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Logo: Tom Bates, Derbyshire Local Histrory writer  
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Posted Sunday, May 13, 2007

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The first thing to note about the unique ducal village of Edensor is the pronunciation of its name, for in true Derbyshire tradition the three syllables are shortened to two and thus in the local dialect, Edensor becomes`Enzer.

The second thing to note is the complete lack of any necessity to describe its geographical location or access routes for almost everyone knows where it is - and for those who don’t it is sufficient to say simply `Chatsworth Park’.

If, as the Duchess of Devonshire once claimed, Chatsworth is “not so much a house as a town” – then Edensor is the nearest of its satellite villages, the others, Pilsley and Beeley lying outside the park to the west and south respectively.

Although the nearest, Edensor is not as close to Chatsworth House as it used to be, for whilst it is only claimed that faith can move mountains, various Dukes of Devonshire have proved beyond doubt that rich landowners can move rivers - and even entire villages, as the 6th Duke did when he had Edensor largely relocated between 1838 and 1842!

Thus unlike other villages in the county – most of which have grown organically from original settlements and evolved over a period of time into the delightfully characteristic villages of today’s Derbyshire, the present ducal village of Edensor is a largely `manufactured’ model village, and can justifiably be claimed an anachronism, for it has remained virtually unchanged since it was built and is almost entirely a product of the early Victorian age.

The village presents a somewhat bewildering mixture of architectural styles with no two dwellings alike, each individually designed from all over Europe by Derby architect John Robertson, who worked alongside the Duke’s head gardener, Sir Joseph Paxton - also a respected architect and writer.

Local legend has it that Robertson copied the designs from a pattern book which he showed to the Duke at a busy time, and was instructed to `build me one of each’. The result, whatever the reason, is certainly interesting!

However, the original village of Edensor existed long before Sir William and Lady Cavendish built the first house at Chatsworth during the Tudor period.

Prior to the Norman Conquest `Ednesovre’ or `Ednesfoure’ was one of three neighbouring settlements here, the others being `Chetelsuorde’ (Chatsworth) and `Langeleie’ (Langley) which were jointly owned by Chetel and his partner Leofnoth.

Following the Conquest the King claimed Chatsworth and Langley, both of which lay north of the present house, whilst Edensor was given to Henry de Ferrers.

The divided manors were not re-united until 1549 when Sir William and Lady Cavendish, perhaps better known as `Bess of Hardwick’ and reputedly `the richest woman in Tudor England’ bought them, along with other large tracts of land in Derbyshire.

At that time the village of Edensor was scattered sparsely down the bank that it currently occupies, with it’s centre lying somewhere between the present road and the river.

Two hundred years later it would have presented a very different picture to visitors according to historian Roy Christian, for in 1785 it contained 85 houses – equal to todays entire population - and was `straggling down the hill to the river and running along parallel with it on the west bank towards a ruined mill’.

The mid-eighteenth century saw massive changes to the landscape when the 4th Duke of Devonshire employed Capability Brown the famous landscape designer, and architect James Paine to straighten out the river and extend the park to the west. Prior to this the Derwent had formed the western boundary of Chatsworth Park and Edensor, lying on the west bank and up the hill beyond, had been outside the park.

A new north/south road was built above the west bank, and all the village dwellings visible from the west front of the house were demolished, whilst some which were out of sight survived to be incorporated into the design when the 6th Duke of Devonshire, known as the `Bachelor Duke’, had Edensor reconstructed almost a century later.

Noteable among the survivors were the present post-office and tea-rooms, formerly part of a farm building dating from the 1600’s; the toll-bar cottage at the top of the village, a couple of cottages overlooking the green, and parts of the Old Vicarage.

Park Cottage, a splendid edifice more commonly known as `Naboth’s Vineyard’ which stands in it’s own walled garden on the line of the old village street opposite the gatehouse, also survived.

On the main road opposite the village the elegant Georgian-style Edensor Inn with its fine Venetian windows was designed by Derby architect Joseph Pickford and built by the 5th Duke in 1778.

In 1868 this handsome building was known as the `Chatsworth Inn’; later it became the `Chatsworth Institute’; now it is known as the `Cavendish Club’.

The building also houses the Estate Offices and stands opposite a row of cottages built in 1904 known locally as `Teapot Row’ - and the quaint half-timbered and picturesque Buxton Lodge, designed by Wyatville and finished by Paxton in 1839, which stands near the park gates.

The white entrance gates to the walled village of Edensor, which is dominated by the soaring spire of St. Peter’s Church, stand on the west side of the road through the park beside the magnificent battlemented and ivy-covered turreted gatehouse.

Behind the gatehouse stands the curving parade of the former coach-house and stables that once belonged to Edensor House, the largest dwelling in the village and the home of the Duke and Duchess before they moved into the main house in 1959.

The former stables have been converted into flats, and are mainly occupied by retired estate workers.

St. Peter’s Church was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and built in the Early English style around 1870 to replace the former church on the site, whose records dated from 1540.

Pevsner decried the church as being out of scale with the village, and indeed one can surmise from it’s sheer size and style that it’s design is perhaps more in keeping with a monument erected to the heavenly aspirations of the great and good, than for the simple use of a village congregation. However, the church is handsomely redeemed by some relics of it’s predecessor which remain – notably, one of the finest monuments in the county - to William first Earl of Devonshire and Henry Cavendish, two sons of Bess of Hardwick - and an interesting brass to John Beaton, servant to Mary Queen of Scots.

Lord Frederick Cavendish, mudered in Phoenix Park, Dublin in 1882 also lies here, whilst in the churchyard other members of the Duke’s ancestors are buried, including the 6th Duke of Devonshire, and his head gardener, Joseph Paxton.

Close by lies the grave of Kathleen Kennedy, sister of President John F. Kennedy and widow of the 10th Duke’s elder son the Marquess of Hartington, who was killed in action in 1944.

Fifteen years ago former Edensor vicar, Rev. Ronald Beddoes described the village as `an oasis of civilisation’; that it most certainly is - and long may it remain so.

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Edensor Church as seen from Chatsworth

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