Big garden transformation in Chatsworth masterplan

The world-famous 105-acre garden at Chatsworth in the Peak District has begun its biggest transformation since Joseph Paxton’s work finished more than 200 years ago.

The foundations of Chatsworth’s garden were laid by the celebrated garden designers Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and Joseph Paxton in the 18th and 19th centuries. Now, a new team of the world’s leading garden designers will build on their work to transform Chatsworth once more.

An undeveloped 15-acre area known as ‘Arcadia’ will lead the way in a programme that sees the clearance of previously inaccessible areas, large-scale structure alterations, new sculpture commissions and the movement and addition of hundreds of tonnes of rock. More than one hundred thousand new plants and hundreds of new trees, as well as new pathways, taking visitors into underexplored areas of the garden, will form part of the masterplan.

It is anticipated that initial works will complete in around three years time. More than 25 acres of garden will have been transformed, principally the Rockery, the Maze area, the Ravine, the Trout Stream and Jack Pond, as well as the Arcadia area, which is supported by Gucci.

Working under the direction of Steve Porter, Chatsworth’s Head of Gardens and Landscape, Tom Stuart-Smith (pictured left) will lead the project to design and make major alterations across the garden with work having already begun in the Rockery. The movement and addition of tonnes of rock is already underway in an area that was inspired by the 6th Duke’s trip to the Alps in the 19th century.

Dan Pearson (pictured right) will continue his work at Chatsworth, which began when he designed the estate’s ‘Best in Show’ garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2015. The Chelsea garden inspired the redeveloped Trout Stream – Dan’s latest contribution will be to redesign the Jack Pond area to include a large, new Corten Steel Pavilion and create a place for contemplation and reflection.

With the completion of a £32m Masterplan project to restore the house a few years ago, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire have since been planning to have a similar revitalising effect on the garden.

The Duke of Devonshire (pictured left with the Duchess) said: “Chatsworth is often thought of as timeless but the truth is that it has always been changing. What we think of now as ‘traditional’ was often considered challenging or revolutionary at the time. Capability Brown and Joseph Paxton used the latest tools, techniques and ideas to deliver their particular genius for modern garden design.

Tom Stuart-Smith and Dan Pearson have the vision and talent to continue Chatsworth’s radical tradition. We’re going to create an exciting, beautiful, contemporary garden that stands on the shoulders of those earlier giants.”

This is a substantial project that will be phased over several years and will fully involve the 25-strong Chatsworth garden team, four trainees and 75 regular volunteers.

Tom Stuart-Smith points out that when he first came to talk to the Duke and Duchess and the garden team, he was struck by their creative energy and the drive to achieve excellence: “Arcadia, in particular, is a huge project and while some of the changes to the four glades within it and the pathways between them will be immediately obvious, I’m confident that, thanks to the long-term thinking here, that the whole area will get better and better as the years go by and the planting and other work beds-in,” said Tom.

Although the garden retains many of its early features, including the Canal Pond, Cascade and 1st Duke’s Greenhouse, over its 500-year history, it has seen some points of interest replaced to make way for new fashions. The famous waterworks in the garden include the 300-year-old Cascade, the Willow Tree Fountain and the impressive gravity-fed Emperor Fountain.

You can find details on visiting Chatsworth, its history and garden by visiting:

All photographs are strictly ©Chatsorth House Trust: Picture of Tom Stuart Smith credit Andrew Lawson.