Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Recycling old carpet

Within the garden we have recently been busy making the best use of some old carpet that has not seen the light of day for many years.  It is being cut into mats that are placed around young trees and shrubs before being covered in leaf mould.  This not only prevents weed growth around the plant but conserves moisture which is critical through a plant’s first few years.  As the leaf mould decomposes it will leach nutrients through the carpet feeding the tree and indeed the carpet will eventually rot away itself.

Steve Porter

Assistant Head of Gardens and Domain



Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Covering the walls in the restored Oak Stairs


No two days are ever the same in my job, and the last two will stand out for a long time as being particularly special!  After 18 months of preparation, working with scaled drawings to devise the new picture hang for the restored Oak Stairs, we finally began to place the paintings yesterday.   The new picture hang, which stretches from floor to ceiling in a space the full height of the building, will contain portraits of the family, the British Monarchy, and a Russian Tsar and Tsarina.  Many of these are larger than life full-length portraits, and a special hanging system has been devised by a structural engineer, with months of preparation work.  Now the decorators have finished we have begun the long process of installing the works of art.  Many of the paintings have had to be carried from their storage location, through the gardens and in through the North Wing, the only place with doors big enough for them to pass through!  Then, having climbed three flights of stairs, the paintings are being painstakingly maneuvered into position on the scaffolding so that they can be hung on the walls.  These photographs show the portrait of George IV, newly cleaned and conserved arrive through the doors to the Scots Apartment before being raised onto the scaffolding and lowered into position. The second photograph shows it looking resplendent on the wall, along with a portrait of the 6th Duke.  As the hang progresses the scaffolding will be carefully lowered until the space is totally clear and the paintings can be viewed without obstruction…. I can’t wait!


Matthew Hirst

Head of Arts and Historic Collections

Monday, 22 February 2010

Using the Devonshire title

Some readers of this blog may have seen a big article about Chatsworth, based on an interview with me, in the Sunday Times magazine on 21 Feb, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/court_and_social/article7032213.ece, and subsequent media coverage of one aspect of the conversation I had with the Sunday Times journalist. Further to these reports in the press, I would like to clarify my position on the use of the Devonshire title.  Should hereditary peers be removed from the House of Lords I would indeed strongly consider dropping the public use of my title, as I believe that I would have to consider and respond to any future democratic mandate against hereditary peerage. However, my principle duty will continue to be to preserve and enhance Chatsworth itself for future generations and I remain immensely respectful of my Devonshire predecessors who have bequeathed us this very special place. 


The Duke of Devonshire

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Wedding Fair Cancelled

With much sadness we have taken the decision this morning to cancel our wedding fair. We woke this morning to heavy snow which has made it impossible for many of the suppliers attending the fair to get here. I know from my journey this morning the roads in and around Bakewell are a little slippy.


My team have worked tirelessly for three months to plan what was going to be a fantastic wedding fair. The rooms look remarkable, the chef and function teams are ready to go and our suppliers have made their stands look amazing. Outside the domain and garden teams are doing a fantastic job clearing the roads in and out of Chatsworth.


The overriding feeling in the team is, as ever, one of optimism and the debate at the moment is how soon can we re-schedule a new event!


Alan Caldwell

Head of Trading



Friday, 12 February 2010

What a climb!

Perched on the hillside 400 feet above Chatsworth stands the Hunting Tower – what a fabulous location for a holiday cottage! I love to think of the variety of people who must have passed through its doors over the last 450 years. We have been busy spring cleaning the Tower ready for this season’s holiday-makers, and this year the work has involved the replacement of the top 15 feet of the flagpole, which had become rotten and allowed water to drain right through to the base of the flagpole socket and damage the ceiling in the rooms below. Redecorating the rooms is now completed, and the 40 foot high scaffold on top of the Tower is due to be dismantled today so that everything will be in order for the visitors arriving to stay in the Tower next week. The views from the roof are truly amazing, but I’m glad I wasn’t the one required to go to the top of the scaffolding!


Christine Robinson

Head Housekeeper






Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The Wolfman arrives in cinemas...and the dirt was real

The Wolfman movie is out this weekend, and it is starting to get reviews, some fantastic, a few less sure. Any media I have spoken to, who have seen the film, say Chatsworth looks great, with wide sweeping shots of the house and park. The house looks uncared for, and they assume this was all special effects. But the crew, when they were with us 2 years ago, spent 4 weeks making Chatsworth look old and neglected - mud on the windows, ivy and other plants creeping up the walls, rough turf brought in to go over the lawns, broken statues, leaves and mud. The skill with which they transformed the house, and cleared it up again, was amazing to watch.
Only the dome on the roof, and the fire, have been added with special effects....
Simon Seligman

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Masterplan progress continues, clean stone appears, and a new guidebook is about to go to print.

Every day now there is visible progress in the masterplan spaces, as rooms become clear for decoration (for example, green silk has started going up on the South Sketch Gallery walls), scaffolding comes down to reveal golden stone clean for the first time since it was quarried locally in the 1830s (the photos show the colour before and after cleaning), and works of art re-appear, in sparkling form, back from conservators.
And this week we will sign off the new 120 page guidebook, which will be the first since the house opened commercially in 1949 to treat the house, collections, garden, park, stables, farmyard, stand wood and estate as one inter-related work of art. Claire Fowler, seconded to masterplan interpretation from within the education and communications team, has led this huge project single-handedly, and done a truly exceptional job. When the book appears, alongside the new mini-guide, and the new audio tour (which we are hoping will have images and some video too), I hope Claire will feel immensely proud of her achievement, and that visitors will enjoy the fruits of her work. There will be more to say about the guidebook team nearer to opening...
Simon Seligman

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Jungle warfare!

Even though it’s early February and the snow is falling again, the glasshouse team are keeping warm in the tropics.  During January or February the tropical section of our 1970 Display House is cut back and tidied ready for another year’s growth.  Cutting back huge banana leaves, tidying the paw-paw tree and pruning various citrus are all part of the job.  In the centre of the pond you can see the square planter where the Victoria water lily grows, this first flowered at Chatsworth for the 6th Duke and his Head Gardener, Joseph Paxton in 1849.  As you can see Rowan is looking through the soil as each year we hope to find some seed for the following season’s plant.

Steve Porter
Assistant Head of Gardens and Domain