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About the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

11 - 14 June 2020

Chatsworth is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and has been passed down through 16 generations of the Cavendish family. It is a family home, a working farm and a living landscape.

The house is renowned for the quality of its art and landscape, containing works of art that span 4,000 years, from Ancient Roman and Egyptian sculpture, and masterpieces by Rembrandt, Reynolds and Veronese, to work by outstanding modern artists, including Lucian Freud, Edmund de Waal and David Nash.

Download the Joseph Paxton / Chatsworth Timeline (4MB pdf)

Challenges of putting on the show

‘There are many challenges of putting on a new show but the biggest challenge is the unknown quantity of the site itself,' says Liz Patterson, Show Manager. 'The site for RHS Chatsworth Flower Show has a high level of archaeological interest throughout, which requires us to go through a rigorous planning process. So there are limitations on what we can to do in certain areas in order to protect the site. This has been quite challenging at times but it’s an exciting journey of discovery and a beautiful place to work.’


Liz added that as the site is such an historic one, we had to undertake extensive research into the underlying archaeology. This included carrying out geophysical and resistivity surveys, test pits and trench excavations to help us avoid areas of particular sensitivity. This is also why the Show Gardens have been allocated an area in the southeast corner of the show site, which is an area of previously disturbed ground. We also had to take into account an extensive network of drainage pipes and stone culverts – some redundant, some of them live – that run through the site. We enlisted the expert help of a team of two archaeologists, who monitored any excavations carried out during show build up.


We always have to take into account any impact we might have on local wildlife, so the RHS commissioned an independent specialist company to carry out an ecology appraisal survey report of the show site. They advised us on special measures to protect and minimise impact on wildlife on and around the show site.

The River Derwent is 60m at its widest in the show site. Our biggest challenge was how we could span such a distance while complying with the environmental conditions considering flood risk and minimal impact to the ecology of the river - no easy feat!

We continuously monitor the effects of the event both pre- and post-show.

Sketch of the Palladian Bridge

Chatsworth House and the RHS share a rich horticultural history that spans more than 190 years. At the age of 20, Sir Joseph Paxton was headhunted from the Royal Horticultural Society’s first gardens at Chiswick (which had been leased to the Society by the sixth Duke of Devonshire) in the 1820s by the Duke of Devonshire himself, who made him Head Gardener at Chatsworth estate, a role Paxton held for more than 20 years. The sixth Duke of Devonshire (William George Spencer Cavendish) became President of the Society in 1838, with Paxton as his Vice-President in 1856 and again in 1865.

Fascinating show facts

  • The show site is approximately 21 hectares in size; big enough to fit 26 football pitches
  • The biggest bridge span is 51 metres
  • We used 5000m of trackway in 2017
  • Exhibitors have just 3.5 days to create their amazing displays in the Floral Marquee, which are judged the day before show opens
  • Sir Joseph Paxton’s Great Conservatory at Chatsworth, demolished in the 1920s, was the inspiration for the centrepiece at the heart of the 2017 show. A representation of the majesty of the original conservatory was created using the latest in inflatable technology
  •  The raised beds in the Great Conservatory contained more than 30 large trees and palms and nearly 6,000 plants
  •  James Wood of Totally Wild UK foraged the ingredients for his cookery demonstration on the Artisan Kitchen Theatre on his walk to the show
  • Both the Wedgwood Show Garden and the Institute of Quarrying Show Garden have now been rebuilt and opened in their permanent homes at World of Wedgwood and the National Memorial Arboretum
  •  A planted container was roped off and left in situ for two weeks post show as a bird had made a nest

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Chatsworth and Wedgwood

Chatsworth House Garden covers 105 acres and is managed by a team of 20 gardeners, three trainees and 50 volunteers. The house and garden were first constructed by Sir William Cavendish and Bess of Hardwick in 1555.

The RHS Chatsworth Flower Show is partnered by Wedgwood. It is thanks to John Wedgwood, the son of the celebrated potter Josiah Wedgwood that the RHS exists. John, born at his father’s pottery works at Etruria, Staffordshire in 1766, first suggested the idea of a Horticultural Society in a letter to William Forsyth, one of King George III’s head gardeners, in 1801. He was its first Chairman and founded the Horticultural Society of London alongside Sir Joseph Banks in 1804.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.