In 2011, for the first time ever, the 12th Duke of Devonshire agreed to let in the cameras to film behind-the-scenes at Chatsworth, Britain’s greatest country estate, for a new prime-time TV series on BBC1 beginning at 9pm on Monday, 14 May 2012.
‘Chatsworth’ is a three-part series of one-hour documentaries with voiceover commentary by Max Beesley, which will be shown on successive Monday evenings (14, 21, 28 May). The film crew was granted unprecedented access to the 30,000 acre Peak District estate, the people who live and work there, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, the Dowager Duchess (last of the famous Mitford sisters) and key characters among their 700 staff. Filmed over the entire 2011 ‘season’, the series gives an insight into the people who live and work in a world visited by many but known to only a few.
A character-led series, ‘Chatsworth’ explores the relationships, dynamics and tensions of modern life in a stately home and across the wider estate with its gardens, farmyard, shops, holiday accommodation, pubs, restaurants and much more.
At its heart for more than four centuries sits the Cavendish family with the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, Peregrine ‘Stoker’ Cavendish and Amanda Cavendish, at its head. ‘Chatsworth’ shows the Duke and Duchess’s involvement in everything that happens at Chatsworth from tiny details up to large-scale projects such as the recently completed £14m Masterplan restoration.
The series looks at their relationships with the estate’s hard-working and dedicated staff. Amongst a colourful cast of characters, viewers will meet:
- Chatsworth’s first ever female Head Guide Heather Redmond getting to grips with her new role
- Matthew Hirst as he catalogues, organises and displays Chatsworth’s world-class Art collection as well as major, visiting exhibitions
- Andre Birkett, who came to Chatsworth as a teenager and now manages Britain’s best farm-shop
- Jonathan Moseley, organiser of the Florabundance show, as he deals with more than 10,000 tulips coming out too early and has to reorder for displays in the house
- Head Farmer Ian Turner at the height of the lambing season and also the man to beat in the local Horticultural Society competition
- Trainee Supervisor Lewis Leybourne as he learns the ropes and is unexpectedly called upon to model for Chatsworth’s new wedding brochure.
As one of Britain’s favourite attractions Chatsworth draws more than one million visitors each year and ‘Chatsworth’ includes stories from the people who live in the local community, those who work and look after the estate, the businesses that are run on the land and the important role the family and the house play in the area.
From Chatsworth’s 16th century origins with Bess of Hardwick, through the infamous Duchess Georgiana, the great Victorian innovations of the 6th Duke, the series reflects on Chatsworth’s history and compares it with the reality of the present day, demonstrating that both continuity and change have been keys to its survival and prosperity.