If you turn to face the low wall, you should be able to see one of the sides of Chatsworth house peering over the top. The house has gone through many changes since the first house was built on the site by Bess of Hardwick and her second husband William Cavendish in 1549. They bought the manor for a sum of £600 which in today’s money is around £165,000. The construction of the original house began in 1552, but the only surviving and complete structure from this period is the Hunting Lodge on the top of the hill.
Cavendish died 1557, and after another marriage which ended in her husband dying in 1565, Bess married for a fourth and final time to George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury. When he was appointed the custodian of Mary, Queen of Scots by Elizabeth I, between the years 1569 – 1584, Chatsworth also served to keep Mary a prisoner. Her rooms on the east side of the house are still called the Queen of Scots Apartments today, even though the rooms themselves are much changed.
During the Civil War, the house was occupied by both sides as the 3rd Earl fled to the continent and did not return to Chatsworth until the Restoration of the monarchy. By this time, the Elizabethan rooms were beginning to look outdated and were also becoming increasingly unsafe.
Under the 4th Earl, the house underwent a series of much needed repairs, which the he enjoyed immensely and added more to the house than originally intended. This new Chatsworth was finished in 1707, not long before he died.
The nineteenth-century saw dramatic changes to the house with the addition of the remarkable and iconic North wing by the 6th Duke. This transformed Chatsworth into what we now see today.
During the twentieth century, more knowledge was gathered in how to preserve old estates, but before much could be done under the 10th Duke, World War II broke out and the house became occupied by a girls’ boarding school. The end of the century also marked the opening of the Chatsworth gardens and house to the general public. This has continued to present day where the current Duke and Duchess of Devonshire work hard to continue efforts in restoring, renovating and caring for the house.