Stately bedroom secrets revealed

The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire in one of the restored bedroom with one of their dogs, Quince.  Pictures: Chris Lawton.
The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire in one of the restored bedroom with one of their dogs, Quince. Pictures: Chris Lawton.
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GUESTS who attended the parties of the 6th Duke of Devonshire were entertained in lavish style, and were hosted in magnificent bedrooms after extravagant festivities at Chatsworth.

Until now, visitors to the estate in the Peak District have been unable to see for themselves the high style in which the rooms were decorated, with their sumptuous wallcoverings and fine soft furnishings.

But tomorrow, Chatsworth reopens for the spring, and some of the rooms to which partygoers would have retired have been restored to their Victorian splendour to be viewed by the public for the first time.

Each winter, the estate undergoes “essential maintenance” and during that time, restoration overseen by the 12th Duke, Peregrine Cavendish, has taken place which aims to remember his colourful ancestor.

The 6th Duke, William George Spencer Cavendish, was son of the renowned Duchess Georgiana played by Keira Knightley in the 2008 film.

The year 2011 marks the bi-centenary of his accession to the head of the family.

Sally Hogg, who oversees the marketing of the estate, said at a preview event yesterday: “This year we are celebrating the 6th Duke, who was known for his lavish house parties and his love of entertaining.

“The bedrooms we have opened up are from the time of the 6th Duke, who was known at the Bachelor Duke, and they recreate the conditions in which some of his guests would have spent time after visiting him.”

Experts are also still restoring the bedroom used by the Bachelor Duke himself and visitors will be able to watch them as they work to restore his bed and furnishings to their original condition.

Ms Hogg said another highlight of Chatsworth for the new season was an exhibition curated by the current Duke called Our Favourite Things, which gives an insight into his life and that of his wife.

Among the items on display will be an American football given to the Duke, who is a fan of the New York Giants and a rosary which belonged to King Henry the eighth, but which is now owned by the Duchess.

Ms Hogg added: “The type of football is actually called the Duke, which makes it appropriate, and it was used when the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in the 2008 Superbowl.

“The rosary, which is so beautiful and intricate, is one of the Duchess’ favourite possessions because she is inspired by the fact that the King used to hold it in his hands.”

The Duke and Duchess have also placed on public display a painting by David Hockney, Le Parc des Sources, Vichy, 1970, which they have previously held in their own private art collection.

Visitors who view the bedrooms will also be shown a series of outfits which would have been worn by ladies in the house at the time of the 6th Duke.

Their guide will be dressed as a ladies’ maid.

During the period, ladies were required to change their outfits five or six times a day, and would need help from a servant to struggle in and out of the different dresses for different meals and functions.

Each of the outfits, which have been recreated by the estate’s head of textiles Susie Stokoe, will be available for visitors to view and yesterday staff posing as house guests tried on some of the clothes.

Ms Hogg said the 2011/12 season would also see additions in the garden at Chatsworth, with a new willow sculpture created by Laura Ellen Bacon at the entrance to the kitchen garden.

The display greenhouse will also be opened up for the first time for guided tours, giving visitors the opportunity to get up close to living exhibits in the temperate and Mediterraean zones kept by the estate’s gardeners.