Chatsworth Garden | Great Conservatory, Maze & other gems

After we enjoyed the Rock Garden, we started to flag a little and needed a bit of a break but the excitement of a maze had bearded boyfriend more than enthusiastic so we continued on. We got lost numerous times, and with flagging energy I was less than impressed but eventually we made it to where we needed to be.

The Great Conservatory

Paxton’s Great Conservatory was completed in 1840, after four years of work. It was 84 metres long, 37 metres wide and 19 metres tall – making it the largest glass building in England. You could call this the prototype for Paxton’s masterpiece – Crystal Palace in 1851. There was room inside for two carriages to pass one another and stairs leading to high galleries to view exotic plants and branches above. The conservatory hosted ponds with aquatic plants, rocks, mosses, ferns and all sorts of colourful flowers. It also had a tropical climate maintained by wagons delivering coal in underground tunnels.

During the First World War, coal shortages there weren’t enough to maintain such a climate and many of the plants died in this period. Rather than try to revive and restore such a building and then try to continue maintaining it, the house was demolished in 1920. I can’t help but wonder what it would’ve been like to wander through it in its peak, with its lush plants and colourful flowers. The supporting walls and perimeter were kept as a reminder and later would come in handy for a new project…

The Maze

Where the Great Conservatory once stood, now houses a maze by Denis Fisher made in 1962 for the 11th Duke. I got quite lost which was mildly triggering for my traumatic childhood memories but eventually completed it with the help of bearded boyfriend.

The Coal Hole & Tunnel

Another feature constructed by Paxton, the Coal Hole and Tunnel were made in the 1830s to supply enough heat through boilers to the Great Conservatory. The Coal Hole is to the north-east of the conservatory and entirely out of sight from it, meaning carts could come and go with coal in a discreet manner. It would then be taken in small wagons on an underground railway to several boilers which heated miles of pipes contributing to heating the conservatory.

Parts of the tunnel had become blocked over the years with various rubbish including gardening supplies. Once it was cleared, handrails and lighting were installed and the tracks were removed for visitors to explore in 2003. The tunnel is around 70 metres long and has restricted head space and an uneven floor, but for the most part is quite accessible for those who can handle a few steps and a walk.

Conner Grove

Not a huge feature in the garden but one I enjoyed nevertheless, the Conner Grove was instalment that joined the grounds in 2011 from Angela Conner (b. 1935) and consists of bust figures throughout a wooded area. The figures portrayed in these busts include Lady Emma Tennant, Lord Rothschild, Harold Macmillan, Andrew 11th Duke of Devonshire, HM The Queen, HRH The Prince of Wales, The Earl of Burlington and others. While it weren’t on our radar to check out, I noticed it as we were heading for the Canal Pond and it immediately took my interest. Maybe it’s my Halloween heart that it sung to because I couldn’t help but think of the Disney film The Haunted Mansion and I had to chuckle to myself whilst admiring them – I half expected them to start singing at any moment… If they did talk I would’ve had to have asked them for directions to the pond!

That’s all for now. I think after this I can probably fit what’s left into one more post – although knowing me I’ll look back and wished I’d added something more. Stay tuned.

If you have missed my previous Chatsworth posts, you can catch up here.

Cheerio for now!

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