Why Was Straw Laid in the Streets?

© Cheryl Bolen

Recently as I was reading some letters written by Sarah, the 1st Duchess of Marlborough, she wrote (pre Regency) that she was  going to have straw laid in her street:

The place [Scarborough] was so very dirty and so noisy I am going to lay straw in the street to hinder the intolerable noise of the horses that go by my window.

I hadn’t heard of that practice since a long, long ago reading of Thackeray’s classic 1848 novel Vanity Fair, when I first became acquainted with the practice of laying straw in the streets to muffle sound. Here’s how Thackeray used it:

She had the street laid knee deep with straw; and the knocker put by with Mr. Bowl’s plate. She insisted the Doctor should call twice a day; and a deluged her patient with draughts every two hours. When anybody entered the room, she uttered shshshsh so sibilent and ominous that it frightened the poor old lady [Mrs. Crawley] in her bed.

Apparently laying straw in the streets was a common occurrence in England’s cities.

Here’s what nineteenth century novelist Ellen Wood wrote on the subject in her serialized novel, The Shadow of Ashlydyat, that was published between 1861 and 1863:

For some distance on either side; ankle-deep down Crosse Street as far as you could see, lay masses of straw. As carriages came up to traverse it, their drivers checked their horses and drove them at a foot-pace, raising their own heads to look up at the windows of the dwelling; for they knew that one was lying there hovering between life and death.

The solemnity spread through the town, and Wood later wrote:

Knockers were muffled; bells were tied up; straw, as you hear, was laid in the streets; people passed in and out [of the bank], even at the swing doors, when they went to transact business, with a softened tread … and asked the clerks in a whisper whether Mr. George was yet alive.

Later, in 1889, English poet Amy Levy also used straw in the streets to impart imminent death in her poem, “Straw in the Street,” in her collection, A London Plane-Tree and Other Verse:

Straw in the street where I pass to-day

Dulls the sound of the wheels and feet.

’Tis for a failing life they lay

Straw in the street.

Here, where the pulses of London beat,

Someone strives with the Presence grey;

Ah, is it victory or defeat?

The hurrying people go their way,

Pause and jostle and pass and greet;

For life, for death, are they treading, say,

Straw in the street?

 

From what I gather, wealthy people regularly exercised such a practice during run-of-the-mill illnesses, not just for those terminally ill.  One assumes the practice came to a halt with the advent of . . . the rubber tire! 

Many thanks to English doctoral student Chloé Holland for her research on Wood and Levy. – Cheryl Bolen, whose final book in the Lords of Eton series, Last Duke Standing, can now be ordered, prior to its Jan. 15 release.

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The Late Duchess Writes on Primogeniture

©Cheryl Bolen

I don’t remember where I got the 1984 book, The Englishwoman’s House, but it’s quite a treasure with essays from well-known women of the era and pictures to illustrate their homes. In addition to notables like Laura Ashley and Barbara Cartland, the book brims with aristocratic homes. But it’s the essay by the late Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire (1920-2014) that I’ve never been able to purge from my mind. It starts off with these sage words from the remarkable woman, a former Mitford sister:

If you are a woman who finds herself married to the hereditary owner of what used to be known as a stately home and is now called a historic house, you soon become aware of the unwritten rules of primogeniture.

You live in furnished rooms, surrounded by things which do not and never will belong to you. You are also aware that if you should become a widow, you move, pronto, and the familiar things stay.

All interest is centered on the eldest son and his family. Younger sons are looked on as a sort of long-stop insurance but the birth of a daughter is greeted with sighs from the family solicitor. This situation is taken for granted by Englishwomen. It is the way of primogeniture and it is the reason that, in spite of savage taxation, there are still wonderful interiors in English houses, hundreds of which can be seen by paying a pound or two in the season. I have seen it from both sides, having married a younger son who became his father’s heir through the depredations of War. [The elder son, who was married to President Kennedy’s sister Kathleen, was killed in World War II.] It is part of the Great Unfairness of Life, but it works.

