Sunday, 31 January 2010

Wedding Fair

It’s a great time to be part of the Events team at the moment; we’re hosting our very first wedding fair in February, so there is a real buzz of excitement as we pull together the final arrangements. I’ve been out and about visiting lots of wedding specialists, and looked at loads of beautiful wedding gowns and shoes, wonderful! It’s been my job to make sure that everyone knows the wedding fair is happening, so I’ve been busy putting together adverts, delivering leaflets, setting up photo shoots and generally spreading the word to ensure we have a fantastic turn out on the day. It’s going to be a hectic and enjoyable day; I can’t wait to meet all the excited brides-to-be, as they plan their big day.

Kay Rotchford - Sales Executive, Trading

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Restoring the formality

Now the snow has receded we are able to get on with some of our other winter work.  We have started on quite a large project to straighten and tidy the blocks of pleached Limes on the south side of the House.  They were planted in 1962 and are now a very dominant feature of the area, like all living features occasionally they need bringing back into line (literally!).  We are using string lines and will be trimming all growth back to them using loppers and secateurs, we will also take the opportunity to edge the lawn to the same line to finish the whole job off.

Steve Porter
Assistant Head of Gardens and Domain


Tuesday, 26 January 2010

I love Paris...

The Duchess, Lady Burlington, Paul Jenkins our Head Buyer and I have just returned from a very successful buying trip to Paris. It would be fair to say that after four days of trade fairs and Parisian galleries and shops we are all well and truly exhausted. However that exhaustion will be short lived as we see the results of our buying trip make their way into Chatsworth for the new season. The next three weeks see us attending a wide selection of UK fairs and buying meetings looking for some great gifts. I’d better look out my comfy shoes!

Alan Caldwell

Head of Trading

Friday, 22 January 2010

1st Dukes Great Fountain plays again!

One of our larger tasks this winter is the dredging of Morton’s pond, this very old and pretty pond is missed by a lot of visitors, being hidden from site above the Grotto pond. Over the last few days we have pumped out water to reduce the level until we were able to pull the wooden bung we had found. After about forty minutes the flow reached the canal pond where the original jet feeding the 1st Dukes erupted with a short but muddy display which probably has not been seen for many years This fountain apparently originally reached 94 feet (28m) and was then in 1844 superseded by the Paxton engineered Emperor Fountain we see today.

Steve Porter
Assistant Head of Gardens and Domain

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Polishing our marbles!

We have polished the marble pavement of the north corridor today – it looks wonderful at this stage, without the furniture. We decided not to replace the carpet as small pieces of grit can get trapped between the floor and the underfelt and the constant abrasion would do more damage than the tramp of feet. It’s worth pausing to try and count just how many different colours and shades there are in it altogether – it truly is a work of art in its own right. The 6th Duke had it laid in 1841 to distract the eye from the irregular alignment of the windows and doorways, and it certainly achieves that! He wrote in his handbook ‘…so brightly was it polished it was difficult to make anybody walk on it.’ I’m sure our visitors will enjoy the opportunity to do so this year.


Christine Robinson

Head Housekeeper

Hello down there!

Whilst felling trees a gardener took the opportunity to enjoy the view from the top of a large Oak and spy down on his colleagues.  The Sweet Chestnut on the ground and this Oak have both come to the end of their life.  Their clearance will make way for new and exciting planting later this year.

Steve Porter
Assistant Head of Gardens and Domain


Thursday, 14 January 2010

Trees on the move!

As part of our winter work we are removing, pruning and planting many trees and shrubs to open, improve and sometimes obscure views but occasionally trees are in the wrong place and just need to be moved.  In this case a young sweet chestnut is on the move to ensure a great view onto the house is not blocked in the future, all being well the tree will re-establish and flourish in its new position.  Tree moving at Chatsworth has great historic precedence with the 6th Duke and his Head Gardener, Joseph Paxton moving a forty year old weeping ash in 1830 from Derby to create a centrepiece to the drive outside the North entrance to the house.  The tree is still there to this day!

Steve Porter

Assistant Head of Gardens and Domain

Making space for the new!

Deciding to take down trees is always difficult but when you have young healthy replacements that were luckily planted a good few years ago the decision is much easier.  These Limes originally framed the wonderful approach to the stable block however had needed to be pollarded to stumps, were rotting and declining for many years and their replacements are now much bigger and healthier so it’s time to take them down   This once completed will allow the younger trees to expand and form good shapes as well improving views and this important approach.

