On Monday of our second week in England, Jeneane and I visited the Chatsworth House, known to Austen fans as Pemberley. My breath caught upon first seeing the house. It was just as Elizabeth had said:
“Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!”
-Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 43
The house was gorgeous. I could hardly wait to get inside, to stroll down those halls and imagine myself as Elizabeth Bennet, seeing its splendor for the first time.
Chatsworth’s history begins with Elizabeth Talbot, known as “Bess of Hardwick,” and her second husband, Sir William Cavendish. The couple bought the Chatsworth Manor in 1549, and started building in 1552. Today the house belongs to the 12th Duke of Devonshire and his wife, the Duchess. Both the Duke and Duchess, as well as their son, Lord Burlington, have a passion for art and sculpture. Together they have made Chatsworth home to one of the largest private collections in Britain. They display contemporary art along side the historical collections, making for an even more enriching experience when visiting.
There were over 30 rooms for us to walk through and see, each filled with ornate displays (I began to wonder how the Cavendish family lived there – were they always on show? It seemed very…stuffy to live in.) and beautiful artwork. Learning the history of each room and some of the objects in them was fascinating too!
My favorite room was the last room we visited, full of white marble statues. This room in particular was used during the filming of the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, and included a bust of Mr. Darcy himself!
After the tour of the house, I once again visited a gift shop and spent probably more than I should have. But I don’t care, because I bought several new Austenesque books, including an absolutely gorgeous copy of Pride and Prejudice (I know, I already own six copies…but how could I resist buying another at Pemberley of all places?). After that Jeneane and I stopped in a little shop to get some lunch, and we ate outside in the courtyard behind the house. Next was a tour of the greenhouses (and yes, I says houses, because there were several) and then off to explore the rest of the grounds.
We spent the afternoon walking along the wooded paths, through gardens, past lakes and ponds, and even through a hedge maze! (We might have gotten just a little bit lost once or twice). At one point we stopped to lay in the sun, and I read a chapter of Pride and Prejudice aloud to Jeneane. (Chapter 35). I felt such a thrill to read those familiar words aloud while lounging in Mr. Darcy’s gardens.
It was a well spent day. I think I could wander along those grounds for days and not get bored. There was so much to explore! But I had plenty of time to reflect on everything I’d seen on our five hour bus ride back to London (it was closer than Bath), so that was nice. And by then I had become quite proficient at writing on the bus, so I had plenty to amuse myself.
Coming up next, I’ll share my tales of London! We didn’t spend much time there, but we did see some amazing things, including a live performance of Phantom of the Opera! So stay tuned, dear readers!