Explore Kedleston Hall - from Rome to India
Step inside Kedleston Hall to discover the interior of an 18th-century show palace.
Completed under the watchful eye of famous architect Robert Adam, Kedleston Hall was built for Sir Nathaniel Curzon in 1765 as a house to rival Chatsworth. Intended as 'a temple of the arts' and as the location for grand entertainments, the main house was never meant to be a family home, but a show palace in which to showcase the finest paintings, sculpture and furniture.
Kedleston Hall isn't just a prime example of 18th century Palladian and Neoclassical inspired architecture, it is also the ancestral residence of the Curzon family. The Curzons came to Britain from Normandy at the time of William the Conqueror and we estimate that they have been at Kedleston since the 1150s.
The property boasts a number of portraits and pedigrees detailing the succession of such a long standing family. The Hall we see today replaced an earlier medieval house and village of slightly more modest proportions. However, the current Kedleston still houses some furniture which we believe came from the previous building.
A building of enduring architectural beauty
Kedleston Hall was always intended as a showpiece rather than a comfortable family home; in fact the family has lived in the private family wing and still do to this day. The large central block was a largely uninhabited entertaining space with the servants' quarters and service areas housed in the West Wing. What is now our restaurant was once the Great Kitchen, catering for the Curzon family's great banquets and dinner parties.
The State Floor
The State Floor reflects the austere grandeur of a show palace. It was purposely designed to showcase the family's wealth and power and to display their collection of art and fine furniture. From the moment you ascend the Great Staircase to the State Floor you are transported back to 18th-century opulence. Painstakingly restored over the last 30 years, it reflects Robert Adam’s original vision of luxury.
The ground floor is a stark contrast to the 18th century glamour above. It was decorated to reflect the fact that it was a functional space and everyday entrance. It still serves this purpose today as this is where you’ll start your journey as you explore the hall.
The 'Eastern Museum'
The museum is currently closed to visitors. A phased approach to re-opening the hall is beginning with a suite of rooms on the State Floor. These rooms are our most visited areas and provide ample space for social distancing. The museum is a much smaller space and will therefore be the last area of the hall scheduled to re-open.
The ‘Eastern Museum’ on the ground floor of the hall displays many of the precious objects acquired by George Curzon during his Viceroyship of India and related travels in Asia and the Middle East. With an emphatically colonial provenance, this collection represents a diversity of cultural and artistic traditions as well as the spoils of empire.
Mary Curzon’s Peacock dress
The Peacock Dress is currently not on display. A modified case is currently under construction and the dress will be accessible to visitors between the end of September 2021 and Christmas for a final season of viewing before it is taken down to 'rest' which will ensure it will be around for future generations to enjoy.
The dress is over one hundred years old but it still able to captivate the room, much as it did when Lady Curzon wore it to the Delhi Durbar ball in 1903.
This lavish event was full of pageantry and royal ceremony, and was designed to entertain and impress Indian princes and dignitaries, while underlining the power of British rule. The design of Mary’s dress was not only highly fashionable but also subtly political. Made of fabric traditionally worn by Mughal court rulers, it appropriated the motif of a peacock feather (an important Hindu symbol, particularly associated with Lord Krishna and the goddess Saraswati). The intention was perhaps to present a visual sense of continuity, aligning British rule with Indian courts of the past as a statement of dominance.