Bananas have been grown at Chatsworth since 1830 when Joseph Paxton, head gardener to the 6th Duke, obtained a specimen imported from Mauritius.

Chatsworth legend has it that Paxton was inspired to grow a banana after seeing one depicted on Chinese wallpaper in a bedroom at Chatsworth.

For nearly a hundred years the story was thought to be a myth, as nobody could find the painted banana. Then, in the 1920s, Duchess Evelyn moved a large four-poster bed and the banana was revealed.

However, research conducted for an exhibition in 2013 once again threw doubt on this theory as the banana on the painted wallpaper was identified by a botanist at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh as Musa coccinea; a decorative banana species that does not produce edible fruits.

A much more likely theory as to it's origin is that Paxton had a passionate interest in new and exotic plants and was well connected enough to know when the banana plants arrived in England.

Paxton filled a pit with "plenty of water, rich loam soil and well rotted dung" with a temperature maintained between 18C and 30C. He named the fruit Musa Cavendishii (Dwarf Cavendish) after his employers and in 1835 it finally flowered, producing a crop of bananas in the following May, one of which won a medal at that year's Horticultural Society show.

A few years later, the 6th Duke supplied two cases to a missionary to take to Samoa. One case survived the journey and launched the banana industry in Samoa and other South Sea islands.

The Cavendish bananas were also transported to the Pacific and the Canary Islands. 

Chatsworth's plants continue to be grown in the Display House and produce between 30 to 100 bananas each year. The variety is a denser, less sweet variety than those sold in the supermarkets but they are used for cooking in the house.

Learn more about Joseph Paxton and his impact on Chatsworth here

Image: Musa coccinea painted onto Chinese wallpaper at Chatsworth

Latest news

Newsletter sign-up

Never miss a thing. Stay up to date with our latest news, offers and events by entering your details below:

We use a third party provider to share our email newsletters. We collect statistics, including email opens and clicks, using industry standard technologies, such as clear gifs, to help us improve our newsletter content making it more interesting and relevant. You can learn more in our privacy policy.