18 July 2014

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House grounds

Today Lindsay and I traveled by bus from Sheffield (where we are staying) to Chatsworth House, which is a leisurely hour-long ride through the gorgeous English countryside and an adorable town called Bakewell. Bakewell looks like what you would picture in your head as an "English town" for a movie. True to its name, Bakewell had an old-timey shop selling artisan bread loaves that made me want to stop and taste. Carbs are my weakness! But I stuck to the plan and we continued on to Chatsworth House.

The staircase featured in the P&P movie

Chatsworth is a huge house with even bigger gardens. I believe the term "house" is a little bit of an understatement for a building like this. This house is rumored to be the inspiration for Jane Austen's Pemberley, and it was used as Pemberley in the 2005 Pride & Prejudice film starring Keira Knightley.

Mural above the grand staircase

Wood-paneled wall carvings
We started exploring the inside of the house, where each room seemed to be more beautiful than the one before it. Almost every ceiling was an exquisite mural with a Roman theme, usually gods or angels surrounded by more gods and cherubs. The rooms were all impressive, starting with the grand staircase in the main room and continuing through to the elaborately carved wood-paneled room with busts made into the walls. This room also contained a letter composed by Elizabeth I, which was an unexpected surprise. The hallways are lined with statues, paintings, and artifacts of all types including large rocks, urns, and Egyptian carvings.

Veiled Vestal Virgin
In one of the long galleries, there are several marble statues that are so life-like you almost believe that they will move if you stare at them long enough. The most impressive statue was a woman wearing a veil over her face that manages to look sheer because you can see her features "through" it. The craftsmanship was so amazing that I didn't believe at first that this wasn't just a statue with a cloth draped over it. The statue is formally called the Veiled Vestal Virgin and was carved by Raphaelle Monti in the mid 1800s. This statue, the ceilings, the house's front staircase, and the gallery were all briefly featured in the P&P movie.

The formal dining room

Part of the library

The library that the statue is housed in would make any reader insanely jealous. It was converted from a long gallery originally used to showcase paintings, then spills into the next room and the next smaller room connecting it to the formal dining room. And all of the splendor inside is magnified by the view on the outside. The house overlooks rolling hills and fields with a river running through for the many sheep roaming around to drink from. There are several ponds and fountains on the property with the most impressive ones being located near the house. There is one behind the house called the Cascade, which is located on a hillside and made up of a series of waterfalls to follow the hill's descent. The other impressive one is a huge, geyser-style fountain on the side of the house with a large reflecting pool. This is so lovely that I would have had the roads redone so that this side of the house would become the front. It's what I would want people to see when they drove up.

The Cascade