If you’ve ever dreamed of what it would be like to fall down a rabbit hole and have an adventure in Wonderland, make sure you visit Chatsworth this Christmas. A series of rooms have been transformed so you can step inside the weird and wonderful world of Lewis Carroll’s iconic tale, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
A year in the planning, the dining room is almost unrecognisable now that it has been taken over by the Queen of Hearts, and the table has been moved out into the painted hall where you can find the Mad Hatter’s tea party in full swing. You can also look out for the White Rabbit disappearing down the rabbit hole and the Cheshire Cat stretched out on the grand piano – and if all that doesn’t get you in the spirit of things, there are costumes to try on too.
Not as many rooms are open to the public during the Christmas season, with the State Rooms, sketch galleries and bedrooms closed for conservation, but you do get the chance to see Chatsworth as you’ve never seen it before. I never thought I’d be able to say that the White Rabbit took my photograph whilst I sat on a throne in the sculpture gallery! This year Christmas opening has been extended through until 4th January, and I’d recommend visiting on a weekday morning to beat the crowds. I actually arrived before opening time for a special behind the scenes tour. I am very excited to be starting a work placement in the archives in February as part of my postgraduate studies at the University of Sheffield, and I was primarily visiting Chatsworth today to get a preview of the texts I’ll be working with. This meant I finally got to have a look around the library after years of trying to get a peek beyond the velvet ropes. The room is still used by the family, and I can think of nothing better than curling up on one of the sofas with a rare first edition. But I’ll let you in on a secret… not all the books are real. At either end of the room there are fake panels to conceal stairs to the upper gallery level.
For me, the Palace of the Peak will always be a magical place, but with the addition of 52 Christmas trees, 900,000 fairy lights, and the chance to delve into the archives, today’s visit was even more special.