Phil Spencer explores Britain’s stately homes, finding out how and why they came to be – and how much they cost… Phil visits the magnificent Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, the family seat of the Cavendish family and the Dukes of Devonshire for more than 350 years. He’s welcomed by the current owner, Peregrine Andrew Morney Cavendish, the 11th Duke of Devonshire, known to his friends as ‘Stoker’. Phil asks what it’s like to live in a property that’s so palatial (365 family homes could fit inside it) and so opulent. The house’s window frames are gilded in 24-carat gold leaf, which the Duke admits is ‘terribly vulgar, but luckily historically correct – we’re pretty keen on bling!’. The Duke shows Phil the oil paintings of his ancestors, and the ‘swagger portrait’ of William Cavendish, the 1st Duke of Devonshire, the ‘amazing man’ who first built Chatsworth in 1708: a daredevil Duke who was an architectural risk taker and involved in the treacherous plot to oust King James II. In the beautiful grounds, Phil turns on Chatsworth’s famous Emperor Fountain, one of several ground-breaking garden features created by genius Joseph Paxton in the Victorian era. Then, using cutting-edge virtual reality, Phil steps back inside Paxton’s long-lost Great Conservatory: the phenomenal tropical hothouse that was a wonder of Victorian society.
Phil Spencer’s Stately Homes – Wednesday 8pm on Channel 4