Renishaw Hall: BBC’s Pemberley

August 28, 2012 at 7:36 pm (books, entertainment, jane austen, places, travel) (, , , , , , , )

My friend Calista and her husband Francis recently journeyed to Derbyshire to visit Renishaw Hall.

Renishaw Hall served as Pemberley in the BBC’s 1980 production of Pride and Prejudice starring Elizabeth Garvey and David Rintoul. Calista and I love this version; for me, it’s due to the authenticity of Fay Weldon’s screenplay. In the photo above, you witness the arrival of Miss Eliza Bennet and the Gardiners.

They are greeted by Mrs Reynolds, the housekeeper:

We have here some of the finest rooms in the Country,
and many choose to view them.”

While the loquacious Mrs Reynolds takes pleasure in showing visitors the interior of the house, it is the gardener who leads the visitors around the gardens:

All of which causes Elizabeth to think that she might have been mistress of all she surveys at Pemberley:

Here are Calista’s thoughts on her own tour of Renishaw Hall / Pemberley:

“Went to Renishaw Hall around 11 yesterday. First, we explored the gardens, since the guided tour to the house for which I had made reservations began at 12:30.

The gardens were very well maintained with some flowers and as we walked we found some very beautiful butterflies, brown colour with big purple spots all over. We explored the very area where Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth met. I stood there admiring this beautiful house… I did want to walk by the lake but it was closed off and when Francis asked why I wanted to walk by the lake I had to explain it to him: That’s where Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth and the Gardiners walked by. You should have seen Francis’s face; it was priceless… He must have thought I was really gone nuts this time…

At 12:30pm there was a group of people and we all went in to the house. The house is opened to the public only by guided tours during August and September. The family rooms are still in use and we did see the grand drawing room, dining room, and few other rooms. There were three famous Sitwells — Edith Sitwell being one of them, her portraits were everywhere. Renishaw Hall is no Chatsworth but I didn’t expect it to be; it has its own beauty and charm. We didn’t see any of the bedrooms since upstairs was not included in the tour. Did not see the long gallery of portraits; don’t know if such a place exists at Renishaw. They did have a small museum in the court yard, as well. I did buy some rose petal potpourri at the gift shop.”

She later added,

“You know last night I rewatched the part where Elizabeth visits Pemberley. The gardens haven’t changed drastically. I am guessing the lake scene must be from somewhere else since the lake in front of the Renishaw Hall didn’t look anything like what was shown on the series. That part of the lake is blocked off from the edge of the gardens, so no way to walk towards the lake.

As to the house, the entrance where everyone enters is the very entrance we took. It’s the house’s main entrance and right in front of it is a parking lot now. Our car wasn’t parked too far from it. As you enter there is no staircase where Mrs. Reynolds meets the party but a somewhat larger room nicely decorated. The drawing room in the house is lovely; wish they had used the same room in the show. Remember where Mr. Bingley and the rest of the party meets? That room I did not see, perhaps a studio room or from somewhere else or even some other room in the house.”

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A True Tonic!

January 9, 2010 at 2:19 pm (a day in the life) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

I am writing (thanks to wifi in my room!) from The Governor’s House in Hyde Park — a simply terrific bed and breakfast in Hyde Park, Vermont — where our last (of four) Pride and Prejudice “Jane Austen Weekend” is taking place (for more on the inn and the JA weekends, see this website). Two cancellations, one poor Florida woman still missing in action (did she decide not to come? is she stuck in some airport?), and there are left seven participants, nine with Suzanne (the owner) and myself. A wonderful little group!

Just coming through the door last evening – after a harrowing 360-degree spin around one icy curve (narrowly missed  hitting a guardrail and oncoming vehicles; my car and myself are fine!) – I felt an embrace of ‘welcome’ , and met two of our participants, from Montreal.

Must just say what a pleasure it is being with people who talk about the pleasures of life: travel, books, tv and movie films. One participant is even interested in WWI and WWII era books and movies (like myself). It’s taken me all night to recall Nella Last’s diary (and the subsequent TV movie; both are terrific), as well as think of Georgina Lee’s diaries (published as Home Fires Burning). By the way, her son married into the Spencer-Smith branch of the Smith of Suttons family (Orlando Spencer-Smith’s daughter). Small world.

It was a gab-fest last evening: we met in the parlor before 8; chat segued into my talk on Georgiana Darcy and roamed around many topics before people headed off to bed about 11. It was great fun!

