Chatsworth with the lid off
It has been the residence of the Cavendish family for 16 generations and is renowned for the quality of its art and landscape.
Over the centuries the house and its gardens has evolved and developed to reflect the different tastes of its residents.
And now the people who are responsible for maintaining its vast estate are set to share their secrets about the painstaking work which goes on behind the scenes to get the house ready for thousands of visitors every single year.
Among those delving into the estate’s hidden history will be its current owners, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, who will share their favourite treasures with the public when they open their doors as part of Chatsworth’s annual Winter Talks programme.
They are set to reveal their favourite places both inside the house and out, as well as in the garden and the park.
And the couple will be telling both familiar and unknown stories about Chatsworth and the history surrounding the estate.
The programme, which will take place on selected Thursdays and Fridays over the next three months, includes sessions with a range of speakers covering the various roles involved in maintaining the house and its grounds.
Jonathan Fish, marketing manager at Chatsworth, said: “The Duke and Duchess are incredibly involved in all aspects of Chatsworth and the programme of Winter Talks is a wonderful opportunity for them, along with the team at Chatsworth, to talk candidly about their experiences, the areas they’re most passionate about and plans for the future.
“The programme is also a great opportunity to gain a fascinating insight into some of the lesser known aspects of Chatsworth from the people who are working across the estate.
“These sessions tend to be popular and provide an ideal focus for a winter visit to the estate before we re-open the house, garden and farmyard on March 25.”
The house was built in the 1560s by Bess of Hardwick.
Today Chatsworth contains works of art that span 4,000 years, from ancient Roman and Egyptian sculpture, and masterpieces by Rembrandt, Reynolds and Veronese, to work by outstanding modern artists, including Lucian Freud, Edmund de Waal and David Nash.
And among those set to reveal the house’s hidden history will be the estate’s domain senior supervisor, Dave Spencer.
He will discuss how the complicated water system that feeds the Canal Pond and impressive Emperor Fountain from lakes above the house is maintained.
Former Chatsworth head housekeeper Christine Robinson, who worked at the estate for four decades, will explore the history of everyday objects in Chatsworth’s stunning catalogue. She will talk about the care needed to maintain the precious items which take pride of place throughout the house.
And visitors will also be able to hear head of gardens Steve Porter give an insight into the tricky job of maintaining a vast plant collection for more than 500,000 yearly visitors.
For more information about the series of talks and to purchase tickets visit www.chatsworth.org.
The Duke of Devonshire, Peregrine Cavendish, 72, is a peer and chairman of the Devonshire Arms Hotel Group, a chain of hotels around his North Yorkshire estate and his family seat – Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.
He is the only surviving son of Andrew Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire and his wife, the former Deborah Mitford.
He succeeded to the dukedom following the death of his father on May 3 2004. Prior to this succession, he was styled Marquess of Hartington.
The duke is well known in the world of horse racing and served as Her Majesty’s Representative at Ascot and chairman of Ascot Racecourse.
He is the chancellor of the University of Derby.
It is believed that the duke is worth an estimated £800m today.