At Chatsworth [Chatsworth House, believed by many to be England’s finest stately home – pictured always at the top of this blog], there is ample evidence of the system. Furniture and pictures from abandoned Cavendish [the family name] houses (Devonshire House and Chiswick House in London, Compton Place at Eastbourne and Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire) crowd the attics and give so much to choose from that, as well as rearranging most the rooms here, I have furnished two country hotels.

The duchess’s sitting room with green silk, pleated walls anchored with gilt fillets

Because of the war, the family left Chatworth in 1939 and did not think about moving back until 1957, when they added central heating and 17 bathrooms to the house, which features anywhere between 175 and 300 rooms, depending upon the source. The roof of the house, according to the duchess, is one third of an acre. Eighty percent death duties decimated the family’s coffers and took 17 years to pay. Many of the family’s properties were turned over to the National Trust in lieu of taxes. The duke gave her free hand to oversee turning the stale, neglected Chatsworth rooms to a showplace to attract paying visitors to the family’s most prized property.

The bedchamber of Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire in the 1980s.

The duchess’s entry in The Englishwoman’s House addresses her own private chambers, the faded photos of which are pictured here. She said the ceilings were lowered sometime in the 1800s so that she has ample personal storage in a sort of mezzanine over her bedchamber and sitting room. These dazzling chambers with formidable art and antiques she shared with three dogs!

“If ever I have a house of own,” she wrote, “I will try for something different, partly because nothing could be as beautiful as Chatsworth.”

I’ve only featured a small portion of her intriguing tale told with great wit. If you can find a copy of the book, it’s worth it just to read her cleverly written piece.–Cheryl Bolen’s trilogy, The Lords of Eton, began with the May release of The Portrait of Lady Wycliff and the June release of The Earl, The Vow and The Plain Jane.

England’s Treasure Houses: Hatfield House

© Cheryl Bolen

 HISTORY

Queen Elizabeth I spent much of her childhood at Hatfield Palace, which had been home to the Bishops of Ely since the Middle Ages.  It was here that she learned she was the new queen, following the death of her half-sister Queen Mary.  All that remains of the 1480 palace is a red-brick hall where banquets are still held.

Beginning in 1607, Robert Cecil, the 1st Earl of Salisbury and younger son of Queen Elizabeth’s chief minister William Cecil (Lord Burghley), began constructing the present Jacobean mansion, using many of the red bricks from the demolition of Hatfield Palace. Robert Cecil had succeeded his father as a minister to Queen Elizabeth I, and after her death he served as chief minister to James I. It was from James I that Robert Cecil obtained Hatfield Palace. The king, much taken with Cecil’s Theobalds in Hertfordshire (now gone), offered to exchange Hatfield for Theobalds. Hatfield’s new construction took five years to complete and cost £11,000. Robert Cecil died in 1612, just after the completion of Hatfield House. He is buried at the old parish church adjacent to the property.

In the reign of George III, James Cecil (1748-1823) was created the 1st Marquess of Salisbury. The 3rd Marquess (1830-1903), served three times as Prime Minister to Queen Victoria.  As chairman of the Great Eastern Railway, he was instrumental in getting the Hatfield Rail Station located just beyond the gates of his family home. Lord David Cecil (1902-1986), a noted scholar, historian, and author, grew up at Hatfield House. The house is still owned and occupied by the present Marquess of Salisbury and is one of the 10 Treasure Houses of England.

HOUSE

With the advent of the railway, Hatfield’s entrance was reoriented to the north, where visitors now enter. The original south entrance was designed by Inigo Jones, who received £10 for his drawing. The original entrance is much more impressive with its long loggia flanked by ogee-topped double towers and a clock tower at the center.

Hatfield House, comprised of 223 rooms, is considered the finest and best known Jacobean house in England. The marble hall on the ground floor, so named for its checkered floor of white and black marble, has retained its Jacobean appearance. Original, intricately carved wooden screens stand at either end of the chamber. The hall features a minstrels’ gallery and huge Belgian tapestries. World leaders today still gather around the long table that can seat 70.

