Elvaston Castle is a truly spectacular venue based in Derbyshire. Steeped in history, the story of this venue is simply fascinating.
Created by many hands as a haven for a family line, turned by circumstance into a sanctuary for two lovers and transformed into an escape from ‘everyday life’ for thousands; this continually evolving, miniature world reveals countless glimpses of its long history.
The castle stands at the heart of the estate, overlooking a landscape ranging from majestic conifers and woodland to formal topiary and rock work which inspired so many historic estates. Slightly worn at the edges, this homage to romantic Gothic fantasy still has the power to inspire and surprise with its gleaming gilt and dramatic painted interiors.
Some of the grandeur of Barron’s experimental design has been eroded by happy, running feet and generations of exploring hands; the growing power of the Stanhope family has waned, but their enduring creation of fantasy and escapism is still felt throughout the house and grounds.
Fully licenced to hold weddings both inside the stunning Gothic Hall and also within the walls of the English Country Garden, this venue will not fail to wow.
Set within the grounds of Elvaston Castle, the English Country Garden is the perfect hideaway for wedding ceremonies. With its gorgeous Pagoda licenced for the ceremony itself, your guests will have the perfect view of the happy couple making their vows. Once the ceremony has ended, treat your guests to a glass of bubbly and welcome canapes in the stunningly fragrant Herb Garden area, filled with plants, trees and shrubs which bloom in colour and smells, making it the perfect spot for your initial gathering, allowing the guests the chance to mingle.
Moving next to the Secret Garden, this walled and completely private area is the ideal location for your marquee, whether it be a Tipi, a traditional marquee or something more spectacular, the space is just perfect for your summer wedding. The area is closed off to the public for your special day and with parking on site, it is the ideal venue for your big day!
Elvaston Castle as we see it today, dates from the early 19th century and the time of the Gothic revival. It was Charles, 3rd Earl of Harrington, who ordered the re-building to replace the old brick-built, gabled manor house which had been the home to the Stanhope family for some 200 years. A small part of that building remains at the right hand end of the south front, where a red brick section with mullioned windows bears the date 1633. The 3rd Earl was 60 years of age when he turned his attention to rebuilding Elvaston, by which time he was established and influential enough to commission the leading architects of the day. He chose James Wyatt who began his designs for Elvaston in 1812.
James Wyatt was a Staffordshire man, who quickly acquired great skills as an architectural draughtsman during his time spent in Venice, Italy. He worked in Rome and returned to England and designed the Pantheon in Oxford Street, receiving many private commissions during his career, working on over 100 country houses in England, Ireland and Wales. Wyatt’s greatest love was Gothic architecture and it was this style which bought his fame. His greatest masterpiece is probably Belvoir Castle, remodelled for the Duke of Rutland in the early years of the 19th century. Wyatt’s skills as a Gothicist were sought also for restoration work in colleges, churches and cathedrals, including Lichfield and Salisbury.
Elvaston Castle was one of Wyatt’s last commissions and he did not live to see his designs finished. He was killed in a coaching accident in September 1813 and another 2 years passed before Lord Harrington appointed Robert Walker to continue the work. Walker never achieved fame, but from 1815 to 1819 he supervised the re-building of Elvaston Castle, following James Wyatt’s original design.
The new castle with its battlements and turrets was linked to a large courtyard, complete with a water tower of the same Gothic design. On the south side of this new courtyard was the hound enclosure and 2 gatehouses, one either side of a Gothic archway. On the west side, another archway under a clock tower led through to the pump yard, with its deep coach wash, coach house and harness rooms, beyond which lay a fine new stable block. Nearby on the south-west, Elvaston Church with its much earlier embattled tower, completed the scene.
The 3rd Earl would have liked a new landscaped garden to complete his plans and with this in mind, he approached Capability Brown. He turned down the commission explaining that ‘the place is so flat and there is such a want of capability in it’. However, he did present a disappointed Lord Harrington with 6 seedling Cedars of Lebanon which were planted to the east of the castle and grew into magnificent trees.