An no one will know how happy it made me feel (unless they read this post!) to hear that participants liked the interactive “look” at these three women artists (Mary Yelloly, Diana Sperling [her work seen below], Lili Cartwright) from Georgiana’s time period (1800-1840s). Looking notes over last evening before the talk I experienced a distinct liking for my ideas on Georgiania, on the works of this trio of amateur artists. Sometimes problems, cares and worries just take over the creative juices… So I’m hoping this weekend away will help them regenerate!

One thing it brought was a new source book. I am staying in the “French Room” – a lovely, huge room with two sleigh beds (quite apropos for this wintry weather…), and it is a stone’s throw from the little video library Suzanne has amassed – and on a table in that alcove, The Making of “Pride and Prejudice” (ie, the A&E “Colin Firth” version). Their researcher remarks that she figured the Bennets would have had a staff of 11 – from Housekeeper to undergroom. The source book she found invaluable in answering the question of staff was published in 1825, and sure enough has it: The Complete Servant, by Samuel and Sarah Adams. (To get past the ‘ads’ advance to page 13 = the title page.) Should make for interesting reading — as the staffing of the likes of Suttons, in Mrs Smith’s day or in Lady Smith’s day (eighteen-teens vs eighteen-thirties), is very sketchy, with a few names in Mary’s diaries but only vague references in Mrs Smith’s letters to such as the collective “the maids”, which somehow manages to sound ever so numerous… maybe it was.

Last night, when discussing Georgiana Darcy and her £30,000, I had wanted to see what that in ‘today’s money’ might equate. Why? because of a great currency converter on the UK website for the Public Record Office/National Archives. For instance, when Mrs Smith’s father died, the family sold his Wiltshire estate for £219,000. Even in today’s money that sum sounds a vast amount to the likes of me! But with these two converters we can find (1) its equivalent in today’s money and (2) today’s money ‘buying power’ in (for instance) 1820:

calculation 1: “In 1820, £219,000 would have the same spending worth of today’s £9,180,480.” W-o-w! Nearly 10 million pounds, divided between the four daughters of Joshua Smith.

So what would Georgiana’s £30,000 equal today? Over one million pounds! (BTW, Mary — and I presume her sister Elizabeth as well, had £20,000 settled on her in 1826 when she married Charles Smith, according to a letter written by Eliza Chute [I’ve not yet looked into marriage settlements of the family].)

I hear the doors — Austen weekenders returning from their sleigh ride down in Stowe! It’s cold, but the sun is shining, which is RARE here in Vermont lately!

The making of P&P book also mentioned diaries held at “Cecil Sharpe House” – I’ve no idea what this is. Searching for it by name, I find bars and nightclubs – which doesn’t sound like a place that houses 19th-century diaries! The fuller quote (on p. 32 of the book) is: “I visited the library at Cecil Sharpe House. I had been asked to find out about a number of points, such as whether guests carried dance cards and whether they were given a full meal, sitting down. The library had a collection of women’s pocket books [ie, diaries] from the early 19th century.” If researcher Clare Elliott’s phrase “had a collection” is indeed in the past tense, any information on what happened to this collection would be of use to me. Though I do find that the English Folk Dance and Song Society website discusses the ‘complete overhaul’ of the archive spaces at Cecil Sharp House (no ‘e’ to his last name). When hearing about a stash of diaries it’s difficult not to wonder: Any from the Smith or Gosling family??

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Previewing Persuasions

April 1, 2009 at 11:40 am (books) (, , , , , , , )

peak-cavern-entrance_1830-kmJASNA has posted a link to the table of contents for volume 30 (2008) of the Jane Austen Society of North America’s journal Persuasions. This annual is a peer-reviewed journal, featuring both articles based on papers presented at the October AGMs (Annual General Meeting; 2008’s took placed in Chicago) and ‘miscellany’ — which includes my own article on the 1833 Austen-Smith journey to Derbyshire: they travelled pretty much in the shoes of Elizabeth Bennet! Watch the JASNA website, for I have been told the article might be posted on their “maps” page (a quite useful resource, now augmented with related articles on places and travel pulled from the Persuasions archive). This article has evolved into an illustrated talk, which will be of interest to anyone with an affinity for 19th-century travel in England!

(picture, courtesy of, shows the Entrance to the Peak Cavern – complete with its twine workers)

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