Monday, April 20, 2009

A walk to Chatsworth

We were very lucky to be staying in Beeley because it is a short walk to Chatsworth. We set off across fields and over a bridge finding the river on the other side and following it all the way. It was a lovely sunny day when we first did the walk and signs of spring appearing in green shoots on the trees and primroses and daffodils in the hedgerows really lifted our spirits.
This extract fromDerbyshire UK website gives us some information about the river on which Chatsworth sits. 

The River Derwent, some 50 odd miles in length, is the longest river in Derbyshire. Apart from its short passage through the City of Derby it is a completely rural river, finally joining the River Trent just south of Derby. The Derwent's source is at Swain's Greave on Howden Moor on the flank of Bleaklow Hill.

The river Derwent soon flows into the first of 3 large reservoirs, built in the early part of the 20th century to satisfy the growing demand for water from the expanding cities of Derby, Nottingham, Sheffield and Leicester. Howden was the first to be built ( 1901-12 ), Derwent followed ( 1902-16 ) and work then began on the largest, Ladybower, in 1935. It took 10 years to complete Ladybower and the historic villages of Derwent and Ashopton were lost in the process. A whole village was created to house the men and their families who had built the early dams, which was colloquially known as 'Tin Town' because of it's corrugated roofs. Its official name was Birchinlee and it housed over 1000 inhabitants at one time.

At Mythorn Bridge, the river Derwent is joined by the river Noe which rises on Mam Tor and flows through the Hope Valley. Flowing on between Win Hill and Lose Hill, the Derwent is soon augumented by waters from Crowden, Grinds Brooks and Jaggers Clough. The river flows on to Hathersage and then turns south again to flow in a wide valley flanked by gritstone edges through the villages of Grindleford, Froggatt and Calver before reaching Baslow. At Calver it flows beneath an 18th century bridge. Calver Mill was first built in 1785, utilizing the power of the Derwent, but destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1805 when it became a thriving cotton mill employing a large number of local people. It finished producing cotton in 1923 and has had a number of uses since then, including the role of Colditz Castle in the television series, Colditz. It has now been developed into modern flats.

In Baslow at Bridge End, the river Derwent is spanned by a charming, 17th century, 3 arched bridge, beside which is a little stone shelter built for the toll collector. The river Derwent then flows through the grounds of Chatsworth Park, the home of the Duke of Devonshire, in a beautifully landscaped setting, to be joined by the River Wye at Rowsley, coming in from Bakewell.



Chatsworth is mentioned by name in Pride and Prejudice, but whether Jane ever visited Chatsworth or the Peak District we do not know for sure. Jane was familiar with a certain number of great houses already and I'm sure she used her imagination to conjure up Pemberley. As much as we like to think we might be able to find Pemberley House in Derbyshire I think it far more likely that Mr Darcy's abode was invented from many influences and experiences. Here's a short extract from Pride and Prejudice.

The time fixed for the beginning of their northern tour was now fast approaching, and a fortnight only was wanting of it, when a letter arrived from Mrs. Gardiner, which at once delayed its commencement and curtailed its extent. Mr. Gardiner would be prevented by business from setting out till a fortnight later in July, and must be in London again within a month; and as that left too short a period for them to go so far, and see so much as they had proposed, or at least to see it with the leisure and comfort they had built on, they were obliged to give up the Lakes, and substitute a more contracted tour, and, according to the present plan, were to go no farther northward than Derbyshire. In that county there was enough to be seen to occupy the chief of their three weeks; and to Mrs. Gardiner it had a peculiarly strong attraction. The town where she had formerly passed some years of her life, and where they were now to spend a few days, was probably as great an object of her curiosity as all the celebrated beauties of Matlock, Chatsworth, Dovedale, or the Peak.

Elizabeth was excessively disappointed; she had set her heart on seeing the Lakes, and still thought there might have been time enough. But it was her business to be satisfied - and certainly her temper to be happy; and all was soon right again.

With the mention of Derbyshire there were many ideas connected. It was impossible for her to see the word without thinking of Pemberley and its owner. "But surely," said she, "I may enter his county with impunity, and rob it of a few petrified spars without his perceiving me."


I think it's interesting that Jane did not want to write a description of Derbyshire in this next extract - perhaps she felt she did not know the area well enough to write about it - the place she writes about is Lambton which is her invention. Again, some people have suggested that she was thinking of Bakewell here, but there is no firm evidence that Jane ever stayed in Bakewell, even though my sister and I enjoyed staying there some years ago and stood looking out from the Rutland Arms Hotel with thoughts of the fact that Jane might have once stood there herself! Here's the extract from Pride and Prejudice where Jane first mentions Lambton.

It is not the object of this work to give a description of Derbyshire, nor of any of the remarkable places through which their route thither lay: Oxford, Blenheim, Warwick, Kenelworth, Birmingham, etc., are sufficiently known. A small part of Derbyshire is all the present concern. To the little town of Lambton, the scene of Mrs. Gardiner's former residence, and where she had lately learned that some acquaintance still remained, they bent their steps, after having seen all the principal wonders of the country; and within five miles of Lambton, Elizabeth found from her aunt that Pemberley was situated. It was not in their direct road, nor more than a mile or two out of it. In talking over their route the evening before, Mrs. Gardiner expressed an inclination to see the place again. Mr. Gardiner declared his willingness, and Elizabeth was applied to for her approbation.

"My love, should not you like to see a place of which you have heard so much?" said her aunt; "A place, too, with which so many of your acquaintance are connected. Wickham passed all his youth there, you know."

Elizabeth was distressed. She felt that she had no business at Pemberley, and was obliged to assume a disinclination for seeing it. She must own that she was tired of great houses; after going over so many, she really had no pleasure in fine carpets or satin curtains.


So it would seem that Elizabeth may well have visited Chatsworth and some of the other houses like Blenheim or the castles at Warwick and Kenilworth. Whether Jane Austen did is another matter but I'm sure she would have done her research and read about houses and their grounds in the area. Perhaps she was inspired by these descriptions or by stories from other family members who had visited them.
Chatsworth is presently undergoing a huge restoration project so it is difficult to take photos without seeing some of this taking place. It is lovely to know that the house will be preserved for future generations who, like me, have found inspiration within its walls and beyond.

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