Our Access Policy for the Archives and Library outlines in detail the various ways in which we provide access to the collections.
We receive a high volume of research enquiries to which we reply in order of receipt. We aim to reply to enquiries within three weeks where possible, but we are not always able to respond fully within that timeframe. Information about the archives (and in some cases links to detailed catalogues) can be found in our guides to the Family Papers and Estate Papers, and overviews of our collections are now also being submitted to the Archives Hub. Please consult these web pages prior to submitting an enquiry. Although detailed online catalogues are not yet available for all the archives, we do have further finding aids in various formats which we can supply via email. View contact details.
We are unable to spend longer than an absolute maximum of one hour on any single enquiry, and we do not offer a paid research service. We will assess enquiries on receipt, and if we believe our collections may yield useful results but only with detailed research that will take longer than an hour to undertake, we will inform you of this. Where this applies, you are welcome to visit the Study Room to undertake your own research, or to contact the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives, who may be able to undertake the work for a fee.
We receive many enquiries from family historians who believe their ancestors may have worked at Chatsworth or other Cavendish properties, or lived on one of the Devonshire estates. However, our archival sources for information about former servants and staff are not particularly strong; information must be drawn from a diverse range of records. Over many years, staff and volunteers have worked to extract such information and the results are recorded in our freely available Staff and Servants database. We plan to continue developing this resource, but at the present time if a person’s name is not recorded in the database, we regret that we will not be able to supply information about them.
We hold the surviving records of estate offices that managed, at their height, nearly 200,000 acres of land. The quality and scope of records created differed from office to office, and from one century to another, and many of our estate archives are yet to be fully catalogued. This means that surviving information is highly variable and can be time-consuming and difficult to access. It is likely that if we are able to supply any information about a specific property, this will be limited to names of tenants and approximate dates of occupation. Please see our guidance notes on property history before submitting an enquiry.
Personal research visits
We offer free access to the Archives and Library in our Study Room, within the parameters set out in our Access Policy. Please note the following:
- Visits are strictly by appointment only, and as a small service we are not always able to accommodate researchers on the day of their choice.
- Appointments can be made for Mondays to Thursdays; the Study Room is closed on Fridays, bank holidays and the week between Christmas and New Year.
- Study Room opening hours are 10.30am to 4.30pm.
- We ask all researchers to give two weeks’ notice of any visit, and for anyone consulting collection material which is less than 100 years old we ask for at least a month’s notice.
- We ask all researchers to order in advance the collection items they would like to consult. Please see our guides to the Family Papers and Estate Papers for an overview of the collections, and in some cases links to detailed catalogues. Other finding aids can be supplied on request, by emailing the Archives and Library team. View contact details.
If you have never used the collections before, please complete the application form below, by which you also confirm that you have read and agree to meet our conditions of access and Study Room regulations. On your first visit, you must provide photographic identification, such as a driving licence or passport, so that your application can be validated.
Please return your completed forms by email or post. Subsequent visits and requests for collection material can be booked by emailing the Archives and Library team.
View contact details.
On the day of your visit
When you arrive on the day, please report to the Porters’ Lodge, which is to the left of the entrance to the house.
You will be issued with a visitor's badge and you will be met by a member of the Devonshire Collections team who will escort you to the Study Room.
Copies of collection items
Researchers may take their own photographs of collection items for the purposes of non-commercial research and private study using a camera, phone or tablet. The charge for this is £15 per day, which is payable by cash, cheque or bank transfer. You will also be asked to fill in a copyright declaration form.
The Archives and Library team can provide images for non-commercial research or private study purposes on receipt of a completed Copying Order Form. Currently, we are able to supply JPEG images of unbound flat documents up to A3 in size, depending on the condition of the material. We are unable to supply images from larger or bound items. We do not photocopy archive material, but we can supply hard copy prints taken from digital images at the same cost as supplying the digital image. Our current prices are:
- £3 per image (including VAT) for images we already have in stock.
- £6 per image (including VAT) for new images.
If you wish to reproduce an image in a publication or online, you must obtain a publication-quality image and a license. All licensing enquiries should be directed to email@example.com.
Archives and Library
Collections and Exhibitions Department
Derbyshire DE45 1PP