Chatsworth House restoration removes years of grime

Almost two centuries of grime have been scrubbed from Derbyshire's Chatsworth House during restoration work that aimed to turn back the clock at the famous stately home.

The £14m project at the stately home of the Duke of Devonshire has restored the famous limestone exterior in time for its seasonal reopening on Sunday.

The Duke of Devonshire said: "It's absolutely wonderful to see the house as it must have looked to my ancestors."

The work included cleaning and replacing the limestone on the south and west fronts after nearly 200 years of weather damage.

The project team worked with experts on historic buildings from the University of Sheffield to ensure the house looks as much as possible like its original - rebuilt in the 1820s by 6th Duke of Devonshire.

Local limestone

All the new stone used to repair the house came from the same quarry that provided the stone for the 1820s project.

Twenty-one two-metre-high (6ft) urns on the roof were restored and 1.5 tonnes of lime mortar was used to repoint the facades of the house.

The Duke of Devonshire added: "It has always been a thrilling moment to see the house come into view as you drive across the park and now that view has been made even more magical.

"With the years of blackened grime now removed from the stone, it looks truly magnificent."

Chatsworth's head of special projects, Sean Doxey, said: "Although the building was in reasonably good condition, it would have started to deteriorate very quickly if we hadn't stepped in now to repair the worst ravages caused by the weather.

"We have quite a lot of original details from the house and lots of invoices - so we can see where the gold leaf and stone was bought."

Mr Doxey said the work was done very carefully.

"The stone is chemically cleaned with a salt solution to soften it," he said. "Then it is washed off with steam and a weak acid - about a 3% solution - is applied to remove the dirt."

He said the grime on the stone came from "carbon soot from coal fires from as far away as Chesterfield and Manchester".

Image caption The restoration of Chatsworth House took more than a year

The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire said they hoped the work would safeguard the house well into the future.

Further work will be taking place over the next few years to clean the East Front, which is visible mainly from the garden.

A team of 12 stonemasons from North Yorkshire carried out the stone cleaning and repair over a 56-week period.

Stone flames on the south front of the house were replaced with newly-carved versions that took two weeks to create.

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