You can hardly move in the Peak District without
coming upon property belonging to the Chatsworth estate. The Dukes of Devonshire own a land mass
slightly bigger than Rhodes, the fourth largest of Greece’s islands. Devonshire
lands could arguably declare UDI and function just as autonomously as anomalies
like San Martino and Luxembourg.
As well as whole villages owned by the Duke of
Devonshire there are also several pubs and this one hotel, the luxury four-star
“Cavendish” on the edge of Baslow village. According to local legend William Cavendish,
6th Duke of Devonshire won this old coaching inn off the 5th Duke of
Rutland whose family seat was at Belvoir Castle in neighbouring Leicestershire.
During a game of cards Rutland, a famous racehorse breeder, threw the Peacock
Inn, Baslow into the pot and Devonshire cleaned up, taking the Peacock with him
and renaming it The Cavendish.
During the nineteenth century this coaching inn
continued to be known as The Peacock because that is the bird that sits on a
cushion atop the Duke of Rutland’s coat of arms. But after the Devonshire duke installed
his own coat of arms it was known for a while as The Cavendish Snake. This was
not any reflection on the Duke’s card-playing ethics but a reference to the
symbol of the Cavendish family, a serpent lying on a cushion with the punning
motto Cavendo Tutus (caution in all things).
Into the early twentieth century carriages and charabancs
were drawn up on the road on which the inn stood (today’s A61). Horses were then
uncoupled and taken to the stables while travellers ascended the two stone
staircases to pass under the Cavendish coat of arms for a good night’s rest.
These days the entrance is on the other side of the hotel which now houses a
large car park. All the hotel’s bedrooms are aligned to face away from the road
into the Chatsworth estate and down the Derwent Valley.
The original inn had thirteen bedrooms and these have
been preserved and given the surnames of wives who married into the Cavendish
family and became Duchesses in due course. As a result you might find yourself staying
in Hardwick, Russell, Cecil or Spencer (the family name of Georgiana, the famous
5th Duchess of Devonshire). Each name is on a plaque attached to the
bedroom’s green baize doors.
A 1980s extension to the west of the old hotel was for
many years known as the Devonshire Wing because all its bedrooms were named
after the 11th Duchess and her five Mitford sisters. Unfortunately, since
Unity and Diana Mitford’s admiration and love for Adolf Hitler has become more
widely known they have been renamed after famous landscape gardeners who have
worked at Chatsworth.
A further six bedrooms have recently been converted in
a freestanding house that was originally built for the manager of the Cavendish
Hotel but is now just too hot a property to be a staff perquisite. Here the
rooms are named after the types of carriage the dukes used to keep – brougham,
Today the hotel has 28 bedrooms and two dining rooms. One
known as “The Garden” is essentially a modern conservatory on the south side of
the hotel with panoramic views over Chatsworth land and which is currently
being extended for casual dining. Meanwhile the fine-dining 3 AA rosette “Gallery
Restaurant” shares the same view from the other side of reception.