Chatsworth Estate: Oh! What a Lovely Garden
Multimedia Intern Ally Burguieres was in England last week for a linguistics conference held at the University of Sheffield. While there, she found some time to enjoy the countryside . . . (And if her academic adviser is reading this, she attended plenty of talks on language ideology and political discourse, too.)
When the weather is nice in England, there is no better diversion from the thrills of the northern town of Sheffield than the nearby Chatsworth Estate. The site was a primary filming location for 2005’s Pride and Prejudice film, and reportedly inspired Jane Austen’s original description of Mr. Darcy’s home, Pemberley, in the book, first published in 1813. For centuries Chatsworth has been one of England’s most spectacular and visited attractions.
“[Elizabeth] had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste,” Austen wrote in her novel. The words ring true today—the magnificent house, filled with treasures of antiquity as well as modern art, is curated with an informal though luxurious touch, and the gardens, at once impeccably manicured and wholly organic, are often called the UK’s finest.
The 300-year-old Cascade fountain runs from the top of a hill toward the house, and visitors are welcome to splash (along with their dogs) in all 400 yards of it. Most of the property is open grassland, where visitors picnic along the banks of small streams and sit nose-to-nose with grazing sheep (seriously), but the gardens themselves take hours (if not more) to fully explore. “We’ve lived in Sheffield for 27 years,” a man reading the paper in the rose garden with his wife, told me. “And we’ve never been to this part of the garden.”
Less than three hours away from London, the outing is an easy commute; though it typically goes one-way: south to north. “Northerners don’t like London,” a friend from Sheffield told me. “They’re rude and live life too fast.” With a train ticket to London in my wallet (departing the next day), I decided to relax while I could. Breakfast was taken under a tree and shared with large, happy-looking hens, followed by a mid-morning nap in the grass. Lunch was eaten among the above-mentioned sheep. In the afternoon, a trip to the crowded on-site café confirmed that nothing excites people of the British countryside more than a well-stocked garden shop and tea with scones and clotted cream. It was too much excitement for me. I retired to a spot near the trough waterfall, where a little girl begged her mum to let her enjoy the weather: “Mummy! Can we pleeeeeeeeease have a sunbathe!” Mum insisted on walking, and the girl shot me a bitter look. It’s not my fault I left my parents at home and get to do whatever I want.
I couldn’t pass up the chance to see inside the house, however, and was happy to stand where Kiera Knightly, playing Lizzy Bennet, stood enchanted by the elaborate ceiling in the Painted Hall. The Sculpture Gallery, too, where Miss Elizabeth first realizes her feelings for Darcy, is as stunning as it appears on film. An element of Austen’s satire is that Lizzy develops feelings for Darcy only after she sees his formidable estate. Upon visiting myself, I have to say his crabby disposition no longer seems like a deal-breaker.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
The house has been open to the public for its entire history, and it remains in the Cavendish family today as home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. While fans of Pride and Prejudice enjoy ties to the book and movie, film fans have a new Chatsworth-inspired saga to look forward to: Kiera Knightly stars as Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, in the forthcoming film The Duchess, which will be filmed at Chatsworth Estate.
Photo: A girl and her dog at the top of the Cascade at Chatsworth, by Alexandra Burguieres. Video: Courtesy of frannycesca via YouTube.