Chatsworth House in Derbyshire has reopened to visitors following the biggest restoration and conservation project the estate has seen. Here’s what group can expect during a visit.
From rebuilding the Belvedere turrets to replacing vast tracts of lead on the roof; carving the tiniest details in stone using dentistry tools to replacing huge blocks in the walls; and careful restoration of priceless artworks to the renovation of famous water features in the garden… over the last decade Chatsworth has been fully restored and made ready for the next century.
The house, garden and park have just reopened to the general public following the ten-year long programme, costing more than £32m, which sees Chatsworth restored to its full glory.
We asked the team behind the project about what it has entailed, and what groups can look forward to in the years ahead:
GLT: What has been the biggest challenge of the project?
Chatsworth: When the Duke and Duchess came to live at Chatsworth in 2006, they realised that the services were exhausted, and so decided that something had to be done about it. If they had known what they were embarking on they may have shied away from the massive project, but luckily they didn’t.
Now, at the end of it, we are all incredibly proud of what has been achieved. The house is in better condition; safer, warmer, better lit, more accessible, easier to manage, and more beautiful than ever before.
Pictured: The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire in front of North Wing.
What’s been the most fascinating part of the project?
Hearing the stories from the people involved in it; understanding the challenges they met; and appreciating the quality of their work. And the cleaning of the gold windows, of course – they’re a favourite with the Duke.
What is the main highlight for visitors after the restoration?
As visitors go through the house and garden, they are persuaded to take advantage of the chances they have to get up close and see what we see. We’re encouraging visitors to use the torches on their phones to get a closer look. It’s their one opportunity to see what’s behind the bling, get into the fabric of the building and see what’s underneath. The Duke calls it the “dentistry” because it’s painful, expensive and nobody ever sees it.
Please explain a bit about the accompanying exhibition and the thoughts behind its curation.
Chatsworth Renewed: The House Past, Present and Future is running until 21st October and celebrates the house through the ages. The exhibition is grounded in people and their stories and celebrates the skill and artistry, the sheer monumental effort over the centuries of men and women whose work is often unseen and deliberately invisible.
For 500 years people have carefully manipulated nature’s materials and managed the elements to create the house, garden and park, and continue to do so today. It is this continuum of care and stewardship that is at the forefront of the exhibition. Hear their stories, in their own words, as they shine a light on hidden corners of the house, peel back layers and invite you to look beyond, behind, underneath.
Pictured: Chatsworth, before and after the restoration.
Are there guided tours or talks available for groups, to tie in with the restoration?
There is a Chatsworth Renewed audio guide, as well as informative guides throughout the route offering insights into the exhibition and pointing out interesting details.
In the State Drawing Room, for example, groups are invited to take a seat on a sheepskin fleece and spend some time looking closely at the tapestries and the demonstration loom. It is difficult to fully appreciate the skill of the historic tapestry weavers and imagine how long it took them to create a tapestry of this size. There’s also the opportunity for visitors to try weaving on one of our looms.
Why would you recommend Chatsworth as a suitable day out to groups over all?
Chatsworth is the perfect destination for a group visit as we can offer something to interest everyone. You can admire the splendour of the house, explore over 105 acres of garden discovering water features, giant sculptures and beautiful flowers, or meet the animals in the farmyard and adventure playground. We also have a busy calendar of special events and exhibitions for groups to enjoy.
There are a wide variety of tours available, plus we offer full access to the main visitor route in the house for visitors using wheelchairs.
For more information on group visits, head to www.chatsworth.or