Chatsworth House is set to dazzle visitors when it reopens after undergoing its biggest restoration and conservation of the house, garden and park in 200 years.
The 10-year long programme, costing more than £32m, has seen Chatsworth restored to its full glory, inside and out, as it re-opens to visitors tomorrow.
A special exhibition, running between March and October this year and called ‘Chatsworth Renewed’, will highlight the work of those involved in the restoration process. From rebuilding the Belvedere turrets to replacing vast tracts of lead on the roof; carving the tiniest details in stone using dentistry tools to replacing huge blocks in the walls; careful restoration of priceless artworks to the renovation of famous water features in the garden; over the last decade Chatsworth has been fully restored and made ready for the next century.
Visitors will be able to hear the stories of the skilled people involved in the project, understand the challenges they met, and appreciate the quality of their work. As they peek below floors and behind walls they will be able to shine a light on hidden corners of the house and peel back the layers of craftsmanship and history.
In 2004, a comprehensive structural survey of the house and its many services was undertaken. This demonstrated that major work was necessary to renew the infrastructure of the building and ensure its preservation for the next 100 years, as it was deemed to be at significant risk from fire or flooding.
Weather damage and industrial pollution over hundreds of years meant cleaning and replacing gritstone across the whole exterior of the 300-room house. All the new stone used for repairs came from the same, specially reopened, quarry that provided the stone for the building of the North Wing in the 1820s by the 6th Duke of Devonshire.
The Duke of Devonshire: “The level of forensic research, expertise and craftsmanship applied by so many people has been absolutely inspiring. It has always been a thrilling moment to see the house come into view as you drive across the park and now that view has been made even more magical. With the years of blackened grime now removed from the stone, it looks truly magnificent.”
Traditional skills have been used throughout the restoration for both urgent repairs and to make Chatsworth ready for the future. The restoration of stonework, wood panelling, tapestries, flooring and other structures has revealed much about previous generations following the arrival of the Cavendish family in 1549, as well as how far the skills of masons, joiners, plumbers and weavers have changed, or remained, over centuries.
Remodelling of the house has included the creation of new visitor routes and improved access. A new area, the North Sketch gallery, has been made from older, little used rooms. In 2014, in a ground-breaking fusion of art and architecture by Jacob van der Beugel, a representation of the DNA of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and their heirs became part of the fabric of the building. The entire North Sketch Gallery was lined with handmade ceramic panels. Each of the 659 ochre panels specifically corresponds to one particular slot on the wall, creating an artwork as individual as DNA itself.