Access Policy

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.

Family history and house history enquiries

If you believe you have ancestors who may have worked at Chatsworth or other Cavendish properties, or lived on one of the Devonshire estates, please have a look at our freely available Staff and Servants database. This has been compiled over many years using a wide range of archival sources and currently contains information about nearly 4,500 individuals. 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 are unable to answer enquiries relating to the history of individual estate (or former estate) properties. We hold the surviving records of several estate offices, but the quality and extent of these records is highly variable. The archives do not contain information about dates of construction for individual buildings, and there are no historic photographs of estate properties. Many of our estate archives are not fully catalogued, and extracting even very basic information about individual properties can be extremely time consuming. We therefore regret that we are unable to undertake this kind of research.

Personal research visits

We offer free access to the Archives and Library collections in the 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 Wednesdays; the Study Room is closed on Thursdays, Fridays, weekends, UK bank holidays and the week between Christmas and New Year.
  • The Study Room will also be closed during May 2023 to allow a preventive conservation project to take place. 
  • Study Room opening hours are 10.30am to 4.30pm, with a one-hour closure for lunch between 1 and 2pm.
  • 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. We are also starting to publish some of our catalogues via The National Archives’ Discovery and the Archives Hub.

If you have never used the collections before, please complete and return 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

We only have small lockers to accommodate personal possessions, and no bags (other than clear plastic bags) are permitted in the Study Room, so please keep your luggage to a minimum.

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 Collections team who will escort you to the Study Room.

Copies of collection items

Self-service photography

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.

Ordering copies

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

Contact details

Archives and Library
Collections and Exhibitions Department
Derbyshire DE45 1PP

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