Chatsworth becomes a real-life Downton Abbey as it gives up secrets of stately life

“I’LL be watching from behind a cushion”, Heather Redmond admits.

“It’s going to be nerve-wracking to watch myself on television, but it’s also strange now the cameras are gone. When they left I felt a bit lost.”

At the age of just 25, Mrs Redmond is the first-ever female head guide at Chatsworth, seat of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.

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And now she’s set to become a familiar face to the whole nation, as the doors of the stately home near Bakewell are thrown open for a three-part fly-on-the-wall documentary on BBC One, which starts tonight.

Last year the 12th Duke of Devonshire agreed to let the camera crews in to film behind the scenes at his family home.

The result is the simply-named Chatsworth, a series of one-hour documentaries with a voiceover commentary by Max Beesley.

To create the programme, the BBC film crew was granted access to the 30,000-acre Peak District estate and the people who live and work there.

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These of course include the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire – the last surviving of the famous Mitford sisters – as well as key characters among Chatsworth’s 700 staff.

One of those to have a starring role is Mrs Redmond, who came to work for Chatsworth from the National Trust just over a year ago – at exactly the same time as the camera crews moved in.

“It was on the first day that I found out about filming”, she said.

“I was told that the BBC might be filming for a documentary that they wanted to make, and that turned into six months or so of filming.

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“They were following me in every aspect of my job, while I was learning what I needed to learn about Chatsworth.

“It was all very new to me, especially as I can be a bit of a shy type, but I’m glad we did it.”

Mrs Redmond’s role as head guide is to look after the 60 guides that show visitors around Chatsworth every day.

Other parts of her duties – which the documentary shows her getting to grips with – involve writing new visitors’ guides, training people, dealing with problems and making sure that every aspect of the house runs smoothly.

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“I love the fact that I get paid to chat to people”, she said.

“I’m from the area, so coming to work at Chatsworth was like coming home.

People are genuinely interested in Chatsworth, and the family history of the estate, as well as the collections that are here.

“It’s so easy, with stately homes, to wander through and not necessarily know the background.

“But it’s really nice to find out the quirkier details.”

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Filmed over the entire 2011 opening season, the Chatsworth series gives an insight into the people who live and work in a world visited by many but known to only a few.

The Chatsworth estate has been home to the Cavendish family for more than four centuries, and the house now has the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, Peregrine ‘Stoker’ Cavendish and Amanda Cavendish, at its head.

A Chatsworth spokesman said: “‘Chatsworth’ shows the Duke and Duchess’s involvement in everything that happens at Chatsworth, from tiny details up to large-scale projects such as the recently completed £14m masterplan restoration.”

They added: “The series looks at their relationships with the estate’s hard-working and dedicated staff.

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“As one of Britain’s favourite attractions Chatsworth draws more than one million visitors each year and ‘Chatsworth’ includes stories from the people who live in the local community, those who work and look after the estate, the businesses that are run on the land and the important role the family and the house play in the area.

“From Chatsworth’s 16th century origins with Bess of Hardwick, through the infamous Duchess Georgiana, the great Victorian innovations of the sixth Duke, the series reflects on Chatsworth’s history and compares it with the reality of the present day, demonstrating that both continuity and change have been keys to its survival and prosperity.”

An earlier seeries inside Chatsworth was made by Yorkshire TV in the 1990s. The new programme will be screened on BBC One at 9pm tonight and will thereafter be shown at the same time on Monday, May 21 and Monday, May 28.

Forthcoming events at Chatsworth, meanwhile, include a 1950s-style street party which has been arranged to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Visitors will be encouraged to go along in 1950s fashions and take part in celebrations that echo those that would have taken place for the Queen’s Coronation 60 years ago.