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To complete our weekend in Derbyshire with the Duchess of Devonshire theme we visited Kedleston Hall where some of the filming took place.
The family who owned the land and subsequently the building of the hall are the family Curzon who originally came over to England with from France during the Norman invasion and settle in the Derbyshire area. The estate was inherited by Sir Nathanial Curzon who was the 5th Baron and later became Lord Scarsdale.
The building of Kedleston Hall was started in 1759 and took roughly six years to build. It was designed by the famous architect and interior designer the sought after services of Scottish born Robert Adam who was famous for his magnificent building designs and attention to the tiniest of detail. He studied architecture throughout Europe but particularly in Italy notably Florence and Rome and developed his neo classical style of designing.
Most of his projects were very grand places and Kedleston hall is very grand indeed. The North entrance is in the design of a grand Palladian house with large columns standing proudly at the front of the building. To reach the house one has to drive up sweeping drive ways giving a fantastic view of the house from a distance. Robert designed a bridge to go over the river which in itself is a grand design. Approaching the house one can not feel excited by its grandeur. To enter the house there are a pair of grand staircases to the left and the right of the main entrance. In between the columns there are statues standing in poses within alcoves depicting Romanesque figures either holding the following objects a discus, tambourine, flute and an archer.
I am going to take you for a walk through Kedleston hall. Empty your mind and imagine what it must look like.
A grand entrance.
On entering through the main door you are immediately overwhelmed by the grand hall. It is extremely impressive and very high with 20 columns of alabaster 25 foot high. They have the appearance of mottled brown tortoise coloured. Here the guests would meet and be entertained or grand dances held here. There are alcoves on either side of the hall containing posing Statues and grand fire places in the middle of each wall. Originally the Baron had intended to have a gallery where musicians could play but he had run out of money so it was never completed. The flooring is inlaid with alabaster and marble. If you have seen the film the Duchess this is where the ball was taking place when her hair caught fire from one of the candles. The room is otherwise sparsely furnished.
The building is segmented in the main part of the house which is the grandest part of the house used to impress and to entertain. There are four wings to the house the one on the East side housed the family wing the West side housed the kitchen areas both reached by curved corridors which are now used as display areas. The one leading to the family wing displays large portrait paintings of the various members of the Curzon family. Just inside the door on the right hand side is a massive painted wall containing a list of the family tree. Half way along the corridor there is a large fireplace with an inset of Wedgewood.
To reach this corridor one must first pass through the beautiful music room with lots of scenic paintings some with a musical theme on the wall. There is a cute organ that had been designed by Adams and carved by the local carpenters to house the working part of the organ. This room is quite bright and was the only part of the house along with the dining room used as an everyday room by the family. There are two kettle drums either side of the organ and a harpsichord. It feels quite a homely room with gilt furniture and unusual chairs. There is a beautiful guilt clock above the fireplace. One of the chair backs look like the steering wheel of a ship and was probably brought by one of the Curzon family who was an admiral of the fleet.
Passing through the drawing room it is brightly decorated in a light blue damask wall paper with four matching sofas which are adorned with golden mermaids. Despite it being a very beautiful room it was rarely used by the family apart from holding card games and after dinner chats. After passing through this room you reach the library which has a variety of glassed book cases and a wonderful square mahogany writing desk. There is a lovely reading chair which is unusual in that you would have to straddle it to read a book. There are arm rests on both sides and a piece of wood that would act as a reading lectern. The ceiling is delightfully covered in ornate white plasterwork making the room appear to be very bright and conducive to read or study.
The next room you enter is another room with an amazing wow factor. It is called the saloon it is circular in shape and is based on the Pantheon in Rome. There are alcoves in the walls in which stand urns on top of plinths. The ceiling is domed and has gilt octagonal shapes and roses inset. It is absolutely stunning and so very beautiful. Balls would have been held here as it is a magnificent room.
The rooms following on are made up of the state apartment which all grand houses had for visiting royalty or to impress very important people. There is an ante room where people would be received to have an audience with whom ever was visiting. Leading on from the ante room you come to the state dressing room and then the state bedroom which contained a large four poster bed with grand carvings and feathered plumes. It is decorated in soothing pale green colours which matched the bedding and soft furnishings broken up with paintings on the walls. The final room of the state apartment was the wardrobe which was used exclusively to hold the clothing of the very important visitor.
