This elaborate country house nestling in the Derwent valley on the moors of the Peak District attracts droves of tourist in the spring and summer periods. It is one of the grandest in England. The origins of this famous building date back to the year 1552, to the time of Sir William Cavendish (1505-1557), second husband of the ambitious and ruthless Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury known as "Bess of Hardwick" (c. 1527-1608) responsible also for the building of nearby Hardwick Hall
William Cavendish, originally from Suffolk, was himself a ruthless character, who like many in that age, was fortunate enough (and ruthless enough) to benefit from the upheaval of the Reformation and consequent dissolution of ecclesiastical property. It was Bess that persuaded him to dispose of the property he had acquired in other areas and invest all his wealth in her county.
The splendour of Chatsworth is therefore the end result of the ruthless ambitions of a ruthless couple and their descendants who knew how to take full advantage of politcal and social upheaval to further their own ends.
Their second son, William, inherited Chatsworth as he also inherited Hardwick Hall and later became the 1st Earl of Devonshire (1618). However, it was not until his descendant the 4th Earl of Devonshire carried an elaborate building programme in 1686 which included a transformation of the external walls.
A view of Chatworth House from the river Derwent
This ambitious programme was completed only in 1707 and the result was a fine Baroque structure that emerged from the original, more modest, 16th century building.
A view of Chatsworth House from the gardens
Not content with the radical transformation of the building he also undertook the enormous task of transforming the area around it. The gardens were completely redesigned. The vast formal garden was the work of George London and Henry Wise, the Frenchman Grillet designed the water cascade and Thomas Archer created the building at the source of the water.
The formal garden was altered once again in the latter half of the 18th century this time by Lancelot ("Capability") Brown in accordance with the taste for the natural, romantic and sublime.