I was blessed to have the privilege of spending a day at Chatsworth. If you haven’t googled already, the Chatsworth House is the vision of beauty and serenity in the heart of the Peak District in Derbyshire which is in the East Midlands of England. This magnificent stately home is the dwelling place of the Cavendish family dating back to the 1550s and is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.
My moment of awe began the instant we drove up onto the property with the magnificent view of the park and stunning myriads of sculptured landscapes. I remember getting out of the car thinking this is just like the Biltmore House back in the States, in Ashville, North Carolina which is a Chateauseque-style mansion built for George Washington Vanderbilt 11 around the late 1800s. However, after seeing the Chatsworth, one can draw conclusions of the many similarities, yet differences that create the characteristics of the two mansions, but by far the Chatsworth is much larger.
Our first stop was the Cavendish Restaurant located on the Chatsworth property where we enjoyed great conversation, excellent food and a very relaxed atmosphere with friendly staff members. We were made to feel welcome especially after learning that one of their visitors was an American (me) indulging in the magic of England’s cherished history. After a wonderful lunch, we couldn’t wait to begin our tour of one of England’s most beautiful estates.
The Chatsworth house has over 300 rooms, 17 staircases to explore and to view its beauty just a few days before Christmas made it more magical than ever. The entire house had been transformed into Christmas displays throughout with many dressed Christmas trees and fancy garland hanging elaborately from chandeliers. Upon entering, you can’t help but notice the beautiful entrance with it’s glossy marble floor patterned with intricate details along with the warmth of the soft strands of white lighting woven through garland and cascading overhead with a Christmas tree decorated in white lights at the end.
After walking through the corridor, I found myself transported into a world of make-believe as we entered the “Once Upon A Time” a classic selection of stories from my favorite Fairy Tale book in my childhood. There were different tales all through the Chatsworth House creating a live storybook worthy to take you back in time. The themes were enchanting to the young as well as the old like myself who has never forgotten her mother’s voice reading my favorite tales to me every night before bed. There was my favorite, the Cinderella theme located in the Chapel to Snow white in the Sculpture Gallery and the house was filled with Pied Pipers roaming the corridors. I was also captivated by The Princess and the Pea theme by Hans Christian Andersen and the Pied Piper who posed for a photograph just for me. I have to include the theme, James and the Giant Peach as I loved the display that cascaded down from the ceiling reminding me of the story of the magical journey where James learned of courage and friendship. Needless to say, my imagination ran wild as I was caught up in the magic that was woven all through the house.
As we continued our tour, I stood amazed when I entered the infamous Painted Hall with its black and white marble floor and that grandiose staircase fit for a King. Then you have that richly painted ceiling depicting the life of Julius Caesar and beautiful works of art and sculptures galore and vast wall paintings to keep your eyes busy.
You might recognize the Painted Hall scene from the 2005 Joe Wright’s film version of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightly and Matthew McFadyen. In fact, the Chatsworth House was used as Mr. Darcey’s place of residence which many believe Jane Austen based her book idea of Pemberley on this very house. You will also recognize from the movie the Cascade scene in the gardens behind the house which was my favorite part of the entire visit. At the top of the hill is the willow tree Fountain with a rushing sheet of water cascading down over elegant steps which feeds into another fountain on the South lawn called the Sea Horse Fountain. But it doesn’t stop there as there are countless landscapes throughout the property such as the maze and the monkey puzzle, the Greek Altar which all are surrounded by beautiful woods and forests and who could forget those tapered trees? In the Canal Pond situated on the west side of the house is the beautiful Emperor Fountain that is the most photographed scenery at the Chatsworth and I also loved the Flora’s Temple that frames the carved statue of Flora which is one of the few sculptures that survived from the 1st Duke’s garden. It’s also the place you will find the minstrels playing the wind-up music box. The minstrel was more than happy to smile for the camera.
I cannot end my blog without telling you which room in the Chatsworth house is my favorite. It almost goes without saying that is if you know me. When I turned the corner and saw the grand piano placed near the entrance to the room, I had to stop and study the area thoroughly. It wasn’t the music room, but a room exquisite and lavishly decorated with rare artifacts and books. The Library! This particular library out of several at Chatsworth, houses 40,000 books and is the largest and most significant collection of literary rarities and among that huge collection are books handmade by monks from the Middle Ages and its been said there is a book of magic known as The Key of Solomon in which spells were written in Latin. The age of this particular book goes back to over 500 years.
I admired the dark wooden shelves and the different sitting areas where one could spend an entire day thumbing through yellowing pages or playing the piano as the sun sets over the beautiful rolling hills. As a musician and writer, this is what a paradise room would be to someone like me. To conclude, there are many extending qualities with the Biltmore and Chatsworth with the Biltmore being the largest estate in America and the Chatsworth being the largest among the two and much of the décor found at Chatsworth does not exist in the Biltmore but both have substantial character of their own and I feel honored to have seen both.