Duchess Deborah founded the farmyard with a far-sighted aim to provide people of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to learn more about farming, food production and the importance of conserving rare breeds and traditional landscapes.


The farmyard opened in July as the Farming and Forestry Exhibition or 'Model Farm' with a variety of animals including dairy cows, beef cows, and calves, sheep and lambs, pigs, horses, goats and poultry, with a milking parlour for demonstrations.


The adventure playground opened with scramble nets, rope walks, firemen's poles, commando slides, tree houses and a secret tunnel to test the physical skill and daring of all ages.


In 1998, the adventure playground was completely demolished and rebuilt with sand and water play areas, a spiral slide, mini diggers, a trampoline and much more. The new adventure playground was opened in March 1998 by Declan Morrison, grandson of the 11th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.


The foot-and-mouth epidemic had a severe effect on both agriculture and the tourism industry in the UK. We had no cloven hooved farm animals on show in the farmyard, and we closed for two weeks with the rest of the countryside.

To compensate, the house and garden remained open for Christmas – beginning a tradition that continues to this day.


2003 saw the celebrations of the farmyard's 30th anniversary which coincided with the 3 millionth visitor as well as the launch of a 28-seater trailer ride to educate visitors on the history of the estate and the living landscape around Chatsworth.


The Oak Barn was opened by Alan Titchmarsh on 5 April 2005, and is used to provide cover for education talks and demonstrations including rural skills, spinning and bee keeping.


We celebrated 40 years of the farmyard. The farmyard and adventure playground are as popular as ever and continue to educate and engage all ages.


The farmyard was accredited by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, recognising its important contribution to the conservation of some of the rarest livestock and equine breeds native to the UK.

The farmyard is also certified by the Animal Attraction Assurance Scheme ensuring that our visitors and animals are safe.


The farmyard celebrated its 50th birthday. We continue our work with rare breeds with the arrival of a new Albion heifer called Daphne and the birth of Derbyshire Gritstone ram lambs, Gloucester Old Spot piglets, Large Black piglets, a Suffolk Punch foal, Red Cap chickens and Buff Cochin chickens. 



An exciting new chapter of the adventure playground will start in spring 2024

The playground is adored by our visitors and has been explored by millions of people since it was opened. The majority of the current playground was installed in 1998 and has come to the end of its life. The next chapter of the playground includes the installation of new high towers and slides as the first phase of our playground regeneration project. The legacy of the playground and its beautiful location will be respected alongside new and exciting play opportunities. There are more exciting things to come for the playground over the next few years, which we can't wait to share with you. 

Images 1 & 2: the old building yard before it was converted into the farmyard (circa 1972), image 3: an early milking demonstration, 1973, image 4: early animals on show in 1973, image 5: Duchess Deborah and Alan Titchmarsh, image 6: Duchess Deborah

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