This weekend I spent a few hours poring over the catalogue for the upcoming Sotheby's Auction on March 2 of the contents of the home of Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire. She was the last of the legendary Mitford sisters. Although she mostly avoided the limelight, in 1941 her life changed forever when she married Andrew Cavendish, the second son of the Duke of Devonshire. They unexpectedly inherited Chatsworth estate, one of England's most splendid houses, when Andrew's older brother died in the war. They became the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and moved into Chatsworth House in 1957. This was a mixed blessing as it had been badly neglected during two wars as well as in a great amount of debt due to inheritance taxes.
The Dowager, Duchess of Devonshire, photographed at Chatsworth in 1995
They set about saving the estate by selling thousands of acres of land and giving many works of art and ancient books to the National Treasury. And slowly but surely they turned the estate into a successful business. By the 1960's and 70's thousands of tourists were visiting the house and gardens. In 1977 a farm shop selling local produce, one of the first of its kind, was opened. This was one of the many ingenious ideas from the Duke and Duchess that helped the estate turn a profit. Today more than 700 people are employed in the running of the estate for more than a million annual visitors, as well as helping run the many events which bring in more tourists.
P.S. I am very excited about the new banner for my blog. After all these years, it was time for a change. The talented team at Thunderwing Press created it for me and I couldn't be happier!