Chatsworth House

Topics: Chatsworth House, Duke of Devonshire, Bess of Hardwick Pages: 9 (1694 words) Published: April 15, 2015
Tristan Andrews
History of Architecture 2

Chatsworth House
The history of Chatsworth House, in Derbyshire England, begins with Elizabeth Talbot. Better known as Bess of Hardwick, Bess married four times, and it was with her second husband, Sir William Cavendish, that the Cavendish line of Dukes that continues today was established. When Sir William married Bess in 1547 she persuaded him to sell the lands he had amassed and move to her home county. Despite its isolated location, standing on the east bank of the River Derwent in the Derbyshire England, and the high risk of flooding, they bought Chatsworth manor in 1549. Bess redesigned a Tudor mansion in a square layout with a large central courtyard. The front entrance was on the west front, which was embellished with four towers or turrets, and the great hall in the medieval tradition was on the east side of the courtyard. Bess died in 1608 and Chatsworth was passed to her eldest son, Henry and then purchased by his brother William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire.1 Few changes were made at Chatsworth until the late17th century. For several reasons including the separation of the English church in 1534 which resulted in many Italian Roman Catholic craftsmen leaving to return to Italy. By the time the 4th Earl of Devonshire, who became the 1st Duke in 1694 retired to Chatsworth, new architectural ideas were finally beginning to blossom in England, which called for a rebuilding of the house, which began in 1687. Cavendish initially planned to reconstruct only the south wing, so he decided to retain the Elizabethan courtyard plan, despite the fact that this layout was becoming increasingly unfashionable. As it happened, the Duke took a fancy to building and reconstructed the mansion on all four of its fronts. The different façades of the building are united by a continuous cornice and balustrade running around the top of the house. They also all include the use of giant order ionic pilasters, however, these unifying elements do not make each façade the same. The contrary is, in fact, the case as each face has developed it’s own unique character. The south and east fronts were rebuilt by the architect William Talman for the 1st Duke and were complete by 1696. The design of the south front was quite unique for an English house of its time. It had no visible attics or hipped roofs, but instead two main stories supported by a rusticated basement. The face also lacks as frontis piece, it is made up of twelve bays with no grand centerpiece. The decoration has decidedly French influences because of its gentle rustication and lack of classical pediments even on the window casings. The windows opt for a simple frame with a thick decorative keystone detail. This is unsurprising as the French were, at the beginning of the 1700’s, starting to consider abandoning the classical orders in their work and moving to the softer Rococo style. The east façade is similar to the south in its even number of bays and lack of a frontispiece. The emphasis is placed on the end bays, each highlighted by the encircling giant pilasters, which have been doubled up into pairs. The doubled pilasters don’t represent the rhythmic experimentation of early Italian Renaissance ideas so much as the stately ideas of the French.2 The west front, which some say was designed by the Duke himself, displays a slightly more classical style. It has nine bays with a central pediment supported by four columns. The west front is more decorative than the others with carves stonework in its pediment showing stags and the Cavendish coat of arms. A more poetic observation is that the gold leaf that highlights the frames of Chatsworth’s windows is particularly brilliant on this side as the setting sun sets them aglow. The north front was the last to be built. It presented a challenge because the slope of the site made the north and west fronts taller; in addition to their difference in height, the north end of the...

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