There has Been Concern…

Wednesday 6th July 2022

There has been concern that I, Adrian Edge, might say the wrong thing re: the Garden Museum Literary Festival at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire. How could I? I never thought I’d attend a State Dinner in the State Dining Room and Sculpture Gallery at Chatsworth. I never thought I’d see the 12th Duke of Devonshire arrive, self-driven, in an official Chatsworth buggy, the same as used for conveying the less abled tourists there, or queuing for an ice-cream at an ice-cream caravette outside his own home. I never thought I’d even see a Duke, let alone speak to one.

I never spoke to Debo, as Royston reminded me in our Airbnb in Bakewell. But Debo and Chatsworth have been at the core of my life, although, as a house, it is not entirely me. What Debo gave was that the home could be one’s entire life, the mending of carpets, the re-weaving of fabrics and braids, the hunting in attics for William Kent pieces saved from Devonshire House in London. Royston wouldn’t have Debo mentioned though. I wasn’t allowed to mention Debo. He said she was past. At her grave, also Andrew Devonshire’s, which he did not prevent visiting despite no speaking of Debo, Royston received a call from the highest corridors of power (Lord Flingin’ Sauce) to say that the Handel Concert in Hyde Park had been cancelled. The Handel Concert was cancelled owing to those who normally promote pop concerts not understanding that if you put tickets on sale for a classical concert only ten days in advance you won’t get many takers.

Can I say? – The Garden Museum Literary Festival at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire was COMPLETELY FANTASTIC. It was a summer camp for the greatest in the land. How we bonded! The glory and utter greatness. The agony of parting. Crocus’s Head had to buy us two bottles of champagne to soothe the pain.

Chatsworth garden and park must be the most spectacular surviving such place in the world. As far as the eye can see, which is miles, a created landscape evolving over 350 years, so vast, with ‘features’ beyond belief, yet enclosed by a wood to one side, giving a feeling of mystery as to what, if anything, might be beyond. Yet, oddly, Chatsworth is the opposite of the usual country house arrangement, it is so public, so on display. It’s on a bus route. You could pop in to Sheffield from just outside the front door.

The same with the house. The state rooms have been open to the public for centuries. So what one craves are the private apartments. Debo allowed a few photos to appear. Selected guests at the Literary Festival were accommodated on the private side. You could tell them by the red badge hung round their necks saying ‘House Guest’, causing Royston to comment that it is very hard to separate a person from any lanyard they might be given, even Alan Titchmarsh or Crocus’s Head. But none of them, when grilled, had any idea that they ought to be remembering everything to tell me. You couldn’t even work out where the private apartments are. Stoker, as we were to call him ( in his speech of welcome he said, ‘I’m Stoker Devonshire’) parked his buggy by an unremarkable entrance on the east side. As far as I can tell none of the first floor is open to the public, not much of the ground floor and only about half of the second floor.

What is going on?

My only glimpse was of The Baths, shown by Lord Burlington who had a key. These are at the far end, beyond the shop in the Orangery. Now empty of water, this creepy indoor pool was heaped up with rubbish. Who knew that even at Chatsworth there is a room where people just open the door and fling in whatever they can’t bear to think about. When Royston told Stoker about the Baths viewing the next day, he said, ‘Oh is he going to do something with them?’ Lord B takes over next year. Abdication now a feature of the aristocratic houses, but not of the Royal one, of course.

It’s an odd house to tour round on the public tour because you can never tell where you are.  The famous Painted Hall  – I suppose it’s a Hall but it’s not an Entrance Hall. It’s got stairs but there are so many other stairs, it’s confusing. How you would live in such a house?  You could get stranded in a remote drawing room and never be heard of again.

A feature of functions in these places is No lingering. The person I sat next to at the State Banquet in the Sculpture Gallery said she’d dined on the private side the night before. Stoker had said to her, ‘I’m leaving’ (when the courses had been served). She said, ‘Lovely. See you around.’ He said, ‘No, you don’t understand. That means you’re leaving too.’ All very charming, of course. It’s servants, you see, or staff as they are called nowadays. They can’t be keep waiting to get on with clearing up. Luncheon at Buckingham Palace in the days of King George and Queen Mary lasted for 20 minutes. In her book of etiquette Lady Troubridge suggests 45 minutes for a wedding reception.

The Literary Festival was first class. So many interesting talks. Royston compered Alan Titchmarsh whom he addressed as ‘Andrew’ at one point. But superb riffing… ‘I don’t think I can recover from this… you can call me Winston.’ Brilliant. We had a walk with Tom Stuart Smith through the five glades he’s planted at Chatsworth plus jigging up the Rockery (which is several acres with massive rocky pinnacles). Alan Titchmarsh and I had to keep at the front because we didn’t have microphones. ‘I’m not sucking up,’ I said. ‘I just want to be able to hear.’ Tom Stuart Smith even referred to me, Adrian Edge, at one point as to whether a certain campanula was Prichard’s Variety or not. It wasn’t. But he’d wanted it to be.

Stoker and Amanda Welcome Guest to the Literary Festival

Stoker and Amanda Welcome Guests to the Literary Festival

Stoker queuing for an Ice Cream along with the General

Stoker queuing for an Ice Cream along with the General

A Trio

A Trio

Stoker's Coronation Get-Up, when he was Nine

Stoker’s Coronation Get-Up, when he was Nine

Dinner Laid in the Sculpture Gallery

Dinner Laid in the Sculpture Gallery

The Emperor Fountain after Closing Time

The Emperor Fountain after Closing Time

So Grand but Natural

So Grand but Natural

Could be an Entire London Street and Several Public Buildings

Could be an Entire London Street and Several Public Buildings

The Cascade: Unchanged in 320 years. Now Needing Repair

The Cascade: Unchanged in 320 years. Now Needing Repair

Everything Created

Everything Created

Rockery by Paxton or Possibly his Wife

Rockery by Paxton or Possibly his Wife

The Oak Room at Chatsworth. The 6th Duke bought all this carving from Germany. Bit of a horror. I think Debo thought so too

The Oak Room at Chatsworth. The 6th Duke bought all this carving from Germany. Bit of a horror. I think Debo thought so too

The Library: My Favourite Room on the Public Route. But I fear I would Love the Private Rooms

The Library: My Favourite Room on the Public Route. But I fear I would Love the Private Rooms

 

 

 

 

Posted Wednesday, July 6, 2022 under Adrian Edge day by day.

2 comments

  1. Harry Rollo says:

    Stoker’s shoes appear quite battered – not new. In this he takes after his father. At a formal gala I noticed how distressed Andrew Devonshire’s dress shoes were, probably many decades old – perhaps Victorian. Beautifully scuffed and dusty.

    Are new things difficult in that setting (that carpet in the Library… tricky)?

    Fabulous graphs!

  2. Clothes v difficult to match Chatsworth. Nothing modern really does. Stoker had sock interest. Purple socks with Burlington Arcade feel. Maybe we should write in to ask

Leave a Reply