‘Chatsworth Renewed’: uncover the restoration work at Chatsworth House

  • 02 Mar 2018
  • Article

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 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.

The Duke of Devonshire

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.

Among the most interesting finds have been objects and traces left behind by workmen over the centuries. As well as working sketches, newspaper cuttings and things that have been dropped, there are specific messages from the past to the future.

Chatsworth Renewed is all about those men and women whose work, often unseen, transforms raw materials into the jewel that is Chatsworth today. During the season there will be opportunities to get hands-on with the materials they used, including stone, wood, metals and wool; as well as to discover what runs silently and invisibly in the pipes and conduits behind the walls and underneath the floors. Visitors will even be able to have a go at weaving to appreciate how the 17th century tapestries were made, and what it takes to care for them today.

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. Alongside this and other contemporary ceramic artworks, visitors will be able to see archaeological clay finds that have been unearthed, including a rare fragment of the original Tudor house that Bess of Hardwick built.

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