The dining room is on the West side of the house next to the grand hall. It is quite cosy and looks very formal and was used rarely apart from formal entertaining. The family would have taken most of their meals in the breakfast room of the family wing. There was an alcove area where the food would have been kept warm. There is also a large trough made out of Sicilian jasper which would have been filled with iced water to keep the wines cold. The table has a 12 place setting and a lot of the tableware was made of silver. The centre piece is remarkable it is silver and called an epergne which means time saver. On this large piece would be the sauces, salt, pepper and sugar in small bowls on projecting arms. On the top there would have been fresh fruit for helping yourself to the fruit for or after dessert. The kitchen corridor leads off to the West of the dining room leading to the kitchens and laundry rooms. Food would have been stored here.
After looking around the main rooms of the house you descend the great staircase to the lower floor to reach a large entertaining room called Caesars hall. This is where estate workers would have met and held their staff parties. There is also a smoking room as smoking was not permitted upstairs. This room looks out to the lawns and beautiful parkland. The final room to view is the museum which houses gifts to Lord Curzon during his time as Viceroy to India at the end of the 1800's. There are beautiful Indian, Chinese Burmese and other oriental rare objects displayed in cases. A model of the Taj Mahal and lots of carved ivory pieces ornate and very finely carved. There is also furniture Lord Curzon obtained whilst on his travels around the Far East.
The Duchess exhibition.
There is currently an exhibition held here about the making of the film The Duchess. There are clothes and pictures of scenes taken from the film. The house was used for filming and there was much discussion and lots of arrangements to be made before the filming took place. I have already mentioned the scene in the great hall where Georgiana's hair caught fire. In order for this to happen the floor was completely covered by an imitation floor that would preserve and protect it should the burning hair cause any damage. Great efforts were made by the production team to replicate furniture and fittings removing the originals so they would not be damaged.
The opening scenes of the film showed gentlemen on the lawns playing a game with Georgiana looking down from a balcony. This was the stairways at the back of the house which are even better than the entrance at the front of the house. The house has been used extensively in various films but it is the film the Duchess which has rekindled such interest.
This concludes the tour of the house.
All Saints Church.
Next to the house is All Saints church where many of the Curzon's are interred along with members of the household staff and their families. It is the only surviving building that was part of the village before Kedleston Hall was built. The earliest monument to the Curzon family dates from 1306.
On the south side of the house there were once formal gardens which over time have been pulled up and re lawned. The gardens have been re-laid. There is a lovely lookout over rolling hills with lovely trees in the fields. There are a variety of Statues dotted around the garden area.
There is over 820 acres of parkland to explore offering delightful landscape scenes and vistas. There are lakes and cascades, wonderful trees and plants planted such as Laburnum, syringus, lilacs, honeysuckle, oaks and willow, small buildings and statues and four different walks you can take around the estate. Sheep are grazing in the fields so please make sure that any gates you go through must be closed. There are various ha-ha's (sunken ditches) created which gives uninterrupted views over the parkland. There is also a fishing pavilion and the neo classical bridge. Lots of wildlife inhabits the parkland including Kingfishers and birds of prey. Flowers adorn the park particularly in the spring such as bluebells and daffodils. The park gardens and house were all designed by Robert Adam.
The house is still lived in by members of the Curzon family but the house was given over to the national trust with a sizeable amount of money for its maintenance.
How to find it.
By car. Follow the A38 and once you reach the roundabout at Markeaton follow the signs for Kedleston Hall. The address for those with Sat nav is as follows
Arriva 109 Derby to Ashbourne station,
The bus calls at the Hall in the summer on Saturdays.
Duffield 3½ miles;
or Derby 5½ miles.
The magnificent domed Saloon is available for weddings which can be conducted on certain days and you are able to make use of the grand hall and library. It can be fully catered for and a marquee erected on the lawn. What a beautiful setting in which to hold a wedding a real fairy tale wedding. The cost to hire the Saloon is approximately £2000 to give a rough idea of how much it costs and can accommodate 100 people.
The park and gardens only
The house is open from February to November from 12noon to 5PM
Grounds 11AM - 6PM
Church 11Am- 5PM.
Would I recommend a visit. Without question it's a fantastic beautiful example of how the other half used to live. It is a place that oozes beauty and is very ostentatious and delightful to spend a day. I would be extremely surprised if you did not find this place beautiful.