CHATSWORTH HOUSE: Watch our behind-the-scenes tour of the new Spring 2011 Visitors Programme ... VIDEO

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WHEN your home is Chatsworth House, there must be no shortage of space to display those precious family heirlooms.

Every year the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire shake things up by filtering items out of their private collection and rotating them into the new visitors collections for all to see.

And this year they’re displaying some of their best loved possessions for the first time in a new ‘Favourite Things’ collection.

The North Sketch Gallery has been filled with the couples’ most precious contemporary artworks, including an enormous David Hockney piece called Le Parc Des Sources, Vichy.

“It was previously hung in our house in London but we have put it on the visitor route for the first time ever this year,” said the Duke.

Possibly the most eye-catching attraction of the collection are His and Hers display cabinets where the Duke and Duchess have selected their most prized personal possesions for inclusion.

The Duke’s cabinet includes a New York Giants american football, which was given to him on a visit two years ago, after the team won the Superbowl. Among a number of other knick-knacks - including a silver tray which the Duke commissioned to be made by one of his favourite artists, Hiroshi Suzuki - is a rag rug made for the Duke by his sister Emma Tennant.

“It was in my room but I brought it here to show it off,” the Duke explained.

“I love it because it’s bright and colourful and, of course, because my sister made it.”

Another incredible item is a bejewelled Hawk drinking vessel which caught the eye of Fiona Bruce when The Antiques Roadshow visited Chatsworth last summer.

In the Duchess’ cabinet - which is decidedly more girly than the Duke’s - there is a silver honeycomb holder, a crumpet tray which the Duchess herself swears by and possibly most amazingly of all, a hand-carved wooden rosary which belonged to Henry VIII.

As well as the ‘Favourite Things’ display at Chatsworth House, this season visitors can wander round the guest bedrooms, which have been carefully restored with the original textile hangings. A guide costumed as a lady’s maid will also be revealing the secrets of her mistress’s suitcase of clothes, and visitors can become completely involved by dressing up in various costumes and having a go at tickling the ivories on the piano in the Ante Library. From the end of May, visitors can also take a look at a brand new exhibition celebrating the life of the sixth Duke who made huge changes at Chatsworth in the 1820s and 1830s.

The Chatsworth Estate has recently been presented with a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by the Countryside Alliance in recognition of its role in sparking the local food movement, as well as furthering rural tourism and contributing to the local community.

The award - the first of its kind ever given out - was presented to the Duke of Devonshire and the Dowager Duchess along with Chatsworth staff who were delighted to accept the Award on behalf of the hundreds who work on or for the Chatsworth estate at a reception at the House of Lords.

Countryside Alliance Board Member Lord Gardiner of Kimble read the citation, telling the reception: “This is the first Lifetime Achievement Award we have been moved to present in the Awards’ six year history. It is a huge privilege for the Awards, which are about people, produce and the Great British down-to-earth rural work ethic, to reward the hundreds of people involved in the Chatsworth Estate with this special recognition.

“The Chatsworth Estate, which is a beautiful place in a beautiful setting, was an unlikely location for the start of a revolution, but a food and tourism revolution began here in the 70s and Britain has not looked back. We firmly believe that without the Devonshires and their team leading the way, we would not have such a thriving local food and rural tourism scene in the UK. The culture of direct sales from producers through the farm shop really began here, which is inspiring in itself. Beyond that there is the knowledge that the best way to ensure a future for our rural way of life is to promote it far and wide. Produce, heritage, education, and the highest possible standards are on show at Chatsworth. The enterprising formula, which is always on the march, is one that works for tourists and the local community alike. Long may it continue and congratulations to everyone involved in the Estate’s success.”

The Duke of Devonshire added: “I was delighted to collect this new award with my mother, Farm Shop Manager Andre Birkett and Land Agent Nick Wood on behalf of everyone at Chatsworth. This new award for exceptional achievement is for everyone who works, and has worked, on the estate over the last 40 years and we are immensely proud to receive it on their behalf.”

WATCH our video for a behind-the-scenes peek at the New Visitors Programme.

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