CHATSWORTH HOUSE is an engaging three-part series that provides an access-all-areas experience inside one of Britain's most majestic stately homes. What is life like today for the 12th Duke of Devonshire who inherited the estate which has been in his family for 450 years? What really transpires behind closed doors? What is life like for the staff of 700 who work on the premises? With all the characters you'd expect to find in a great house, like the head housekeeper who maintains the 300 rooms, and the gamekeepers whose pheasants end up on the dining table, CHATSWORTH HOUSE is a fascinating look at class and tradition in a modern world that plays out like a real-life Downton Abbey.
The first program joins the 12th Duke and Duchess as the house is being prepared to open to the public. It is the busiest time of the year for the house staff and everyone has a role to play including the Duke and Duchess as they join the annual litter clean up around the estate. The youngest and very first female head guide, Heather Redmond, is on "probation;" if she gets the job she will be in charge of the 60 guides - some of whom have worked at Chatsworth since before she was born. Chatsworth's award-winning farm shop is presided over by manager Andre Birkett who has worked for the family for more than 30 years, starting in the kitchens of the house. He is now responsible for 120 staff and an annual turnover of more than 5 million pounds. As winter turns in to spring, it is lambing season on the estate's 62 farms, and farm manager Ian Turner, who has 32 years of service, takes us on a tour. [58 minutes]
This episode concentrates on two of the 16 special events that provide an income to support the upkeep of the house. The Duchess presides over the Chatsworth International Horse Trials, 75 fences over a 300 acre course, which in 2011 is an offical qualifier for the London Olympics. Plus, the 2011 season sees the third annual Chatsworth flower festival, "Florabundance." The event is complicated by unseasonably warm spring weather and attacks on the plants by the estate's pheasants, rabbits, and mice. Another problem is the wrinkly table cloth in the grand dining room; the public is only noticing the creases and not the magnificent table settings. [58 minutes]
Chatsworth has been undergoing a £14 million pound renovation to clean the stonework and gild the window frames and finials with gold leaf. Scaffolding has covered the famous south facade which is used as the background to the 40 or so weddings held at the old stables every year. The events manager arranges for wedding pictures to be Photoshopped to remove the scaffolding from clients' photographs. A new wedding brochure themed on "Pride and Prejudice" is also being made, with a trainee catering manager portrying Mr. Bingley. Estate workerswere once provided with accomodations in one of the three villages but nowadays the cottages are rented as holiday homes and the Duchess supervises one such change of use. The Dule is supervising the erection of a number of bronze busts of his family, royalty and other friends in the gardens. It is also the 48th Chatsworth Horticultural and Produce show when staff compete with each other for trophies. The epsiode ends with the removal of the scaffolding and the Duke, Duchess, and staff celebrating a record year. [59 minutes]