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Louise Calf

Research project

Research project title: A ‘Room to Make a Row In’: A social and architectural study of the private theatre in Chatsworth House, 1828-1907

Supervisor/s: Prof. Kate Giles, Dr Oliver Jones & Fran Baker, Archivist for the Chatsworth House Trust

Funding: White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities (WRoCAH) AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) studentship

Research Interests

The materiality and social entanglements of country house theatre in the 19th century; country house estate relations in the 19th century; backstage in 19th-century theatres; archival and embodied methods of researching buildings.

Research Project

My PhD is a Collaborative Doctoral Award between the University of York and the Chatsworth House Trust. The project takes an interdisciplinary, broadly biographical approach to examine the social and architectural development of the theatre in Chatsworth House, an exceptionally well-preserved and nationally-significant example of a late-19th-century private theatre.

The thesis analyses the earliest developments of the room in its phase as a ‘Banqueting Room’ under the 6th Duke of Devonshire, before going on to consider backstage labour practices and networks as well as the organisation of the auditorium at the end of the 19th century. The thesis seeks to situate the Theatre in a wider context of country house and estate life and architecture, drawing out stories of individuals broadly overlooked in the public record, recentring their experiences in and of Chatsworth’s Theatre, to redress the imbalance of representation in traditionally elite spaces.



Following the completion of my BA (Hons) in History of Art at the University of Bristol in 2006, I trained as a performer at the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art (LAMDA). I worked as an actor for 10 years with both stage and television credits to my name, alongside maintaining something of a portfolio career, from managing a London commercial art gallery to tutoring Maths at GCSE and History of Art at A Level. In 2015 I returned to academia to undertake the MA in Conservation of Historic Buildings at the University of York, with a dissertation examining how the family of Joseph Harker, an eminent scene-painter in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, realised their ‘rural idyll’ in a village in West Sussex.

My PhD research builds on this interest in Harker (also the namesake of Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s Dracula), the value of backstage labour and a campaign I co-led to prevent Harker’s historic studio from being converted into flats (YouTube: "pathe Joseph Harker" to see him at work in this studio in 1922).

Publications & Awards


Calf, Louise. Crombie, Peter. Eckert, Grit. (2019). Scene-painting in the twentieth century, a case study: Harkers Studio. Traditional Paint News, 4 (1), pp. 35-43.

Calf, L. (2022). A ‘Room to Make a Row in’: Establishing The Origins of Chatsworth’s Theatre. Theatre Notebook, 76 (3), pp.134–153.

Blog Posts for

‘Chatsworth’s ‘Theatre Royal’’ (2020) -

‘Chatsworth’s Theatre in WWII’ (2020) -

‘Tracing the Roots of Chatsworth’s Theatre: Paine’s Old North Wing’ (2021) -


Recipient of WRoCAH Masters Scholarship MA Conservation Studies (Historic Buildings) (2015)


Teaching & Impact


Workshop Co-Leader, Introduction to Performance, TFTI (2021)


Contributor, Chatsworth House (Ep. 5), Channel 4/ITN Productions (2021)

Contributor, Chatsworth House Multimedia Guide (2022)

Consultant, Chatsworth Through Time, Filmed Series, Chatsworth House Trust/Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA) (2022)

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Contact details

Ms Louise Calf
Department of Archaeology
University of York
Kings Manor