A climb up the grand Jacobean staircase (with original wooden dog gates) brings visitors to the first floor and the James I drawing room adorned with rich, deep greens and reds. Despite its large size, the room looks cozy with its intimately gathered conversation areas. A life-size statue of James I is incorporated into the overmantel. Walls are sheathed in tapestries which serve as a backdrop to a collection of priceless paintings, including those of Elizabeth I and of the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury and others painted by Reynolds and Lawrence. A trio of tall bayed windows floods the room with light.

A 180-feet long gallery connects the James I drawing room on the east wall with the library on the western wall. The library is among the finest in England. A large fireplace is center point to the symmetrical room. Its north and south walls feature galleries that are balustraded in gilded iron and are accessible by handsome wood steps. The library houses many rare manuscripts, including letters from Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots.

The winter dining room was constructed in the early 19th century from two smaller rooms. Far more intimate than the hall, this dining room seats 14.

Original to the home, the marble-floored chapel was remodeled in Victorian times but still retains the early 17th century stained glass windows depicting Biblical scenes.

A tour of the house (guided on weekdays) includes the long, ground-floor gallery/loggia that is used as an armory and the massive original kitchen, which has been restored to look as it did in 1832.

Knot garden by the Old Palace

GROUNDS

 

The 14-minute walk from the rail station is mostly through alleys of trees and alongside the broad lawn leading up to the present entrance. The 1,000-acre park offers vineyards, parterre gardens, a wilderness garden, a children’s play area, picnic sites, the 16-acre Broadwater, and park walks.–Cheryl Bolen is fortunate to have toured six of England’s Ten Treasure Houses.

 

Treasure Houses of England: Leeds Castle

© Cheryl Bolen

HISTORY

The castle’s origins date to a descendant of William the Conqueror, Robert de Crevecoeur, who began construction on the keep in 1119. A century later de Crevecoeur’s descendants dammed the River Len to form the lake which surrounds the castle.

In 1278 the castle passed into royal hands, becoming the dower home of widowed English queens, including Eleanor of Castile, Margaret of France, Isabella of France, Joan of Navarre, Anne of Bohemia, and Catherine de Velois.

In Tudor times, Henry VIII visited Leed’s often, and his son Edward VI granted the castle to one of his father’s courtiers.

Since the 1600s the castle has been privately owned by the Culpeper, Fairfax and Wykeham Martin families. The last private owner, Lady Baillie, bought the castle in 1926, spent a vast fortune restoring it, and passed it to a charitable trust upon her 1974 death.

Olive, Lady Baillie, had inherited a large fortune at the age of 27 upon the death of her American mother, who was a Whitney (an heir to the Standard Oil riches). Lady Baillie’s father was an English peer, as was one of her three husbands. She purchased the house for £6.5 million and throughout her life continued to pore money into the castle’s restoration and furnishings. During the 1930s and 40s, the castle’s guests included Errol Flynn, Noel Coward, Douglas Fairbanks, and David Niven.

Upon her death in 1974, Lady Baillie left the castle to the Leeds Castle Foundation, a private charitable trust whose aim is to preserve the castle and grounds. Since Lady Baillie’s death, over 10 million people have visited the castle.

HOUSE

The elegance of medieval Leeds Castle rising from its surrounding lake is one of England’s most photographed sites and demonstrates why Leeds has been selected as one of the country’s 10 Treasure Houses.

The castle visitors see today is the result of over 900 years of alterations. It has Norman foundations, a medieval gatehouse, a gloriette built by Edward I and expanded during the reign of Henry VII, a Tudor tower, and a 19th-century country house. All of these were restored in the 20th century by architect Armand-Albert Rateau and decorator Stephane Boudin, whose clients included Jacqueline Kennedy and the Duchess of Windsor.

Visitors enter through the basement cellars, then tour the heraldry room before climbing to the keep, or gloriette (Spanish for pavilion). The queen’s bedroom has been recreated to appear as it would have when the medieval queens lived at the castle. From there, visitors move to the Tudor rooms, which include the queen’s gallery with its 1520 fireplace and busts of Tudor monarchs and the Henry VIII banqueting hall where the original arrow-slit windows have been replaced with large bay windows that afford a stunning view of the water surrounding the gloriette. Five of the castle’s 24 bedrooms (23 of which are available to conference guests) are located in the oval-shaped gloriette, including Lady Baillie’s bedroom and adjoining dressing room, the Catherine of Aragon room, and the seminar room, which was formerly the bedroom of Lady Baillie’s son.

The main staircase returns guests to the “new castle” and its yellow drawing room, the Thorpe Hall drawing room (named for the hall near Peterborough from which Lady Baillie purchased 17th- century paneling and fireplace), the library, and dining room.

Artwork at Leeds, though not as impressive as collections at Petworth or Chatsworth, for example, has been purchased with deference to the castle’s previous inhabitants.

While the castle’s furnishings reflect an amalgam of the eras to bridge the home’s history, they are pulled together gracefully. Visitors will appreciate the extra touches, ranging from live piano playing in the drawing room to dazzling displays of fresh flowers in every room.

GROUNDS

Leeds Castle is a popular destination for families with young children. Children enjoy the vast duckery, which is a serpentine waterway where they can purchase duck grain to feed the large duck and swan population. Other favorites with children are the aviary, maze and grotto, dog collar museum, falconry, a turf maze, an education center, toddler’s play area, and train.

The castle’s grounds, which include a nine-hole golf course, encompass 500 lush acres. The greatest moat in England surrounds the three-acre castle island, which is the landscape’s crowning jewel. There’s a wooded cedar lawn, the Culpeper parterre garden, picnic areas, the great water lake, lovely walking trails, and a vineyard.

Another of its attractions is its short distance from London.

Treasure Houses of England: Burghley House

Note: Cheryl is writing a series on the ten Treasure Houses of England, which have been selected for their grandeur, architecture, furnishings, landscape, and historical significance. See the website at http://treasurehouses.co.uk/

Burghley House

HISTORY

Burghley House was built more than 400 years ago by William Cecil, the first Lord Burghley (1520-1598), who served as Lord High Treasurer and Chief Minister to Queen Elizabeth I for 40 years. Upon his death, the house and title passed to his eldest son, Thomas, who became 1st Earl of Exeter.

The 5th Earl of Exeter (1648-1700), who visited Italy three times and was one of the leading collectors of his day, greatly altered Lord Burghley’s house. The 9th Earl of Exeter (1725-1793) added extensively to Burghley’s collections of paintings, furnishings, and porcelain (among the finest private collection in England) during his four tours of Italy and is responsible for the naturalistic landscape designed by Lancelot “Capability” Brown in the mid 18th century. The 10th Earl became the 1st Marquess of Exeter in 1801.

None of the 1st Earl of Exeter’s descendants have played as important a role in government as the home’s builder, William Cecil. The 6th Marquess (1904-1981), as Lord Burghley, achieved fame by winning the gold medal in the 1928 Olympics in the 400-meter hurdles and winning the silver in the same event in 1932. A scene in the movie Chariots of Fire, where a Cambridge student runs around the great court in the time it takes the clock to strike 12, is based upon Lord Burghley. When he died without male descendants in 1981, the marquisate passed to his brother, who lived in Canada, and Burghley House and its contents became part of a charitable trust set up by him and administered, in part, by his descendants. His granddaughter, Miranda Rock, currently lives at Burghley with her husband and four children. The present Marquess of Exeter resides in Canada.

Movies which have featured Burghley House in recent years include the 2005 Pride and Prejudice in which Burghley served as Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s home, and The Da Vinci Code.

HOUSE

Upon seeing Burghley House for the first time, visitors will immediately understand why it is billed “The Largest and Grandest House of the Elizabethan Age.” Because of the grandeur of the home’s architecture, furnishings and grounds, it has been selected as one of England’s 10 Treasure Houses.

The Elizabethan house that was constructed from 1555-1587 in the shape of an “E” to honor the queen was largely modified in the 17th century. The exterior features its original roofline bristled with cupolas, obelisks and round chimneys.

Allow plenty of time to see the house, as about 20 rooms are on the tour. This includes four Georgian state rooms, a billiards room, the painted dining room featured in the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice, the Elizabethan chapel, the bow room, the Marquetry room (for its inlaid furniture), Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom, the brown drawing room, the black and yellow bedroom, the pagoda room, the blue silk bedroom and its blue silk dressing room, the magnificently painted heaven room, after which visitors visit the equally magnificently painted hell staircase, and the great hall.

GROUNDS

Much of what was designed by Lancelot “Capability” Brown in the 18th century remains, including the 26-acre lake. Like all of Brown’s landscapes, Burghley’s grounds of sweeping lawns, curving lake, swelling hills and strategically clumped trees contribute to a natural-looking landscape.

In recent years a sculpture garden and a Garden of Surprises (with a maze) have been added.

There’s a lake walk, a cricket ground and woodland area to explore.

The orangery offers a restaurant which looks out over a parterre rose garden.

Cheryl Bolen, who has been visiting England for three decades, spent most of the month of June exploring more of England’s stately homes. Her newest release is the A Birmingham Family Christmas. Visit her website at http://www.cherylbolen.com/.

Treasure Houses of England: Harewood

Note: Cheryl is writing a series on the ten Treasure Houses of England, which have been selected for their grandeur, architecture, furnishings, landscape, and historical significance. See the website at http://treasurehouses.co.uk/

© Cheryl Bolen

The history of Harewood goes back to ancient times, and structures date from the 12th (Harwood Castle) and 14th centuries (Gawthorpe Hall). Remnants of the castle remain on the estate, and excavation work is now being done on Gawthorpe Hall which was demolished in the 1770s when construction on Harewood House was completed.

Harewood House

In 1739 the Harewood and Gawthorpe estates were purchased by Henry Lascelles, who had made a large fortune in the West Indies sugar trade. Following his death in1753, his son Edwin took possession of Harewood. Construction on Harewood House began 1759 by a who’s who of 18th century builders and designers: builder John Carr, interior designer and architect Robert Adam, landscape architect Capability Brown, and furniture maker Thomas Chippendale. Edwin Lascelles supervised the construction himself. The house became habitable in 1771 although work continued throughout the 1770s.

When Edwin Lascelles died in 1795, the estate went to his cousin who was made Earl of Harewood, and the house has remained in the family ever since. In 1843 the third Earl employed Charles Barry, architect of the Houses of Parliament. Barry was asked to heighten the wings of the house, to alter the front and rear facades, and to create a new formal garden on the south side of the building. He also remodeled a number of rooms. Since then, the basic structure of the house has remained intact.

The 6th Earl was married to Princess Mary, Princess Royal, daughter of George V and the aunt of Queen Elizabeth. Princess Mary lived at Harewood for 35 years and died there in 1965.

Princess Mary

Today the house is still the family seat of the Lascelles family. David Lascelles is the 8th Earl. The house and grounds have been transferred into a trust ownership structure under the management of the Harewood House Trust. Harewood House is listed as one of the 10 Treasure Houses of England.

HOUSE

Built by John Carr of York, furnished by master furniture-maker Thomas Chippendale, with interiors by the celebrated Robert Adam, in the setting of one of Capability Brown’s finest landscape, it is not surprising that Harewood House is one of the 10 great Treasure Houses of England.

The exterior of the house is a product of Carr and Barry, with the latter having the final say. The house consists of a central block with adjoining wings which are connected to the main house with one-story links. The front entrance is dominated by a pediment and six Corinthian columns. The south front features Italianate terraces designed by Barry.

