A visit to Chatsworth House and Mamhead Estate

A visit to Chatsworth House and Mamhead Estate

The Pre-Chelsea roadshow continued in these two beautiful venues.

Our pre-RHS Chelsea Roadshow visited new locations, reaching Chatsworth House, Derbyshire and the Mamhead Estate near Exeter, on the 15 and 18 April respectively.

Standing on the east bank of the River Derwent, Chatsworth House looks across to the low hills that divide the Derwent and Wye valleys. The house is world renowned for its unique collection of priceless paintings, furniture, Old Master drawings, neoclassical sculptures, books and other artefacts.

It was the equally famous gardens and landscape that were the focus of an opening presentation from Steve Porter. Formerly of the National Trust, Steve Porter now heads up a 20-strong team of gardeners, trainees and volunteers all of whom maintain and enhance the Chatsworth grounds.

Having run through the history of the house, from the work of William Cavendish and Elizabeth Talbot in the 1550s through to Capability Brown’s involvement in 1760 and on to the role played by the sixth Duke (1830s) who installed, what was at the time, the largest free-standing glasshouse in the world.

Steve Porter then covered his experiences of Chelsea Flower Show and his pride when Chatsworth’s show garden was crowned best in show. Designed by Dan Pearson, the Chatsworth show garden was inspired by the idea of moving water – featuring a small stream that meandered through stone channels, bordered by natural grasses.  300 tonnes of rock travelled from Chatsworth to Chelsea for the designed, before being reinstated as a half mile trout stream back on the estate.

Introducing this year’s designer for Brewin’s show garden, Rosy Hardy, continued the theme of deriving inspiration from the natural landscape.  She detailed the chalk streams, rolling hills and winding banks of the river Test surrounding her nursery that inadvertently became the basis of her design submission for Brewin Dolphin’s CFS brief. Rosy strongly believes that being surrounded by such powerful natural features have paved the way for her transition from 24 years in the pavilion to a show garden on Main Avenue.

Situated on the high ground of the Haldon Hills, fringed by dense woodland, the Mamhead Estate dates back to Domesday. Though in 1823, Mamhead was bought by Robert William Newman, who completely rebuilt the house on slightly lower ground, with designs by Anthony Salvin.

Today’s owner is Richard Fuller, a property developer by profession, who reflected on the changes to the house over the years. Clearly enjoying the thought of 26-year-old architect Anthony Salvin being given free reign of the purse strings during the redevelopment of 1823 – he joked that the architects and designers behind today’s redevelopment have been given no such freedom!

Rosy’s presentation at Mamhead was very much on the planting style utilised in her Chelsea Flower Show designs. Though based on the seemingly simple ethos of ‘right plant, right place’ Rosy and her team at Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants have found themselves nurturing 6,000 potted perennials for Brewin Dolphin’s show garden.