I have a confession to make, I’m a huge Jane Austen fan! I have been for as long as I can remember, however, it’s a part of me that has never crept onto the blog before. Until now.
Last weekend my mum and I enjoyed a long weekend up in Derbyshire. The initial reason we went was to go to the Summer of Vintage Festival at Uttoxeter Racecourse, an annual event put together by the lovely Gemma of The Vintage Suitcase. There’ll be a post coming in the very near future about the event, but for now I’m going to focus on the second day of our short staycation when we headed to Chatsworth House.
Chatsworth has long been thought to be Austen’s inspiration for Mr Darcy’s very impressive house, Pemberley. It was the setting for Pemberley in the 2005 Keira Knightly film, Pride and Prejudice and in the 2013 TV series, Death Comes To Pemberley. Colin Firth’s version was actually filmed at Lyme Park, Stockport, not Chatsworth as thought by many. And yes, I have seen all of them many, many times!
We arrived slightly later than planned due to us getting completely lost and ending up the wrong side of Mansfield. However, once we did get there, it was like stepping back in time, walking in Elizabeth Bennett’s footsteps as she explored Pemberley on a spontaneous visit with her Aunt and Uncle.
The minute we stepped inside the incredibly impressive building I recognised the grand entrance hall and stairs. It featured heavily in Death Comes To Pemberley with several scenes taking place underneath the stunningly painted ceiling. It was at this point that I desperately wanted to be dressed head to foot in Regency clothing so I could take a turn of the room! I actually dream of making my own white muslin Regency dress, complete with authentic chemise, stays, petticoat, jacket and, of course, bonnet. I’m not sure I’ve quite got the right hairstyle though!
Of course, I had to have my photo taken at the foot of the stairs. However, there was a huge queue of people building up behind us waiting to get up the stairs and the guy at the front started making jokes about it, saying “no pressure!”. This then set me off in fits of giggles and all three of the photos my mum took are of me cracking up. Not so demure as some of the beautiful women that would’ve passed through on their way to grand balls.
I actually didn’t take a massive amount of photos inside the house, mainly because I wanted to enjoy looking at everything. I hate seeing people looking at the world through a camera. Just put it down and savour the moment as a memory! Sorry, rant over!
Anyway, I did take a quick snap of this gorgeous Victorian petticoat, corset and bustle. It was in a very feminine bedroom that had all sorts of clothing and hairdressing paraphernalia in it. The guide in the room saw me looking at it and came straight over. She told me that it was a replica made by the ladies upstairs in the wardrobe department. Yes, Chatsworth has it’s own wardrobe department. I WANT TO WORK THERE!!
We quickly got to talking about the fact that I made the skirt and blouse I was wearing and we had a good old chat about sewing and collecting vintage. She was particularly interested in how I did my hair and then I spotted a 1920s hair waver on the dressing table. I told her I had one just like it and that was it, we could not stop talking. We must’ve stayed in that one room for a good half an hour and completely monopolised the very knowledgable guide. I loved it!
Next it was back down the stairs and on to the Sculpture Gallery. This beautiful room was featured in the Keira Knightly Pride and Prejudice, so I was really eager to see it and it certainly lived up to my expectations. It was crammed full of gorgeous white marble statues, including the Veiled Vestal Virgin one that Elizabeth finds fascinating. It really is an incredible piece of art. Statues like this really intrigue me, I have no idea how anyone could possibly create such intricate detail just by chipping away at a slab of rock.
I loved the fact that none of the statues were roped off, meaning you could go up and actually touch them. This is so different to most other places and it actually felt quite naughty to do so. In fact, the thing I loved most about the house was that everything was very accessible. The most precious things obviously had ‘Please Do Not Touch’ signs on them, but so much was available to hold or go right up close to. Photography was also allowed throughout, even with a flash, which is so often banned in stately homes.
The Mr Darcy bust has now been very sadly relegated to the shop. It was created for the film and is a fantastic likeness to Matthew Macfadyen who played Mr Darcy. It explained this in the little plaque underneath, which finished with “Please do not kiss him!”. I’m sure they’ve probably had a lot of that.
I get the impression that Chatsworth House now has Jane Austen fatigue because it wasn’t mentioned at all until you got to the shop. It’s a shame really because it was the reason I’ve always wanted to go there.
However, there was another exhibition to capture my attention, ‘Never a Bore: Deborah Devonshire and her set by Cecil Beaton’. Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire was the youngest of the Mitford Sisters and a prominent member of English society during the 1930s and 40s. Cecil Beaton is also my most favourite photographer, so this was right up my street and a great end to the tour through the house.
In terms of the amount of rooms we actually got to see, I would say it was about 25, which is roughly about 10% of the entire house. It really is a huge structure and so much of it remained private. However, to maintain such a place and keep it up to scratch for the public would take an extraordinary amount of money. Chatsworth is not part of the National Trust and relies solely on income from visitors, agricultural rents, on site restaurants and farm shop and many other enterprises.
After we finished in the house we headed out to the glorious gardens. I will be posting a separate post about those where I’ll finally talk about my outfit. It’s already featured a couple of times on the blog but I haven’t actually told you anything about it. That will be rectified very soon, I promise!
However, for now this is me, waiting patiently for my Mr Darcy to come out of the lake! Okay, so we didn’t actually see Colin Firth do this in the one that everyone goes gaga about. The scene, as I remember it, was him diving into the lake and then Elizabeth sees him walking with a wet shirt, nipples on full display! The scene below in the incredibly funny Lost in Austen, starring Elliot Cowan as Darcy, illustrates it much better. And personally Mr Cowan is much more my kind of Darcy than Colin.
However, I do have to admit that Mr Knightley from my favourite Jane Austen novel, Emma, is much more my kind of man. However, if a Mr Darcy was on offer, how could I possibly say no? 🙂