The interior of the house is pure Robert Adam: soaring, beautifully painted ceilings; elaborate plasterwork; ornate fireplaces; and striking mixed color schemes. Although he had to work with fixed room sizes, Harewood House is considered one of Adam’s greatest accomplishments. Chippendale also had a great influence on the design of the house which still contains an impressive collection of his furniture. In fact, Harewood House was the largest commission of Chippendale’s career (10 years and £10,000).

Harewood’s state bed, by Chippendale

Of special interest is the state bed in the state bedroom. A popular fashion of the 18th century was to have a state bedroom suite reserved for visiting royalty or heads of state. In the 19th century Barry did away with the state suite and converted the bedroom into a sitting room (later used by Princess Mary as her sitting room). After Barry’s alteration, Chippendale’s state bed was put in storage for 150 years! In 1999 £200,000 was finally raised to restore the bed and the state bedroom, which is now a highlight of the tour.

Although all the state rooms are impressive, especially noteworthy is the gallery which includes paintings by Titian, Tintoretto, Giovanni Bellini and El Greco as well as family portraits by Gainsborough, Reynolds, Romney, Hoppner and Lawrence. Another interesting feature is that Harewood House has three libraries (the main library, the old library, and the Spanish library) with more than 11,000 books. Also of special interest is the china room which contains an important collection of Sèvres porcelain bought in the early 19th century and a 1779 Bleu de Roi tea service that belonged to Queen Marie-Antoinette.

GROUNDS

The grounds are a joint product of Brown’s “natural” setting and Barry’s formal garden. The most obvious manifestation of Brown’s “natural” design is the man-made lake which can be viewed from Barry’s terraces. Barry’s most spectacular contribution to the grounds are the intricate geometric flowerbeds that run the entire width of the south front.

There is a tea-room with seating on Barry’s terrace that overlooks the formal garden and Brown’s landscape.--Cheryl Bolen’s newest release is Miss Hastings’ Excellent London Adventure.

Treasure Houses of England: Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House

© Cheryl Bolen 

HISTORY

Bess of Hardwick (1527-1608) built the original home on the site in 1552. The house passed to her son William Cavendish, who became the first Earl of Devonshire in 1618. The 4th Earl of Devonshire, William Cavendish (1640-1707), became the 1st Duke of Devonshire for his part in bringing William of Orange to the English throne. The first duke is responsible for the house visitors see today. He pulled down Bess’s house in 1686, and with architect William Talman, started construction on the palatial house that stands today. It took more than 20 years to build and was completed the year of his death.

The 4th Duke, by marrying the heiress daughter of Lord Burlington (Palladian prophet, builder of Chiswick), brought even greater wealth and properties into the family.

Among the most famous occupants of the house were the 5th duke and his glamorous duchess, Georgiana, daughter of the 1st Earl Spencer. (A biography of Georgiana was the number one best selling book of 1999. It chronicled her husband’s affair with her best friend and the two illegitimate children born of that affair, making for one of the most interesting menage a trois in history. The 2005 Keira Knightley movie Duchess is based on the book.)

Georgiana

Since the time of its completion, Chatsworth has had “open days” for public viewing. It is said to be the inspiration for Mr. Darcy’s estate in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and actually serves as Darcy’s Pemberley in the 2005 movie.

The home’s five original state apartments were never visited by William and Mary, for whom they were intended, but Queen Victoria visited Chatsworth during the reign of the 6th, or Bachelor Duke (1790-1858), who was the first to make substantial changes to Chatsworth. In addition to adding a new wing, his most substantial changes were brought about by landscape designer Joseph Paxton, who also built the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. Like the Crystal Palace, his Great Conservatory at Chatsworth is now gone, but his rockeries and fountains remain.

During World War II Chatsworth was occupied by a girls’ school. The rooms and corridors were dormitories, and the drawing rooms and larger bedrooms were classrooms.

