The English countryside is dotted with ‘stately homes,’ whose families can no longer afford their upkeep (after their serfs were educated and made lives of their own) and have been turned over to land trusts and opened to the public. I don’t mean to sound too flippant, because my husband will attest that I do rather enjoy visiting large homes and castles, and walking the grounds. And besides without these houses we wouldn’t have Downtown Abbey and Miss Marple would have no where to solve murders.
And without Chatsworth House we wouldn’t have the Colin Firth version of Pride & Prejudice. Chatsworth House served as the Pemberley Estate for the filming of the series.
But as a house I did find it a little bit disappointing. The halls are decorated in the rococo style, which is overly gilded and garish by modern standards. Once you adjust to the stylistic differences over the centuries; as you tour the house you’re just left with this feeling that it was some rich person’s house, which was occasionally visited by members of the royal family. But none of the Dukes played a particularly prominent role in British history.
The walls are filled with portraits; and each room is laid how it would have been used, with a brief description. But a lot of the pieces are reproductions, or on loan from the Victoria & Albert Museum, not original to the house or its inhabitants.
The one interesting anecdote that I missed on my visit, but later learned from who had also visited the house, was that there was once a brewery on the grounds that fed the main house via a pipe; but they had to stop that delivery method when they discovered that the servants were tapping in to the pipeline and siphoning off some of the beer.
The one stand out feature of Chatsworth House is its grounds! In fact you can buy a ticket just for the grounds. If the weather is nice I would highly recommend packing a picnic and dining ‘al fresco’ like this young couple. (What I have come to discover is that I really like picnicing.) Though there are several reasonably affordable dining options on the grounds, if the weather isn’t cooperating or if you didn’t plan ahead.
It is not just the grounds are pretty and well maintained, but the Duchess of Chatsworth partners with Sotheby’s to showcase modern art sculptures. These sculptures are for sale, so I would imagine that they rotate out from time to time.
While this may be a lukewarm review, don’t let that discourage you from going if you are interested. (Tip: By buying your ticket online the 3 pound parking charge). There is a farmyard further on the grounds that probably has more engaging activities, especially if you have children. But what often happens with traveling is that, is that there is more to do than there is time, so if you are deciding among several activities hopeful this post will help you.