After Lord Harrington’s death in 1829, it was left to his son Charles to finish the work at Elvaston. The 4th Earl like his father, favoured the Gothic style but in his case, it was an obsession and for the next 20 years he watched over the creation of a garden that became the talk of England. The death of the 4th Earl of Harrington in 1851 was indeed the end of an era for Elvaston and with it came an opportunity long awaited. The 5th Earl, Leicester Stanhope, opened Elvaston to the public at an entrance fee of 3 shillings a head. It was a high charge for those days but such was the reputation the gardens had acquired, it made no difference, people flocked to Elvaston in their thousands.
With the passing of time the gardens and in particular the topiary, began to show signs of neglect. In 1969 immediately after they bought Elvaston, Derby Parks and County Council put into action a plan to restore the grounds which were to be opened to the public again just 12 months later. An extensive programme of tree surgery began and a new parterre garden was designed on the same site to the south of the castle. William Barron was undoubtedly a major influence on planning style during the mid 1800’s and Elvaston Castle Country Park stands as the most complete example of his work remaining to this day. In October 1990 English Heritage listed the gardens and grounds of Elvaston as ‘outstanding’ an indication of its unique historical importance.
In 1969, following the alteration of authority boundaries, Derbyshire County Council took on the management of the estate and continue to do so to this day.
At the heart of the Estate is Elvaston Castle, for 400 years the home of the Stanhope family, who later became the Earls of Harrington. The Estate has love at its core, the romantic story of the 4th Earl of Harrington and his true love, Maria Foote being central to the development and design of the estate and formal gardens; the latter designed by William Barron for the 4th Earl in honour of his wife. The Castle is a predominantly 19th century creation built around an earlier 17th century house. It too is locally renowned for romance, with its Gothic Hall, designed around themes of chivalry, honour and love; also providing a film set in 1969 for ‘Women in Love’, a British romantic drama film directed by Ken Russell and based on D.H. Lawrence’s novel of the same name. The film starred Oliver Reed, Alan Bates, Glenda Jackson and Jennie Linden, the former two actors infamously being filmed wrestling in front of the Gothic Hall fireplace.
Surrounding the Castle is a series of ‘garden rooms’ (including the ‘Garden of Fair Star’), a nearby lake and wider parkland. Many of the estate buildings and much of the gardens and parkland are designated Grade 2* for their heritage significance.
The varied landscape provides a wonderful and very attractive setting that is enjoyed for a wide range of recreation and access. The Estate is also important for wildlife, particularly bats, and part of the site is designated a Local Nature Reserve.
The perfect setting for that special day, the history doesn’t fail to add to the character of the venue. With its stunning gardens and Gothic splendour of the main hall, what better way to celebrate with your guests. The Gothic Hall can entertain up to 60 (56) guests for the ceremony and wedding breakfast, with the Secret Garden offering scope for almost any size marquee. Alternatively hold your ceremony outdoors in the delightful Old English Garden followed by a lovely traditional drinks reception, before moving into your marquee within the Secret Garden to celebrate with friends and family.
With exclusive access to the Gothic Hall and Secret Gardens on your wedding day, there will be plenty of opportunity to explore the fantastic estate. This unique venue really does offer the setting people dream of, its breath-taking grounds the perfect opportunity for photographs you will treasure forever.
Elvaston Castle and Country Park
Borrowash Road (A6120)
Some sat navs try to direct vehicles off the A6 Derby By-pass into Elvaston Castle Country Park via a slip road to Bridlegate Lane, Alvaston. There is no access to the park via this route (nor turning room along its length should you commit to it). The lane is clearly marked off the by-pass with a 'dead-end' highways sign.
Information panels, which include site maps, are located:
within the main car park (one close to the lakeside path entrance and another on the exterior wall of the public toilets block)
underneath the arch within the central courtyards
within the information centre and shop
in the castle entrance corridor
at the end of South Avenue opposite the bus stop.