The 11th Duke inherited Chatsworth in 1950 following the sudden death of his father. (His elder brother, who had married President Kennedy’s sister Kathleen, had been killed in the war.) It would take him 17 years to pay off the 80 percent death duties and would require selling off some of the estate’s art collection and deeding the Devonshire’s Hardwick Hall to the National Trust. Chatsworth, too, needed substantial repairs and modernization. By opening Chatsworth to the public and establishing the Chatsworth House Trust, the 11th Duke was able to preserve Chatsworth for future generations. When he died in 2004, the Guardian said the 11th Duke was able to turn his magnificent stately home in Derbyshire “into a public resource without compromising its dignity or losing it as a family home.” His son, the 12th Duke, continues living at Chatsworth.

HOUSE

The baroque palace of Chatworth with its surrounding 12,000-acre estate in the Derbyshire hills has repeatedly been selected as England’s favorite country house. Despite its fairly remote location, it draws 300,000 visitors a year. The collonaded, pedimented view of the house that is most photographed is not the entrance through which visitors enter.

The portion of the house built before the addition of the 1820s wing is constructed around a central courtyard. Only a portion of the home’s 297 rooms are open to the public. Perhaps the most recognizable of these is the Painted Hall, so named for the 17th century paintings of Julius Caesar that adorn the ceiling and walls. Floors here are of black and white checkered marble, and the hall’s focal point is a broad central staircase balustered in gilt iron and carpeted in red.

After climbing stairs in the Painted Hall and the Great Stairs, visitors come to the five original state apartments: the Great Chamber, the State Drawing Room, the State Music Room, the Bedchamber and the State Closet. Each features ceilings painted in the 17th century, as well as fine woodworking craftsmanship on the walls. It is thought the state bed which retains its 1700 coverings belonged to George II.

The Library

The library is roped off but can be viewed by visitors before they stroll into the Ante Library and its adjacent Dome Room, which features a windowed alcove flanked by polished marble columns.

The 1820s wing houses the Crimson Dining Room where Queen Victoria was feted while she was still a princess. Other rooms on the public tour include the 6th Duke’s Oak Room, a Grotto, Sculpture Gallery, and the Chapel.

Treasures (paintings, sculpture, and furnishings) from London’s Devonshire House, sold in the 1920s, and from Lord Burlington’s Chiswick House melded with those already at Chatsworth to give  Chatsworth what is said to be the finest art collection of any English country home.

Chatsworth has been selected as one of England’s nine Treasure Houses.

GROUNDS

It is difficult to separate the palatial house of Chatsworth from the stunning grounds in which it is set. The 35,000-acre agriculture estate offers a 1,000-acre park that is open free to the public. Wooded hills with footpaths rise above the house, and the River Derwent rushes alongside the property’s pastoral sheep pasture. One day is really not long enough to explore all this property has to offer.

The Cascade

In earliest times, the house, which sets at the foot of the Derbyshire hills of the Peak District, was surrounded by formal gardens. The 4th Duke, however, demolished the 1st Duke’s formal gardens when he chose Capability Brown to landscape the parkland around the house in 1756. Fortunately, the 1st Duke’s cascade and the temple above it, voted Best Water Feature in England, has survived, along with his Willow Fountain, Canal Pond, and Flora’s Temple.

Capability Brown’s scheme to make the grounds around Chatsworth look natural included the planting of broad lawns and a variety of American trees.

Landscape architect Joseph Paxton’s (1803-1865) mark on Chatsworth is the most distinct today. Trained at Kew Gardens, Paxton is responsible for the huge rockeries, the pond their water flows into, the Azalea Dale and ravine, and the Bamboo Walk.

In modern times a maze constructed of 1,209 yew trees, flower gardens, and a Serpentine Hedge have been added. The original stable block, constructed to house 80 horses, is now used for the Farmyard demonstrations, and the 6th duke’s carriage house now serves as a restaurant. For children, there is an Adventure Playground.

One thing remains from Bess of Hardwick: the 16th century hunting tower, nestled in the verdant foothills.–Cheryl Bolen’s newest Regency historical release is Miss Hastings’ Excellent London Adventure.

Cheryl by Georgiana’s portrait at Chatsworth