Only three miles from Derby city centre, Kedleston Hall, a magnificent Neo-classical Georgian house, stands within over 800 acres of Italian style classical landscape. The present house was built for Nathaniel Curzon, the 1st Lord of Scarsdale, whose family has lived at Kedleston, since the 12th Century. The house passed into National Trust ownership in 1987, but the Curzon family to this day still occupies a wing.
The ancient church is all that remains of the medieval village of Kedleston swept away in 1759 when the construction of the present hall began. Little is known of the earlier houses before the end of the 17th century when a medieval hall was replaced by a three storey red brick house, built by Smith of Warwick. But it was not long before this house was demolished and replaced by something much grander.
Sir Nathaniel Curzon was an enthusiastic art collector and in 1759, he decided the house was not big enough to display his paintings and other treasures and he set about making plans for its replacement. He appointed Matthew Brettingham an architect from Norwich who drew up plans for a central block linked by corridors to two separate wings. Brettingham began building the north-east wing as the family home, but was then replaced by James Paine, who had carried out work at Chatsworth. He in turn was succeeded by the much younger Robert Adam.
It was Adam of the two who was the most adventurous with his designs. This is evidenced when comparing the grand, but slightly dull north front designed by Paine with the livelier south front, which his successor based on Constantine’s Arch in Rome. Adam too designed much of the interior and was responsible for all the decoration.
The gardens were landscaped, in the form of a fashionable Pleasure Ground of that period. A ha-ha or sunken wall was built to allow uninterrupted views of the parkland, while at the same time keeping the animals within their grazing area. Robert Adam designed the attractive three arched bridge over the Cutler Brook, which was widened into a series of lakes and cascades. Adam also designed the boathouse and a fishing house with Venetian windows and the North Lodge with wrought-iron gates. The gates were created by Benjamin Yates. He had succeeded Uttoxeter born, Robert Bakewell, England’s most celebrated native-born iron smith. Between the house and the bridge is Bentley’s Well, a spring that apparently took its name from a steward at the hall of that name.
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One of the best surviving examples anywhere of the work of Robert Adam. It is lavishly decorated and contains fine collections of paintings, furniture and sculptures. The marble hall has been described as ‘one of the most magnificent apartments of the 18th century in England’. Open from March to October, Saturday to Wednesday (Park and garden from 10am and house from mid-day). Shop and Restaurant open at weekends in the winter. The park is open all year. Closed 25/26 December. For further information: Tel. 01332 842191.
PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE AREA
Derwent Valley Visitor Centre: (Tel: 01773 880474) situated in Strutt's, North Mill where superb displays of hand spinning wheels, Hargreaves’s Spinning Jenny and many more exhibits bring this old mill back to life. See feature.
Home Farm (Tel. 01332 204597) on the western side of Markeaton Park, is a fine example of a traditional small agricultural holding, the buildings dating back to 1755. A wide range of animals are kept on the farm, including some rare breeds. Seasonal attractions include hatching chicks in the incubator and newborn animals. One of the barns has been converted into a Gift Shop and Education Centre. Home Farm Tea Room is normally open daily from 11am during the school holidays and at weekends throughout the year, serving hot and cold food, drinks and snacks. Please confirm before travelling.
Markeaton Park is probably the most popular park in the East Midlands with an estimated one million visitors per year, with its numerous attractions and special events. The former Orangery, now a listed building, has been converted into attractive tea rooms, where weather permitting, visitors can sit outside and admire the superb flower beds. A craft village now occupies what were once the hall stables. It consists of a number of individual units selling a wide range of goods, where visitors can watch skilled craftsmen at work. The village is open throughout the year, but the times of opening of individual units vary.
THE DISCOVER DERBYSHIRE AND THE PEAK DISTRICT GUIDE
Provides a wide range of features with heritage trails and detailed countryside walks, through some of the most scenically attractive countryside in the UK.
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