The ‘housewife duchess’ who was always hands-on

The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire’s legacy ‘will live on forever in the Chatsworth estate’, according to those who work there.

Nicknamed the ‘housewife duchess’, the Dowager was heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the estate up until her 90s and was both highly respected and well-liked by her staff.

Andre Birkett, head of Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop

Andre Birkett, head of Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop

Andre Birkett, aged 49, head of Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop, was handpicked by the duchess to work as one of her private chefs when he was just 17 years old, and has remained at the estate ever since.

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The Dowager Duchess

The Dowager Duchess

He said: “The dowager moulded my entire career.

“The farm shop was her idea and she made it a great success.

“Farmers in the 1970s were not getting a great deal so she decided to cut out the middle men and bring local produce straight to the shelf.

“In the beginning it just sold meat but then we were given £1,000 to introduce a kitchen at the farm shop and we started to make our own pies, breads and pates.”

In 2001 the dowager duchess promoted Andre to head of the farm shop - a moment he will never forget.

“She asked me just one question in my interview,” said Andre. “It was, ‘Will you look after this business in the way I do?’ to which I answered, ‘Yes, of course’.

“She will be greatly missed, though her legacy will live on forever in the Chatsworth estate.”