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Here we go again, I’m afraid, continuing our saga about our travels through England. This time combining country life with bourgeois, aristocratic history and contemporary sculptural art – all set in some of the most stunning countryside in England!
Yes, I took our French man from his own beautiful Roannais region in the Rhone-Alpes to ‘taste’ some of the wonders of Derbyshire and Yorkshire by visiting the truly amazing Chatsworth House, and then, on the following day, walking around the brilliant and ‘bizarre’ Yorkshire Sculpture Park – all quite an eye opener for our very good friend, Jean-Marc!
Chatsworth House and Park
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, Peak District. Home of the Dukes of Devonshire.
Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, in the Peak District. Is the home of the Dukes of Devonshire, the Cavendish Family.
First built by Bess of Hardwick. Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned here.
The greatest house of the Peak District, set in a very large country park.
When you drive across the surrounding park and see Chatsworth House for the first time, a sumptuous pile of yellow stone surrounded by gardens, fronted by the River Derwent and backed by a tree-covered hillside, it fairly takes your breath away. It is not hard to see why this is the premier tourist attraction of the area.
The original house here was the work of Sir William Cavendish and his third wife Bess of Hardwick in the mid 16th Century. Sir William was a Crown Commissioner responsible for dissolving monasteries and his reward was a gift of land here. Sir William died in 1557 with the house partly constructed and Bess completed a house with a central courtyard and four corner towers, facing east towards the hillside. No trace of this can now be seen, but the modern house retains many of the Elizabethan interior walls and the Huntingtower on the hill above the house dates from the 1580s.
The first Duke rebuilt Chatsworth in Classical style between 1686 and 1707, using an obscure Dutch architect called William Talman. He later fired Talman and the house was completed by Thomas Archer.
The Library and North Wing were added by the 6th Duke between 1790 and 1858, the work of Wyatville, and the stables and bridges over the River Derwent were added in the 18th century by Paine. The park was landscaped by the 4th Duke (1720-1764), who engaged ‘Capability’ Brown to reshape the formal garden into the more natural one you see today.
The 6th Duke engaged Joseph Paxton as the head gardener at the age of 23, resulting in the enrichment of the gardens and the creation of the Emperor Fountain (to impress the Czar of Russia when he visited) as well as the Great Conservatory. Paxton worked at Chatsworth the rest of his life, staying for 32 years. The house and gardens have remained little changed since this time, the only major exception being the demolition of the Great Conservatory and its replacement by a maze.
Many famous people have come to Chatsworth, some to stay and others to live there. Among the most famous are Mary Queen of Scots, who was here as a guest and prisoner of Bess of Hardwick and her fourth husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury, between 1573 and 1582. Another was Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who lived here in a famous ‘menage a trois’ with the 5th Duke and Lady Elizabeth Foster in the late 18th century.
The house itself is magnificent, if a little overwhelming, while the gardens are a treat, and the surrounding park is a superb area of open space with fine scenery, woods and views of the house and surrounding area – an excellent place for relatively gentle walks.
It is also possible to visit the farmyard behind the house, where typical farm animals can be seen in context; with milking demonstrations and other insights into life on a farm for both the people and the animals. Next to the farmyard there is a small adventure playground. Great for a day with family at anytime of the year !
The Yorkshire Sculpture Park
The stunning landscape of this park was designed over 200 years ago as a private pleasure ground.
Much thought was given to the planting of thousands of imported exotic trees, to the modelling of hills and valleys, and the use of water and architectural features.
Split up in the late 1940s, the estate has, in recent years, been brought together by YSP, providing open access and an integrated landscape management plan.
For the last 30 years, they have used the landscape, vistas and other features to site a range of fascinating exhibitions, commissions and installations.
They also take care to preserve the spirit of the design of the historic landscape as the estate is restored and protected the for the public and for future generations.
Managing the estate is a massive task which includes working with farmers, foresters, gardeners and artists.
The installation of exhibitions in the open air requires special skills, as does the restoration of planting schemes and drystone walling.
Feilden Clegg Bradley have skilfully created exquisite architecture, which sits sensitively within the landscape.
The new Underground Gallery, cut into the hillside of the Bothy Garden, provides three galleries which are ideal for the display of sculpture.
Beyond the gardens and Underground Gallery are rolling fields, lakes and broad countryside: all are changed dramatically by passing time and seasons.
Brooding skies; bright, frosty mornings; languid summer afternoons; smoky autumn mists – each evokes different sensory experiences of landscape and art.
The Underground Gallery builds on these unique surroundings for art: a context that challenges and inspires their visitors and every artist that works with YSP.
A wondrous place, and one that most definitely deserves a visit !
Part 6 of ‘Our Man from the Roannais in England’ series will continue very, very soon with Saddleworth, Ilkley, and the Art of ‘David Hockney at Saltaire.