Steve Porter

Assistant Head of Gardens and Domain

Heathy Lea in "Cosmo Brides"

Great news from Paul and the catering team this morning. “Cosmopolitan Bride” have ran a small article on our range of weddings at Heathy Lea. The team has been working hard for weeks on increasing the promotion of Chatsworth as a venue for weddings and special occasions and getting into “Cosmo” is a real achievement. Well done to all involved.


Alan Caldwell

Head of Trading

Friday, 8 January 2010

Masterplan work

Here are a few photos of the newly painted dome. The scaffolding is being removed next week to complete the decoration of the walls and then hand ground glass will be fitted to replace the clear panes in the windows.

The dome will be revealed in all its glory when the house re-opens in March.

Diane Naylor
Photo Librarian

Gardeners at work

Despite the snow we have been able to make a start on our long list of tasks we have planned during the closed season.  Whilst we are unable to undertake any ground work or planting we have been busy cutting and clearing failing, dangerous and overgrown trees and shrubs.  The hard ground at present allows us to remove debris and timber without making a mess and the resulting bonfires keep our circulation going!  

This work will allow space for new planting to happen as well as opening views as you can see from this photo of a newly cleared view onto the rockery.

Steve Porter

Assistant Head of Gardens and Domain



Thursday, 7 January 2010


Well done to Andre and the team at the Farm shop who have just won another award.

They have  today been awarded the “Countryside Alliance Local Food Award for the East Midlands”. This is a fantastic achievement and the award can now sit alongside FARMA “Farm shop of the year 2009” and “On farm Butchery of the year 2009”.

We are all very proud of the whole team.


Alan Caldwell

Head of Trading



Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Dawn Patrol

When I listen to the radio and hear of the struggles people are having on the roads, I feel so lucky to live so close to work! Who could beat the walk to work today from Edensor village across the Park to Chatsworth?


The rosy blush of dawn was just breaking above Beeley moor, and the stark silhouettes of trees against the sky were fantastic. I was just thinking that things couldn’t get much better, when I heard a strange clattering sound and saw two fallow deer stags locking antlers on the path just ahead of me near the bridge. When they heard me they stopped, startled, and just vaulted from a standing start over the fence – just like Bambi! The walk home tonight will be equally magical I’m sure, now that we’ve had several more inches of snow to add to the scene.



Christine Robinson

Head housekeeper


New View Through: part 3

Well, we finally did it but only thanks to the help of three key men from the Gardens team, Ian Webster, Steve Porter and Matthew Bullen, who came to our rescue, and added much needed 'weight' and skill to our amateur efforts.

We had taken on so much more than we realised and much of that was holly, an usually un-festive type, described as 'pig holly' by Ian Webster.......... and he should know; he did also say that years ago this pig holly was fed to cattle in the bleakest part of the winter, I wonder if anyone can corroborate this?  Anyway this loathsome, prickly, tentacle-minded greenery is now burnt and without it the view from the end of Morton's Pond down to the Grotto Pond is an improvement, as I hope the before and after snaps show.


Stoker Devonshire


Monday, 4 January 2010

A cold night

Over the last few weeks we have had many cold and snowy nights but last night we recorded – 11 centigrade.  This we think could well be the coldest we have recorded at Chatsworth for many years possibly since the early eighties?

This however is still slightly warmer than Braemar in Aberdeenshire where last night the temperature fell to – 16.7 centigrade!  Ironically having moved up from Cornwall a couple of years ago the warmest place in the U.K last night was the Isles of Scilly with a barmy 7.8 centigrade.


Steve Porter

Assistant Head Gardener




Dowager Duchess gives a sparkling Radio 4 interview

At the end of December, the Dowager gave Peter White an interview for his BBC Radio 4 programme, 'In Touch'. Ostensibly it was about her failing eye-sight, but it ranged far wider than this, from her love of Elvis and chickens, to her teenage encounter with a pre-war Hitler. A great listen at the start of her 90th birthday year: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00pg4xg#synopsis

Simon Seligman

First Day Back

First day back at work for many of us and all of the team have made it through the snow. After the excitement of Christmas we now have the reality of stocktaking. Team is well prepared and has done a lot of pre-work prior to the break so we should complete it in good time. Buying team is already getting excited about new ranges that we have lined up for the coming season. I can’t wait to see these ranges in the shops.

Alan Caldwell

Head of Trading