Discovering hidden secrets of Chatsworth’s landscape

This is an archived press release

Friday 21 August 2009

21 August 2009

Discovering hidden secrets of Chatsworth’s landscape

A new book examines the vast estate surrounding Chatsworth, the Peak District’s premier stately home, to discover previously untold stories of generations past.

Eminent archaeologists John Barnatt and Nicola Bannister surveyed more than 12,000 acres (5,000 hectares) of parkland, woods, farms, moors and historic buildings before writing their book, “The Archaeology of a Great Estate: Chatsworth and Beyond.”

The estate stretches beyond the Derwent Valley into both limestone and gritstone upland landscapes in the heart of the Peak District National Park. The area surveyed includes large parts of the parishes of Chatsworth, Edensor, Pilsley, Bubnell, Baslow, Brampton and Beeley.

Among the revelations was how the great 18th-century landscape gardener Capability Brown adapted existing farmland features to develop his parkland designs.

Dr Barnatt, senior survey archaeologist for the Peak District National Park Authority, said: “We now understand how Capability Brown used the then contemporary landscape of hedgerowed field boundaries with their standard trees. He simply took out the lines of shrubs but left the standards, and with some judicious planting of further trees, he had created a landscape park which idealised nature and created a fashionable backdrop to the house.

“In the 19th century far more trees were added and the park enlarged to create the beautiful parkland much as we see it today.”

Extensive remains of medieval ridge and furrow which once lay within open fields can still be seen as corrugations in the landscape near Edensor. The survey also revealed previously unrecognised prehistoric burial mounds and farming remains, and a wealth of detail on past estate landscaping, farming, industry and roads throughout the Chatsworth landscape.

The research was undertaken for the Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement and English Heritage to inform a Heritage Management Plan that should conserve the estate’s historic features for generations to come. It will also help provide more detailed information for visitors, researchers and schools.

This latest work is a companion volume to the earlier book, “Chatsworth: A Landscape History,” by John Barnatt and Tom Williamson, which covered the gardens and parkland immediately surrounding the house.

An academic paper on the work is due to appear in the Archaeological Journal next year.

The Archaeology of a Great Estate: Chatsworth and Beyond” will be launched at Chatsworth House on September 8. It is published by Windgather Press, an imprint of Oxbow Books, at £20.

This is an archived press release

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