Why are the gardens at Chatsworth so special?

Chatsworth Park and Paine's Bridge

Chatsworth Park and Paine's Bridge - Credit: DPC Photography

For mere mortals, it can be difficult to keep on top of our own gardens.  

How often have we let the grass grow too long, failed to mend that face or let the flowers at the bottom of the garden wither away? 

Now imagine being responsible for 105 acres of garden, sat within 2,000 acres of varied and demanding land so beautiful and diverse that it is visited by over 700,000 people a year, all travelling from far and wide to take in its beauty. 

That’s the unenviable task that Chatsworth head gardener Steve Porter faces when he travels to work each day from his cottage on the Chatsworth Estate. 

Having become head gardener for the National Trust at the age of 23 – the youngest ever to achieve the position – he has been heading up the magnificent gardens at Chatsworth since 2011. 

Steve Porter, head gardener at Chatsworth

Steve Porter, head gardener at Chatsworth - Credit: Chatsworth House Trust

Chatsworth itself is a heavyweight of the UK country house scene. Its magnificence is widely lauded – from its superb House, gardens which have few equals and a level of history, heritage and prestige that can’t fail to amaze or impress. 

Home to the Duke and Dutchess of Devonshire, Chatsworth has been passed down 16 generations of the Cavendish family, having first been bought by William Cavendish in the Tudor era, way back in 1549. 

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The House and garden together provide 66 full-time and 23 part-time jobs. Want to put into context Chatsworth’s importance and scale? It has its very own fire brigade! 

In next month’s Derbyshire Life magazine – also available in app format – Steve, and members of the wider team, tell us why working at Chatsworth is so special and the work that goes into making sure it remains one of Britain’s preeminent visitor attractions.  

Here’s a small preview. 

Its history 

‘Chatsworth has had many changes through the generations,’ explains Steve. 

‘But there are also aspects which were intended to remain for the long-term; over 250 years ago, Capability Brown designed the manicured landscape which visitors are still able to enjoy today.’ 

The landscape 

The Pinetum

The Pinetum - Credit: DPC Photography

‘It’s very varied,’ says Steve. ‘Everything you can see, from its rolling parkland, woodland backdrop, through to the historic water systems, delivers an interesting and colourful landscape.’ 

Innovations 

‘It’s vital that we recognise and respect the past,’ he points out. ‘But also, it’s important to add new features and to enhance the garden with current and creative designs.’ 

The scale of the gardens 

‘Over the past seven years, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire have worked with leading garden designers to develop new areas and we have planted over 250,000 new plants.’ 

READ MORE: At home in Haddon Hall with Lady Edward Manners

In the full feature, spread over eight pages in the magazine with beautiful accompanying images of the Chatsworth Estate, Derbyshire Life also speaks with a number of high profile people who all play a crucial role in ensuring this world-famous and historic tourist attraction tick. 

The Rock Garden at Chatsworth

The Rock Garden at Chatsworth - Credit: Heritage Photographic

These include David Howlett, Chatsworth farm manager; John Everitt, head of Forestry as well as Ben Hanbury and Chris Hubbuck - part of the Domain team who have worked at Chatsworth for the past 19 and 38 years retrospectively. 

To enjoy the full feature once published, take in previous editions of the 90-year-old Derbyshire Life and to join the thousands who subscribe and receive it each month, please click here.