The name 'Chatsworth' is a corruption of 'Chetel's-worth' meaning 'the Court of Chetel'. In the reign of Edward the Confessor a man of Norse origin named 'Chetel' held lands jointly with a Saxon named 'Leotnoth' in three townships; Ednesoure to the west of the Derwent, and Langoleie and Chetesuorde to the east. Chetel was deposed after the Norman Conquest and in the Domesday Book the Manor of Chetesuorde is listed as the property of the Crown in the custody of William de Peverel. Chatsworth ceased to be a large estate, until the 15th century when it was acquired by the Leche family who owned property nearby. They enclosed the first park at Chatsworth and built a house on the high ground in what is now the south-eastern part of the garden. In 1549 they sold all their property in the area to Sir William Cavendish, Treasurer of the King's Chamber and the husband of Bess of Hardwick, who had persuaded him to sell his property in Suffolk and settle in her native county.
Bess began to build the new house in 1553. She selected a site near the river, which was drained by digging a series of reservoirs, which doubled as fish ponds. Sir William died in 1557, but Bess finished the house in the 1560s and lived there with her fourth husband, George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. In 1568 Shrewsbury was entrusted with the custody of Mary, Queen of Scots, and brought his prisoner to Chatsworth several times from 1570 onwards. She lodged in the apartment now known as the Queen of Scots rooms, on the top floor above the great hall, which faces onto the inner courtyard. An accomplished needlewoman, Bess joined Mary, Queen of Scots at Chatsworth for extended periods in 1569, 1570, and 1571, during which time they worked together on the Oxburgh Hangings. Bess died in 1608 and Chatsworth was passed to her eldest son, Henry. The estate was purchased from Henry by his brother William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire, for £10,000 - a great deal of money in those days.
Few changes were made at Chatsworth until the mid 17th century. William Cavendish, 3rd Earl of Devonshire was a staunch Royalist and was expelled from the House of Lords in 1642. He left England for the safety of the continent and his estates were sequestrated. Chatsworth was occupied by both sides during the Civil War, and the 3rd Earl did not return to the house until the restoration of the monarchy. He reconstructed the principal rooms in an attempt to make them more comfortable, but the Elizabethan house was out-dated and unsafe. The 4th Earl of Devonshire, who was to become the 1st Duke in 1694 for helping to put William of Orange on the English throne, was an advanced Whig and was forced to retire to Chatsworth during the reign of King James II. This called for a rebuilding of the house, which began in 1687. Cavendish initially planned to reconstruct only the south wing with the State Apartments, so he decided to retain the Elizabethan courtyard plan. He enjoyed building and reconstructed the East Front, that included the Painted Hall and Long Gallery, followed by the rebuilding of the West Front from 1699 to 1702. The North Front was completed in 1707 just before the Duke died. The 1st Duke also had large parterre gardens designed by George London and Henry Wise, who was later appointed by Queen Anne to the post of Royal Gardner at Kensington Palace.
William Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Devonshire and William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire made no changes to the house and gardens, but they did contribute greatly to the collection found at Chatsworth to this date. Connoisseur of the arts the collection include paintings, Old Master drawings and prints, ancient coins and carved Greek and Roman sculptures. Palladian furniture designed by William Kent was commissioned by the 3rd Duke when he had Devonshire House in London rebuilt following a fire in 1733. Upon the sale and demolition of Devonshire House in 1924 the furniture was transferred to Chatsworth. The 4th Duke made great changes to the house and gardens. He decided the approach to the house should be from the west and had the old stables and offices as well as parts of Edensor village pulled down so they were not visible from the house. He also replaced the 1st Duke's formal gardens with a more natural look, designed by Lancelot "Capability" Brown, which he helped bring into fashion.
In 1748, the 4th Duke married Lady Charlotte Boyle the sole surviving heiress of Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington. Lord Burlington was an accomplished architect in his own right with many works to his name including Chiswick House. With his death, his important collection of architectural drawings and Inigo Jones masque designs, Old Master paintings and William Kent designed furniture were transferred to the Dukes of Devonshire. This inheritance also brought many estates to the family. The 6th Duke (known as 'the Bachelor Duke') was a passionate traveller, builder, gardener and collector who transformed Chatsworth. In 1811 he inherited the title and eight major estates; Chatsworth and Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, Devonshire House, Burlington House and Chiswick House in London, Bolton Abbey and Londesborough Hall in Yorkshire, and Lismore Castle in Ireland. These estates covered 200,000 acres (810 km2) of land in England and Ireland.
