Work begins on major transformation of Chatsworth’s historic gardens

The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire in the giant rock garden which is at the centre of the biggest changes to the Chatsworth gardens for 200 years.
The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire in the giant rock garden which is at the centre of the biggest changes to the Chatsworth gardens for 200 years.

Staff at Chatsworth have begun work on the biggest overhaul of the estate’s gardens since they were completed more than 200 years ago.

Following the £32million Masterplan project to restore the house in recent years, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire have since been planning a similar revitalisation of the garden.

Internationally renown garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith, left, and head of gardens Steve Porter walk through part of the area to be transformed.

Internationally renown garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith, left, and head of gardens Steve Porter walk through part of the area to be transformed.

The Devonshires have placed their faith in a team of the world’s leading garden designers including Tom Stuart-Smith and Dan Pearson.

The duke said: “Chatsworth is often thought of as timeless but the truth is that it has always been changing. What we think of now as traditional was often considered challenging or revolutionary at the time.

“Tom and Dan have the vision and talent to continue Chatsworth’s radical tradition.”

The 105-acre garden is the product of nearly 500 years of cultivation, but the most significant period of evolution came in the 18th and 19th centuries thanks to the most celebrated designers of their day.

The duke said: “Capability Brown and Joseph Paxton used the latest tools, techniques and ideas to deliver their particular genius for modern garden design.

“We’re going to create an exciting, beautiful, contemporary garden that stands on the shoulders of those earlier giants.”

The project will be phased over several years, overseen by head of gardens Steve Porter, the 25-strong garden team, four trainees and 75 regular volunteers.

Tom Stuart-Smith said: “When I first came to talk to the duke and duchess and the garden team at Chatsworth, I was struck by their creative energy and the drive to achieve excellence.”

Garden staff weeding some of the beds that have already been planted.

Garden staff weeding some of the beds that have already been planted.

The initial stage will take three years and transform more than 25 acres including the rockery, maze, ravine, trout stream, and the undeveloped 15-acre section known as Arcadia.

Previously inaccessible areas will be cleared to make way for large-scale structure installations, sculpture commissions, more than 100,000 new plants and trees, and new paths for visitors to explore.

Dan will be responsible for redesigning the Jack Pond area to include a large, new corten steel pavilion and space suited to contemplation and reflection.

Work has already begun in the rockery with the movement and addition of hundreds of tonnes of rock in an area that was inspired by the sixth duke’s trip to the Alps in the 19th century.

Tom said: “Arcadia, in particular, is a huge project. While some of the changes to its glades and pathways will be immediately obvious, I’m confident that the whole area will get better and better as the years go by and the planting and other work beds-in.”