During my recent trip to Sheffield I could not miss the chance to visit the nearby Chatsworth House, known for being the real life Pemberley (Pride and Prejudice, Joe Wright, 2005). The following is a brief account of my visit, featuring my friends Begoña and Jana, who came along with me to see me at the conference and with whom I visited Sheffield, Chatsworth House and Newstead Abbey. Some practical information to begin with: the entry ticket to the house and gardens was £18, and the return ticket for the bus from Sheffield to Chatsworth £5. You take the bus from Sheffield bus station, and it leaves you at the doors of Chatsworth. The landscape is breathtaking.
Chatsworth House, a little History
Chatsworth House (Derbyshire) has been the seat of the Cavendish dinasty since the 16th century. Nowadays, and since the 17th century, it belongs to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The official page of the House offers information as far as to the 16th century and up until the present time.
In the 16th century, Elizabeth Talbot, countess of Shrewsbury, who it is said grew up to become the second most powerful woman in England, -after Queen Elizabeth-, convinced her second husband, William Cavendish, to move into Desbyshire, buy Chatsworth manor (1549) and begin building what was to become the stately home we now know. Queen Mary of Scots stayed as a prisoner in the house in different occasions between 1569-84, by order of Queen Elizabeth.
After Elizabeth Talbot died, her son William Cavendish became the heir of the family fortune. He was the first to become Earl of Devonshire.The fourth earl, another William, was one of the members of the Immortal Seven and a leader of the Whig party. He became the first Duke of Devonshire.
In 1774, the 5th duke of Devonshire, yet another William Cavendish, married Georgiana Spencer, who is now well known for being the protagonist of the film The Duchess (2008). Georgiana was a very active and social woman who filled the house with visitors and guests and gave it a new life.
During the Second World War Chatsworth was the home of the Penrhos College, an all-female boarding school from Wales. The house was not to be opened to visitors again until 1949. In 1941 the 11th duke married Deborah Mitford, one of the famous Mitford sisters (if you don’t know them, I strongly encourage you to look them up. The stuff of novels!).
The Chatsworth Gardens
We did not do any tour on the gardens, we simply sat down in awe and enjoyed the exceptional sun of a nice evening next to the lake. However, everything we saw was well cared for, carefully arranged and very clean. The gardens contrast with an overdecorated inside of the house, which cannot hold any more flower arrangements or people would not be able to get in. The visit is made more dynamic by a route, which guides the visitor through several stories, all dedicated to different periods of the history of the house and its inhabitants.
Over all, taking the time to go to Chatsworth was a great idea, and I enjoyed the visit very much. It is a place full of history, not overcrowded, and surrounded by a picturesque, beautiful scenery that makes leaving very hard. If you have a chance to visit it, please take at least half an hour to sit down in the grass, close your eyes and listen to the birds, ducks, cows, sheep and the occasional pheasant.