ONE OF the Yorkshire Dales' best-liked and most influential friends, the Duke of Devonshire, died at his Derbyshire estate, Chatsworth, yesterday aged 84.
He was a man of many parts – politician, art expert and countryman – who took his duties as a "feudal" lord very seriously, ensuring that his many estates – including Bolton Abbey, near Skipton – were superbly maintained.
Although he was a keen grouse shooter – he entertained his late uncle, the former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan at Bolton Abbey every "Glorious Twelfth" – he was also keenly aware of the need to open up such great estates to wider public access.
In this, Bolton Abbey, with its walks along the River Wharfe, became a pioneering experiment much copied elsewhere. These efforts were much appreciated by local ramblers, although that didn’t prevent the Duke become a target for criticism from the more militant members of the rambling community.
He was also a man with a strong sense of humour and made much play of the fact that although he was the Duke of Devonshire, he had no land holdings in that county - but was the biggest landowner in Yorkshire.
In fact, he had few personal holdings at all – his vast estate was handed over to a board of trustees after the family was hit for death duties running into millions of pounds in the 1950s – worth hundreds of millions at today’s prices. They were all paid.
- Our countryside commentator John Sheard interviewed the Duke several times over almost 50 years. This weekend, in Country Week, he will reveal a side of aristocracy that few people have a chance to see.