The Duke was a great collector especially of sculpture and books. When he built the North Wing he had a purpose built Sculpture Gallery to house his collection and repurposed numerous rooms in the house to contain the entire libraries he would purchase at auction. The 6th Duke loved to entertain and the early 19th century saw a rise in popularity of the 'English Country House Party,' and so in 1830 the Duke converted rooms on the east side of the house into guest bedrooms. People invited to stay at Chatsworth spent their days hunting, riding, reading and playing billiards. In the evening formal dinners would take place followed by music, charades and smoking for the men. Women would return to their bedroom many times during the day to change their outfits. These guest bedrooms at Chatsworth are the most complete set of bedrooms from the period to survive with their original furnishings. There is much eastern influence in the decoration including hand-painted Chinese wallpapers and fabrics which are typical of Regency Taste, which developed during the reign of George IV (1762–1830). People who have stayed at Chatsworth include Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens.
The 20th century saw increasing hardship with two major death duty payments. Nonetheless, life at Chatsworth continued much as before. The household was run by a comptroller and domestic staff were still available, although more so in the country than in the cities. The staff at Chatsworth at this time consisted of a butler, under butler, groom of the chambers, valet, three footmen, a housekeeper, the Duchess's maid, 11 housemaids, two sewing women, a cook, two kitchen maids, a vegetable maid, two or three scullery maids, two stillroom maids, a dairy maid, six laundry maids and the Duchess's secretary. All of these 38 or 39 people lived in the house. Daily staff included the odd man, upholsterer, scullery-maid, two scrubbing women, laundry porter, steam boiler man, coal man, two porter's lodge attendants, two night firemen, night porter, two window cleaners, and a team of joiners, plumbers and electricians. The Clerk of Works supervised the maintenance of the house and other properties on the estate. There were also grooms, chauffeurs and gamekeepers. The number of garden staff was somewhere between the 80 of the 6th Duke's time and the 20 or so of the early 21st century. There was also a librarian, Francis Thompson.
The house and gardens are truly fantastic, a day is hardly enough to experience all they have to offer. The Elizabethan garden was much smaller than the modern garden is now. There were terraces to the east of the house where the main lawn is now, ponds and fountains to the south, and fishponds to the west by the river. The main visual remnant of this time is a squat stone tower known as Queen Mary's Bower on account of a legend that Mary, Queen of Scots, was allowed to take the air there while she was a prisoner at Chatsworth. At the same time as he was rebuilding the house, the 1st Duke also created baroque gardens. It featured numerous parterres cut into the slopes above the house, and many fountains, garden buildings and classical sculptures. There is a lift in the house, allowing access to the entire visitor route for visitors with restricted mobility. Electric scooters cannot be used inside the house. However, other smaller mobility aids may be used.
The garden is accessible to visitors who use manual wheelchairs and electric scooters, please take extra care on steeper slopes. There are buggy tours of the garden from outside the Orangery shop on a first-come, first served basis and for a small additional charge. Map of the Garden. The farmyard entrance is at the top of the main car park. A lift and a ramp give access to all parts of the farmyard. Please be aware that the playground is a woodland site with uneven terrain and a soft bark surface. The paddocks and picnic area are accessible via a gently sloping footpath. The 25 seat trailer is fully wheelchair accessible and offers rides to the woods and lakes behind the house for a small additional charge. If wheelchair access is required, it is essential to pre-book to ensure availability by calling 01246 583139. Otherwise, rides are on a first come, first served basis.
There are adapted lavatories near the house entrance, in the Carriage House restaurant and in the farmyard. Regretfully, there are no adapted lavatories within the garden. Assistance dogs are welcome in the house, garden, and park. Puppies in assistance dog training are welcome in the house as long as they are house trained. Visitors with visual impairments are eligible for a complimentary audio tour of the house when buying admission tickets. The sensory garden located near the display house has been developed to stimulate all the senses, including sound, touch and smell. A larger printed guide book is available in English. Please ask a member of staff at the house entrance if you would like to borrow a copy.
Location : Chatsworth, Bakewell, Derbyshire DE45 1PP
Transport: Chesterfield (National Rail) then bus to Baslow OR Sheffield (National Rail) and bus 218 to Chatsworth House. Bus Routes : TM Travel 218 stops at Chatsworth.
Opening Times : Daily 11:00 to 17:00
Tickets Whole Property: Adults £23.00; Seniors £21.00; Children £16.00
Tickets House + Gardens: Adults £20.00; Seniors £18.00; Children £12.00
Tickets Garden Only: Adults £12.00; Seniors £11.00; Children £7.00
Tickets Farmyard / Playground: Adults £6.00; Seniors £6.00; Children £6.00
Tel: 01246 565300