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Chiswick House Guides at Chatsworth
In August 2010, a group of House guides went on the trail of the Devonshire connections by visiting Chatsworth House
'It's gone to Chatsworth' is one of the first phrases you learn as a new Chiswick House guide. Many items of furniture, paintings and artefacts from Chiswick were moved to Chatsworth, their main family seat, following the inheritance of Lord Burlington's estate by the Dukes of Devonshire after Lord Burlington’s death in 1753 without a male heir. The future 4th Duke had married Lord Burlington's daughter, Charlotte, and as a consequence Lord Burlington's extensive estates came into the ownership of the Devonshires. Although Chiswick House was eventually sold to Middlesex County Council in the late 1920s, a Devonshire connection still remains as the present Duke's son, the current Lord Burlington, is a Trustee of the Chiswick House and Garden Trust.
For trainee house guides a visit to Chatsworth was therefore high on our list of 'must dos' and so in August five of us made a day trip up to this magnificent stately home in Derbyshire to view the 'Burlington legacy'. We were extremely fortunate to have a very knowledgeable and welcoming guide who allowed us time to linger in the newly refurbished gallery devoted to Chiswick's Lord Burlington, complete with family portraits, Kent chairs and a bust of the architect Inigo Jones, whose designs were such a major influence on Lord Burlington's style. Then on to Chatsworth's magnificent library which contained many books from Lord Burlington's collection originally housed on the ground floor of Chiswick House. We were even allowed a special view of William Kent’s gilded tables that had once been a feature of Chiswick's Upper Tribunal.
We were delighted to learn later that English Heritage had managed to acquire several Chiswick related items at Chatsworth's recent 'Attic Sale'. These will be going on display in the House when it re-opens in Spring 2011.
The Chiswick connections do not of course end in the house – the 6th Duke, who commissioned our magnificent conservatory in 1813, first encountered Joseph Paxton (of Crystal Palace fame) working in the garden of the Horticultural Society, next door to Chiswick House. He appointed Paxton as Chatsworth's Head Gardener, where Paxton's feats of engineering, including the Emperor Fountain and the Great Conservatory, attracted large crowds.
We had a wonderful day and can recommend Chatsworth as well worth a visit for Chiswick House and Garden fans.
This trip was the first of a number that we trainee house guides have organised, fired up with our enthusiasm to learn more about Lord Burlington, his life and times. We have plans to continue our outings through the winter and are thoroughly enjoying getting to know each other through this new common interest.
Our thanks to CHGT and to the staff of English Heritage at Chiswick House for giving us this opportunity to learn about such a fascinating place.
Cathie James CHGT House Tour Guide 26/10/10