Tributes to Duchess

The Duchess of Devonshire - a poultry enthusiast

The Duchess of Devonshire - a poultry enthusiast - Credit: Archant

Tributes have been paid to the Duchess of Devonshire, Britain’s most glamorous lifelong henkeeper, who has died aged 94.

Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, loved to keep chickens at her stately home, Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. Her favourite was the Buff Cochin.

A writer, memoirist and socialite, ‘Debo’, as she was known, was the youngest and last surviving of the six Mitford sisters who were prominent members of English society in the 1930s and 1940s.

Upon moving to Chatsworth, she she was quick to make her mark through the keeping of chickens. The game larder housed her Warrens, Welsummers and Leghorns and their eggs supplied the farm shop, one of the first to be opened and one of the most successful.

This, along with the Chatsworth Farmyard, were both her ideas. The latter she created after concerns over visiting children having little knowledge of farming.

In the farmyard, poultry was bred at large and still is today. In the gardens, the Buff Cochins ‘gave much needed movement to the garden’, according to the Duchess. Dinner parties often saw live poultry placed in glass cases upon the dining table as a replacement to flowers!

The Duchess was the main public face of Chatsworth for many decades. She wrote several books about the house and estate, and played a key role in the restoration of the house, the enhancement of the garden and the development of commercial activities. She even wrote a book about poultry.

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