Chatsworth House is one of England’s finest stately homes, located on the east bank of the River Derwent in rural Derbyshire. The vast estate is the seat of the Duke of Devonshire and has been home to the Cavendish family since 1549.
After Chatsworth closes its doors following a busy Christmas period one might be forgiven for thinking that the staff would be taking a well earned rest. This is actually far from the truth as a 12 week programme of conservation, deep cleaning, repair and restoration takes place in readiness for its spring re-opening.
We were invited to take a ‘behind the scenes tour’ of this magnificent stately home as part of an offer exclusively available to guests staying on the Chatsworth Estate for a two night mid-week stay. Accommodation options include one of the Devonshire Hotels or cottage boltholes on the Chatsworth Estate.
We’d arranged to stay at The Cavendish Hotel, a luxurious country house hotel located in the picturesque Peak District village of Baslow, just a 20 minute walk across the fields to Chatsworth or for the less energetic a mere five minute hop in the car.
After arriving the previous afternoon and settling into our charming room oozing country house elegance, we spent the evening enjoying the delicious fine dining menu in the hotel’s opulent Gallery restaurant.
The following morning, after a leisurely breakfast we headed over to Chatsworth House in readiness for the start of our 10.45 a.m. Hidden Chatsworth tour where we were met outside the North Gate by Josie, one of the specialist house tour guides.
Tours are limited to a maximum of 20 guests and we were delighted to have this rare opportunity to step inside Chatsworth to take a close-up look behind the scenes. Our tour took us throughout the house and we not only learnt about all the maintenance work required but also got to explore all the normal areas of Chatsworth that you might see on a standard tour. It was a real bonus visiting the house when it was so quiet, leisurely observing the restoration process taking place ahead of its re-opening to the general public in late March.
Josie explained that each small group tour is unique as it focuses on particular projects taking place at that time such as restoring gold leaf on a wood carving to the cleaning materials used to restore delicate fabrics.
We observed much deep cleaning taking place as we toured many of the rooms and state apartments. Restorers were busy dusting picture rails accessed by an electrically operated lifting platform and hand polishing the delicate marble floor in the exquisite Painted Hall so as not to damage the surface.
Participating in the ‘Hidden Chatsworth’ tour was a real eye-opener into the world of deep cleaning and renovating a stately home as before visiting I had though that spring cleaning my own home was a real chore. However, it pales into insignificance after learning about all the meticulous planning and expertise required to maintain Chatsworth for generations to come.
It had been a wonderful opportunity to view Chatsworth’s most impressive rooms, learn about its rich history and to find out about its ongoing conservation and restoration programme.
Our short break staying on the Chatsworth estate was also the perfect excuse to enjoy a few days away in the stunning Peak District, the first of Britain’s National Parks covering 555 square miles and being designated a national park over 70 years ago in 1951.
If you might also be interested in joining one of these fascinating Hidden Chatsworth tours they are taking place between Monday and Thursday each week until 3rd March, giving an insight into restoring Chatsworth. A choice of accommodation is available from the luxurious Cavendish Hotel where we were based to their two charming country inns and cottage boltholes located nearby. The Devonshire Arms at Beeley originated as three separate cottages in 1726 which were then combined and converted into an inn in 1747.
Slightly confusingly, the other inn located in the small village of Pilsley is also called The Devonshire Arms. This has been a traditional village pub since the 18th century and was only relatively recently developed into an inn with stylish rooms. More information on the Hidden Chatsworth offer can be found here.
We were guests of Devonshire Hotels and Chatsworth House and as always all views and opinions are entirely my own.
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