The 6th Duke of Devonshire was the son of William, 5th Duke of Devonshire, and Duchess Georgiana. He succeeded his father at the age of 21 and is remembered today as the 'Bachelor Duke' as he never married.
Extravagant and charming, he loved entertaining his friends and spent 47 years improving his many houses. He engaged the architect Sir Jeffry Wyatville (1766-1840) to build the long North Wing at Chatsworth, and Lismore Castle in Ireland was also substantially enlarged and rebuilt. Such expenditure taxed even his resources and he was later forced to sell property in Yorkshire.
A keen collector in all areas, the Duke formed a particularly important collection of sculpture which was housed in the purpose-built Sculpture Gallery in the 'new' North Wing. He was also a great book collector, making purchases at important auctions such as the Roxburghe sale of 1812 and, in the same year, acquiring the entire library of Thomas Dampier, the Bishop of Ely.
The Duke developed an intense interest in horticulture after he met Joseph Paxton (1803-1865), a young gardener working in the Horticultural Society's gardens at Chiswick. He appointed Paxton to be head gardener at Chatsworth in 1826 and together they changed the garden radically, introducing exotic species, such as the Cavendish banana, and giant rockeries.
Paxton designed and constructed the Emperor Fountain in the Canal Pond and also the Great Conservatory, the forerunner of the Crystal Palace, built for the 1851 Great Exhibition. The Great Conservatory became derelict during the First World War as it became too costly to run, and it was demolished soon after. The maze now grows in its place.
The 6th Duke died at Hardwick Hall in 1858, aged 67. As he was unmarried the title passed to his cousin, William Cavendish, 2nd Earl of Burlington of the 2nd creation.
1. The 6th Duke of Devonshire, by Sir George Hayter (1791-1871)
2. The 6th Duke of Devonshire
3. The Great Conservatory at Chatsworth, the site of which is now occupied by the maze
4. The Emperor Fountain, designed by Joseph Paxton
William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire (1748-1811)
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806)
William Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire (1808-1891)
Joseph Paxton (1803-1865)
History of Chatsworth
Meet the Devonshires
Learn more about sixteen generations of the Devonshires
The 6th Duke and Paxton
The 6th Duke's Diaries