Site of the Week: Chatsworth

30.09.2016 | category: General

Chatsworth is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and has been passed down through 16 generations of the Cavendish family. Chatsworth is renowned for the quality of its art, landscape and hospitality, and it has evolved through the centuries to reflect the tastes, passions and interests of succeeding generations.

Chatsworth Park covers 1000 acres and is enclosed by a 15 km long dry stone wall and deer fence. It is home to red and fallow deer, sheep, cattle and many wild animals. The park at Chatsworth is a farmed, food-producing landscape.

The 4th Duke of Devonshire (1720-1764) brought Lancelot Brown (1716-1783) to Chatsworth to redesign the landscape. His associate or foreman, Michael Millican, oversaw an extensive programme of earth moving, drainage, levelling and tree planting in the park from the late 1750’s until 1765. Millican was the ‘man on the ground’ supervising the land forming, drainage and turfing while Brown made visits to inspect and advise.

In his career, Brown’s pre-eminent period of work came between 1750 and 1780, so his Chatsworth commission was relatively early, but at a time when his style was becoming established. All of his signature features including the creation of rolling green slopes right up to the walls of the principal house, trees carefully placed singly or in clumps particularly on hills, a perimeter belt of trees to enclose the view, carriage drives with carefully planned views, and a lake or widened river of ‘natural’ appearance in the middle ground were all employed to great effect at Chatsworth. During this time James Paine (1717–1789) created a number of architectural features to compliment the improvements in the park.

Paine’s two bridges, One Arch and Three Arch, were based on Italian prototypes, for example, the Roman bridge at Rimini in Italy. Three Arch Bridge was started in c.1759 and substantially completed by 1761 carries the main drive over the River Derwent up to the house. The bridge was carefully angled so as to be seen from the house and orientated in such a way as to provide that last, striking view to the house from the entrance drive. One Arch Bridge was built in 1759-60 at the south end of the park.

Perhaps the most intriguing feature that Paine designed for the Duke is the Mill, which was built between 1761 and 1762. It was a replacement for the former working mill that was originally located near the house, and designed as an eye-catcher within the park. Framed by small open woodland to the west, the plain, classical elevations of the Mill provide the termination of views from the north and south. 

To celebrate the tercentenary of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, Chatsworth has run a series of talks and guided tours which are due to continue into 2017. Information is also on display in the Gardens and in the Game Larder as well as on the website

About the Author: Rachel Parkin, Education Coordinator, Chatsworth.