The iconic gardens and parkland of Chatsworth are a breath-taking sight which covers 105 acres of the surrounding area, and have been constructed, reconstructed and revived over 500 years. The present gardens make an entire day out with so much to explore and see.
The original Elizabethan garden was constructed by Sir William of Cavendish and Bess of Hardwick in 1555 after they began building the original Chatsworth house in 1552, and was much smaller than the current garden today. After their deaths, there was little evidence left of the work done by the successive Earls until the 4th Earl who became the 1st Duke of Devonshire in 1694. One of the only remaining visual reminders from this period is the Mary Queen of Scots Bower, shown here in a print.
From the Bower, follow the road up towards the house until you reach the entrance to the gardens. Look out for the tall Emperor Fountain which you might be able to see to the right of the house.
The 1st Duke of Devonshire gave Chatsworth an entire reconstruction, rebuilding the house in a more classic style and the garden alongside it, embracing the styles found in French, Italian and Dutch gardens. The next successive Dukes continued his work, and the notable changes made by the 4th Duke are still there today and the design of the gardens remains very similar. Key examples from this period are the discernible Canal Pond, the Great Fountain (eventually improved under Paxton and the 6th Duke to become the Emperor Fountain of today), the Willow Fountain, the Cascade, and Flora’s Temple.
The 5th Duke was rarely at Chatsworth, and thus left the garden unattended until the 6th Duke restored it in the early nineteenth-century, appointing the noted Joseph Paxton as head gardener. Paxton installed many of the features we see today, as well as designing and building the Great Conservatory which had to be destroyed in 1920 after the war when there was not enough coal to provide heat, killing off the plants.
The 7th and 8th Dukes were faced with debt from the work done during the time of the 6th Duke, so the garden was merely maintained instead of receiving drastic changes. The print shown here from 1872 is penned (although unclear to view here) saying ‘The Prince of Wales visits Chatsworth’. Indeed, the 7th Duke frequently entertained the future King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra at the house.
The garden was neglected again through the wars under the 9th and 10th Dukes, but the 11th Duke was able to give it a modern revival, further supported by the current 12th Duke of Devonshire. Today, the garden is thriving and full of many different routes to walk, with many opportunities for refreshments and enjoyment.