Friday, 31 July 2009

Chatsworth, Derbyshire

This is an extract from the Diaries of James Lees Milne, who travelled the length and breadth of the country on behalf of the National Trust in its early days. The date is 1948. Debo & Andrew drove me to Chatsworth this morning. The site of the house, the surroundings unsurpassed. The grass emerald green as in Ireland. The Derwent river, although so far below the house, which it reflects, seems to dominate it. Black-and-white cattle in great herds. All the hills have trees along their ridges. Neatness and order are the rule although, Andrew says, there are fourteen gardeners instead of forty before the last war. ........The uniform yellow sandstone [of the house] helps link the old block to Wyatville's towered colonnade, which might be taken out of a Claude painting. We wandered through the gardens, greyhounds streaming across the lawns. Andrew turned on the fountain from the willow tree. Water not only drips from the tree but jets from nozzles all around. .............. Andrew let me look through two volumes of Inigo Jones drawings of masque costumes. Henry VII's prayer book, with illuminations, given by the King to his daughter, who was asked to pray for him, inscription in his kingly hand. The scale of Chatsworth is gigantic, beyond comprehension (like St. Peter's, Rome) until experienced. The detail of outside stonework of high quality, notably the antlers over windows, frostwork in the central courtyard, the panels of trophies. ............. As a couple the Hartingtons [soon to be the Devonshires] seem perfection - both young, handsome and inspired to accomplish great things. He has a splendid war record and won the MC ............... Both full of faith in themselves and their responsibilites. She has all the Mitford virtues and none of the profanity. I admire them very much.

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