas decor for sale.
The jewellery were beautiful and made of precious metal; this was reflected in the pricing.
There was a shelf dedicated to P&P merchandise as well.
Do you know what’s better than a personal bust of 2005 Darcy?
Multiple busts of Darcy at £65 each!
I didn’t wind up buying anything since I was looking for Blue John jewellery and couldn’t find any. Ultimately I found a beautiful necklace in Bakewell.
It was time to head outside into the drizzle and I wanted to find the most beautiful spot for viewing the house’s exterior.
The path I took went down Broad Walk where there’s a pretty view of Blanche’s Vase. Constructed around 1840 out of Sandstone, this stonework was commissioned by the Sixth Duke of Devonshire in memory of his nephew’s wife, Lady Blanche Howard.
Somewhere to the side of this was the statue of the Walking Madonna by Elisabeth Frink. Apparently the artist liked to explore human nature in her works: of suffering and salvation; pain and compassion; terror and tolerance.
I would certainly be terrified bumping into this harsh and angular statue in the middle of the night.
Emperor Fountain and Canal Pond
We finally found the shot of Chatsworth that had no doubt appeared in movies: in front of the Emperor Fountain and Canal Pond. By this point I’d been defeated by the rain with the dampness seeping into my skin, so I took some faraway shots before seeking foliage; the area was a bit too exposed for me.
The Maze was closed off so we headed towards the Ring Pond, which had some interestingly trimmed hedges pointed towards the titular pond like the dials of an inaccurate clock.
The Strid and Rock Garden
Apparently a Strid is “A narrow passage between precipitous rocks or banks, which looks as if it might be crossed at a stride”. What a specific name!
The rock formations were uniquely stacked and looked beautiful next to the water and different coloured foliage.
The path wasn’t rough at all and we had a nice wander through the garden whilst passing a fairy lighted cave.
On our way out of the grounds we passed the dramatic Cascade but didn’t stop as I was getting tired of the rain.
The weather was so distressing that we’d ended up skipping several outdoor features such as the 100 steps, Arboretum, Grotto, Trough Waterfall, Azalea Dell and (amusingly) the whole of Quebec. We headed towards the warmth of the Stables instead.
Stables Shops and Restaurant
It was only a pitstop though as I’ve already arranged lunch at the well reviewed Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop. So after a quick browse of the handsomely modernised buildings we finished our visit at Chatsworth House.
A beautiful and carefully preserved period home and grounds, it’s no wonder that Chatsworth House remains one of the UK’s most beloved and popular stately buildings. I really enjoyed visiting this storied building and there’s more than enough to see inside and outside the house to keep you occupied.
Address: Chatsworth House, Bakewell DE45 1PP
Opening hours: 10:00 – 17:30
Family (2 adults and 3 children): £66.00