Alexandra Sitwell of Renishaw Hall & Gardens - Duchess

Episode 2

Alexandra Sitwell of Renishaw Hall & Gardens

Published on: 23rd September, 2021

Episode Description: 

In today’s episode, the Duchess journeys to Renishaw Hall & Gardens to meet Alexandra Sitwell. In the show, the ladies discuss why Renishaw became known as ‘the ancestral home of the English eccentric’, Alexandra introduces us to the iconic literary trio that lived at Renishaw, and we are taken on a tour of the unforgettable gardens that surround the home today. 

Top Quotes:

"These houses have a soul." - Alexandra

"The borders of the gardens have the most beautiful flowers. The vistas remind you that you could be in Italy. That's why the gardens of stately homes have been so important to people during this time. Here we are in the middle of Derbyshire, 7 miles from Sheffield, with these fabulous gardens that can take you to another world." - Duchess

It's a love affair with these houses. They scoop you up and, in a way, you can never put them down." - Duchess

"My father used to refer to Renishaw as 'My Mistress of old: Unpredictable, unreliable, expensive but beautiful." - Alexandra

About the Guest and Stately Home:

Alexandra Sitwell was brought up at Renishaw Hall from the age of seven, and inherited the estate in 2009. She is married to her husband Richard Hayward. The couple have two adult children together. Alexandra loves the gardens and she credits her mother for continuing to expand and enriching them. 

Grade I listed Renishaw sits on 5,000 acres of land, with 10 acres of gardens. The house was built in 1625 by George Sitwell, with further wings, rooms and gardens added later. George Sitwell began his financial empire by mining iron ore. The Sitwell family has owned the house for almost 400 years, generating wealth in the 16th and 17th centuries from iron-making and landowning. Renishaw was famously home to the literary Sitwell trio, siblings who established themselves as rivals to the Bloomsbury Set in the Twenties and Thirties. Sir Osbert was a writer. Sir Sacheverell an art and music critic, and Dame Edith was a poet. Ornamental ponds, a spectacular fountain, secret garden rooms, classical statues, overflowing borders and long vistas all feature strongly in Renishaw’s totally unique gardens. Renishaw also has an award winning vineyard on its grounds and won VisitEngland’s Hidden Gem award.  

About the Host:

Emma Rutland, The Duchess of Rutland, did not always stride the halls of stately homes. Born Emma Watkins, the Duchess grew up the daughter of a Quaker farmer, in the Welsh marsh countryside. She trained as an opera singer in the Guildhall School of Music, and worked as a successful interior designer before meeting her future husband David Manners, the 11th Duke of Rutland, at a dinner party. Their marriage in 1992 would transform Emma Watkins into the 11th Duchess of Rutland, thrusting her into the world of aristocracy, and handing her the responsibility of one of the nation's great treasures: Belvoir Castle. While simultaneously running the day to day operations of the castle, and raising five children, The Duchess became fascinated with the history and importance of the other stately homes of the UK. Join The Duchess as she embarks on a wonderful journey through time, to learn more about the incredible homes that have defined Great Britain and, most importantly, meet the other extraordinary women who work tirelessly behind their doors to preserve their history and magic for future generations. 


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About the Podcast

Welcome to Duchess - the podcast in which the Duchess of Rutland explores the historic homes of Great Britain and meets the inspiring women who lead them today.
Welcome to Duchess - the podcast where the Duchess of Rutland explores the historic homes of Great Britain, and meets the inspiring women who lead them today.

Have you ever watched Bridgerton, The Crown or Downton Abbey and wondered what it's really like to be a Duchess? If so, this is the podcast for you.

Stately homes are manors, palaces, and castles of great historic significance. They were built by the finest architects, adorned with the finest treasures and surrounded by breathtaking landscapes. They homed the most powerful families and, with their wealth and social pedigree, shaped the world we live in today.

Emma grew up far away from the aristocracy but her life changed forever when she married her husband - the 11th Duke of Rutland - and moved into Belvoir Castle. At once Emma became both a Duchess and custodian of one of Britain's most important buildings.

The Duchess wanted to learn more about this world, these homes, and the other empowering women who, just like her, work tirelessly to ensure they see tomorrow.

In this podcast the Duchess will travel to breathtaking homes, learn the epic tales of their construction, meet the historic figures that walked their halls, hear chilling ghost stories and the heartbreaking tales of romance. All of this whilst getting to know the inspiring, powerful women that work to find the delicate balance between preservation and transformation.

Join Emma on a very special journey. This is Duchess, the podcast.