A Chatsworth Christmas

IMG_1939Can you imagine spending Christmas in a stately home?  Chatsworth House in Derbyshire would be the one for me.  With the house beautifully themed and decorated all through December, wouldn’t it be wonderful to close the gates on Christmas Eve and have it all to yourself, just for a little while?  With a select few friends, of course.

Ideally I suppose there should be a carpet of snow, so you could hop, skip and jump your footprints into the lawns.  Which fire to drink your mug of hot chocolate by afterwards could be a big decision.  Of 126 rooms, almost 100 are never seen by the public. Think of the game of Christmas hide and seek you could play!

Come on!  Let’s go inside, shall we?  The house has been the family home of the Cavendish family since 1549.  A lady called Bess of Hardwick determined to settle in her native county, with her Suffolk born husband Sir William Cavendish, Treasurer of the King’s Chamber.  The riverside house was Bess’ project, carried on even after her husband died and she remarried.

Of course the house has changed greatly since it was first built, and, in the manner of all grand mansions, has a colourful history.  Mary Queen of Scots is known to have stayed here, whilst a prisoner.  In 1608, when Bess died, the house passed to her eldest son, but was purchased from him by his brother, William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire, for a measly £10,000.

Where to look first?  Christmas trees or ceiling?

Where to look? Christmas trees or up at that ceiling?
I mean, seriously- who lives in a house like this?

I mean, seriously- who lives in a house like this?

It is extraordinary!

It is quite extraordinary!

And that applies to almost everywhere you look.

Over time the house was added to and altered.  After World War II, the upkeep proved impossible.  Debt and death duties had accrued, and in 1946 a trust was established to administer the estate.  Today the house has a separate trust, and visitors pour through the gates, especially at Christmas.  The current Duke and Duchess of Devonshire are happy to be able to maintain and share their family home in this way.

How about this for a dining room?

How about this for a dining room?

Opulence doesn’t even begin to describe it.

I haven't even shown you the Painted Staircase yet.

And I haven’t even shown you the Painted Staircase yet.

The White Queen was here, but she's gone now.

The White Queen was here, but she’s gone now.

Just a small clue left behind.

Just a small clue left behind.

I expect you guessed, I came here to see “Narnia”.  And now I’m waiting for Boxing Day when “Death comes to Pemberley” will be screened on TV.  It was filmed in part at Chatsworth.  Based on the novel by P.D. James, it is a fictitious continuation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”.  Fittingly this year is the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s novel.  I find that quite amazing.

It may not be in a stately home, but wherever you spend it, I hope your Christmas is beautiful.

Christmas in “Narnia”

Russet leaves for a russet lady!

Russet leaves for a russet lady!

My first surprise of the day.  Lisa swept towards me- “Mum, I’m here!”  The flowing locks were a dazzling tangerine orange.  “It was just time for a change. I was tired of the red!”  And it suited her.  She looked radiant and happy- a look I love to see.

The venue?  Chatsworth House in the beautiful Peak District.  Every year this glorious home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire is themed for Christmas. This year it’s “Narnia”and totally irresistible.  My daughter has been a lifelong fan of the book by C.S. Lewis and the numerous films, so I planned a Christmas treat, for both of us. It’s quite a distance from home and I’ve never been inside the house before.  For Lisa it was about an hour’s drive from Nottingham.  Me- I hopped on the coach!  After the hugs and kisses it was off to see the spectacular grounds.

Sumptuous afternoon tea next, then the best bit!  Come with me to “Narnia”.

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There were dressing-up clothes for children in some areas, and of course, Lisa couldn’t resist!  A Christmas Trail, finding cuddly Aslans and clues along the way, was also meant to keep the children happy.  Guess who else enjoyed it?

Are you ready to be scared yet?  It’s time for the witch!

I was joking- she's much too pretty to be scarey!

I was joking- she’s much too pretty to be scarey!

Note the small Aslan, keeping her company.  Another clue for the Christmas Trail.  But now for the really sad part!

He's still breathing!  It's going to be ok.

He’s still breathing!  It’s going to be ok.

Time for a feast!

Time for a celebratory feast!

All's well that ends well!

All’s well that ends well!

I hope you enjoyed my little trip to Narnia.  It was the best Christmas present I could ever have asked for.  And now, I really must get on with my Christmas preparations.  I haven’t even bought the tree yet!  But I’ve made a list.

Chatsworth House is the most delightful setting and I will be posting more about the house and gardens.  If you are anywhere in the vicinity, “Narnia” will be available till 23rd December.  The link will give you directions.  I can absolutely recommend it.