Chatsworth House's biggest garden transformation for 200 years by Matlock artist

A Matlock artist has created a sculptural centrepiece as part of Chatsworth House’s biggest garden transformation for nearly 200 years.
Matlock-based Laura Ellen Bacon in Natural Course. Credit: Matthew Ling.Matlock-based Laura Ellen Bacon in Natural Course. Credit: Matthew Ling.
Matlock-based Laura Ellen Bacon in Natural Course. Credit: Matthew Ling.

Designed to appear as if seeping from the ground and flowing down a woodland slope Natural Course has been created from more than 100 tonnes of local stone.

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The artist, Matlock-based Laura Ellen Bacon, designed the sculpture and worked with a small team of local dry stone wallers to build it in a previously undeveloped, 15-acre area of the Bakewell attraction called Arcadia.

The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire at Chatsworth House. Picture: Anne Shelley.The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire at Chatsworth House. Picture: Anne Shelley.
The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire at Chatsworth House. Picture: Anne Shelley.
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Natural Course will join more than 20 sculptures in the Chatsworth garden by post-war masters including Antony Gormley, Angela Conner, Elisabeth Frink, Allen Jones, Michael Craig-Martin and Barry Flanagan.

Peregrine Cavendish, the Duke of Devonshire, who owns Chatsworth House, said: “We were keen on a new sculpture for the garden that strongly evoked both Chatsworth itself and the Derbyshire landscape from which it was born so I visited Laura at her studio in Cromford and we talked about how this might be achieved.

"We gave her the freedom to explore the garden and develop her vision for the location, the materials used, and the sculptural form.

"The use of local stone and the dry stone walling method roots Natural Course in its environment and surroundings and its innovative construction is in keeping with the radical approach taken by so many of the other artists whose works can be seen in the garden today.”

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Different from a typical boundary wall, the wall has 40 metres of contours and curves.

At more than 10 metres in length and two metre in height with a base width varying from 50cm to three metres, visitors will be able to enter up to five metres into Natural Course, "giving a feeling of being swallowed by stone".

Situated in woodland between two glades in the Arcadia area, new paths surround the sculpture and have been laid by the garden team using quarry spoil.

The area includes several newly planted Davidia or ‘Ghost Tree’, alongside thousands of flowering perennials including Epimedium, Hellebore and Iris.

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Usually working in wood, often willow, Laura Ellen Bacon is best known for creating large-scale organic forms but this was her first major commission in stone.

The Peak District home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, Chatsworth has begun work on the biggest transformation of its garden since Joseph Paxton's work finished nearly 200 years ago.

Having completed a £32m project to conserve the house a few years ago, the Duke and Duchess have since made similar plans for the garden.

The Arcadia area is part of a garden transformation project that also includes Tom Stuart-Smith’s re-modelled Rock Garden, the Maze borders, the Ravine, and Dan Pearson’s re-development of the Trout Stream and the Jack Pond.

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It includes the clearance of previously inaccessible areas, large-scale structure installations, new sculpture commissions, the movement and addition of hundreds of tonnes of rock, hundreds of thousands of new plants and hundreds of new trees, as well as new pathways taking visitors into previously under-explored areas of the garden.

The 105-acre garden is the product of nearly 500 years of "careful cultivation".

It retains many early features, including the Canal Pond, Cascade and Duke's Greenhouse.

The famous waterworks include the 300-year-old Cascade, the Willow Tree Fountain and the impressive, gravity-fed Emperor Fountain, which reaches heights up to 90 metres.