Duke of Devonshire, saviour of Chatsworth, dies, aged 84

The Duke of Devonshire, one of the leading figures in the revival of the fortunes of the country house in postwar Britain, has died, aged 84. The duke, who was a junior minister in the government of his uncle Harold Macmillan in the 1960s and a patron of artists including Lucian Freud, Elisabeth Frink and Angela Conner, died at Chatsworth, the family seat in Derbyshire, late on Monday night.

He was born Andrew Cavendish in 1920, the younger son of the 10th duke. When his elder brother, William - husband of the future President Jack Kennedy's sister Kathleen - was killed in the Second World War, he became heir presumptive to the Devonshire possessions, which included large landholdings in Derbyshire, Sussex, the West End of London, Scotland, and in Ireland at Lismore, Co Waterford.

The critical moment in the family fortunes came with the death in rapid succession of his grandfather, the ninth duke, and, in 1950, of his father. The cumulative death duties presented a daunting prospect. The decisions that Andrew Cavendish, now the 11th Duke of Devonshire, took were decisive in preserving his family's possessions, but also in creating a climate where the preservation and enjoyment of great country houses all over Britain, is now regarded as part of daily life - an industry in its own right.

In the early 1950s, a time of austerity and high taxation, houses such as Chatsworth, the finest classical country house in England, seemed to be unsustainable dinosaurs. At first it seemed impossible that the duke, and his wife, Deborah, one of the celebrated Mitford sisters, could take on Chatsworth - which had seen hard service as a girls' school during the Second World War - and make it into a living house again.

In settlement of death duties, the duke ceded some of the finest treasures in the collection to the nation, along with Hardwick Hall, also in Derbyshire, the prodigious Elizabethan house built, like Chatsworth, by Bess of Hardwick.

With Hardwick in the hands of the National Trust, the Devonshires focused their attentions on Chatsworth. In the succeeding five decades they set the standard in the opening of a country house and its grounds to the public, creating the fashion for the country house shop (selling Chatsworth-branded merchandise); the cheap but good-quality country-house restaurant; and the farm shop - selling organic meat and vegetables from the estate.

In creating a modern role for a venerable country house, the duke made the collection of paintings, books, statuary and precious stones available for exhibition internationally. A selected "Treasures of Chatsworth" exhibition was put on in London in 1979-80. A touring exhibition in the United States of objects from the house - "The Devonshire Inheritance: Five Centuries of Collecting at Chatsworth" - opened last month in New York.

The duke, who was a keen student of his family's involvement in British politics, was Minister of State at the Commonwealth Relations Office and for Colonial Affairs in 1963-64 under the Conservatives. Latterly he was a staunch ally of the Countryside Alliance.

He was also well known in the racing world, becoming a national figure in 1967-70 when his brilliant race mare Park Top caught the public imagination as one of racing's first stars of the television age - in the manner of a Brigadier Gerard or a Desert Orchid.

The duke kept up his interest in the sport, and had a fancied runner in last Saturday's 2,000 Guineas, the Bachelor Duke. The colt was named in memory of the 6th Duke of Devonshire, one of the most intriguing figures of the Victorian age, whose extraordinary legacy at Chatsworth was so treasured by his successor, and whose inspiration the 11th duke followed in making Chatsworth a country house for its age and saving it for the enjoyment of all.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine