Sunday, 20 November 2011

"Christmas" at Chatsworth

Without having a Thanksgiving this year to jump start the Christmas spirit, I thought we would try by visiting a manor home that was all decked out.  For this, we chose Chatsworth.  You may recall that this was our first outing way back in April.  Hard to believe we are starting to repeat some things!

Chatsworth is a stately home and estate in north Derbyshire and the Peak District.  It's just under an hour away.  One can tour the home, gardens and farmyard (for a not so insignificant fee).  At this time of year, they also had some Christmas market stalls set up as well.  Given the free Saturday and favorable forecast, we decided a return trip was in order.

Chatsworth is the seat of the Duke of Devonshire, and has been home to his family, the Cavendish family, since Bess of Hardwick settled at Chatsworth in 1549.  Nicole asked a very good question:  Why is the Duke of Devonshire (SW England) in Derbyshire (central England)?  Short answer:  I have no idea!   I assume some Cavendish worked his way up the royal food chain and was given the title way, way back.

There are some interesting facts from the wikipedia page linked above.  Bess built the "new" Chatsworth home in 1553.  She outlived her hubby and passed it to her 2nd son, the 1st Earl of Devonshire.  By the time the 4th Earl came along, he'd "earned" the title Duke (i.e. 1st Duke of Devonshire).  The current Duke is the 12th for those keeping score at home.  So that's the original family + 3 Earls + 1 Earl-to-Duke + 11 more Dukes.

The movie Duchess with Keira Knightley was based on Duchess Georgiana Cavendish who was married to the 5th Duke in the 18th century.  I believe some scenes were filmed here but more were filmed at nearby Kedleston Hall (practically in our back yard . . . sort of).

As with many of these huge estates, the estate/inheritance/death tax caused all sorts of problems and is how many homes end up with the National Trust (this one is not NT but there is an overriding private trust managing now).

Another tidbit:  Most of the UK's country houses were put to institutional use during World War II. Some of those used as barracks were badly damaged, but the 10th Duke, anticipating that schoolgirls would make better tenants than soldiers, arranged for Chatsworth to be occupied by Penrhos College, a girls' public school in Colwyn Bay, Wales. The contents of the house were packed away in eleven days and 300 girls and their teachers moved in for a six-year stay. The whole of the house was used, including the state rooms, which were turned into dormitories. Condensation from the breath of the sleeping girls caused fungus to grow behind some of the pictures!

Now, more about our day . . . 

Following the masses in the house, which we decided to visit straight away.  It was a bright, sunny day though cool and crisp.  The west side of the house wasn't get much sun at this point.

I think everyone should have an angry boar waking up from a nap sculpture in their entryway.

The first 2 floors were nicely decorated and generally not overdone.

They did have a set of absolutely massive Wise Men though.  I had to take 2 pictures because Alex didn't want to stand next to the "pink guy".

his turn

sleigh ride -- Alex looks thrilled.  The reindeer were doing a little shimmy too.

Nicely laid out dining room.  Alex:  "I'd hate to be their son and have to set that table!"

After the house, it was up to the farmyard.  Had to get a few shots of farm animals (for Jay and all those who expect nothing less).  Here's Billy.

. . . and the chicken with hairy legs & feet . . .

. . . hmm, bacon and bacon-to-be 

The farmyard has a nice playground for a range of ages (including ours!).  This zipline was probably Alex's favorite part of the whole day.  Nicole, waiting her turn, also had a go.

I had to get this blue sky shot while watching the kids play.  Beautiful day.

Great shot of my girls "enjoying" a hot drink.  Unfortunately, it was more of a scalding drink (US lawyers would have a field day).  Nicole (and Alex out of view) went for the usual hot chocolate.  Kuk and I tried the holiday tradition of mulled (heated/spiced) wine.  They can keep that tradition . . . we'll leave it here thanks.

After frying our taste buds we headed to the market set up between the old stables (far end) and the house.  Stalls and people as far as the eye can see.  We enjoyed looking in the booths and bought a few things (cheese, jewelry, but not cheese jewelry fortunately) but it didn't meet my expectation for a traditional  "Christmas Market"  even though I don't know what that is (we will try one it a couple of weeks I hope).

After the market is was back to the garden (helps to say gaaahrden to get set the high-society mood).  Jokes aside, it is a nice back yard with sculptures, fountains, trees, etc.).  We enjoyed our walk.
there were a few climbing opportunities . . .

. . . and clowning opportunities . . . 

"weeping" willow with rainbow (sprinklers were set up in the tree)

more climbing

We had fun in the hedge maze as well.

All in all, another fine day.  We set off for home around 3.  It was still light out but the sun had set behind the hills.  It really messes with your body clock.  We were tired from the standing/walking but the setting sun made us feel really tired!

And here is a view out our study window the next morning (today).  A wee bit foggy today.  It lifted a little but not much.  Weather here can change quickly and it's always good to take advantage of the nice days when they happen.

Hope everyone has a nice Thanksgiving.  It will be odd to be working Thursday & Friday.  We'll manage just fine though.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Great post Steve. I had to laugh at the angry boar comment. I agree about the market and the mulled wine. If it make you feel better not everyone in England works on Thursday and Friday. Nice job on the sweeping background pics here, much better than my attempts.

  2. FYI for Nicole from the guide book. Bess's second son was given an Earldom but there already was an Earl of Derby so he was given a vacant Earldom, Devonshire. Also from the book, the 4th Earl was awarded Dukedom by King William III and Queen Mary II as reward for helping them claim the throne.

  3. Thanks for the history lesson, Jay. Very helpful. Not so helpful about not working Thursday . . .