Built: Between 1590-1599
Location: S44 5QJ
History: Hardwick Hall was built in 1590-9 for Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury, also known as ‘Bess of Hardwick’. Built by Robert Smythson, Hardwick is one of the earliest English interpretations of Italian Renaissance architecture, and stands as one of the greatest of all Elizabethan houses.
Huge grids of glass are used to great effect in this rectangular, turreted building, leading observers to rhyme ‘Hardwick Hall, more window than wall’. Each tower is crowned with a balustrade incorporating an ‘E.S.’ motif (for Elizabeth Shrewsbury), and each of the 3 main storeys has a ceiling higher than the one below.
Hardwick boasts arguably the most spectacular Elizabethan interiors in England, with plasterwork by Abraham Smith, overmantels by Thomas Accres, and a classical screen by William Griffin, all dating from the 1590s.
Hardwick was transferred to the National Trust from Bess’s descendants, the Dukes of Devonshire, in 1959.
Review: There are many grand and architecturally significant houses in England. However, there is one in particular that stands out from the rest for me.
Hardwick Hall is very different to the houses that me and Luke would normally go and look at, but I have to say, there was something quite exciting and interesting about this place.
I think, the best way to explain why I loved this house, is all down to the woman behind it: Bess Of Hardwick.
A slightly frightening woman, but only because of the amount of power she managed to accumulate.
Bess of Hardwick came from a humble origin, but later became one of the most powerful people (next to Queen Elizabeth I). She was married four times, gaining more power after each marriage.
After she married Sir William Cavendish, she convinced him to move back to her home county. As a native of Derbyshire, Bess was very fond of the scenery and the quiet environment.
As a side note, if you think that you recognise the name Cavendish, that’s because I mentioned it in my post from last week about Bolsover Castle (you can check out the post here to remind yourself of it). Basically, it was the third son of Bess that built this castle, so that’s why you might have recognised the name.
Anyway, the story told is that Bess had a terrible argument with one of her husbands, who at the time was the Earl of Shrewsbury, and left their home at Chatsworth in 1584. She then organised plans to rebuild the Old Hall at Hardwick to create a new home for herself.
However, her plans changed in 1590 when the Earl died, which left her with his inheritance.
Due to her new positive financial situation, Bess decided to build a new construction at Hardwick, eliminating the renovation plans for the Old Hall all together and creating the New Hall. The Old Hall is still within walking distance of the New Hall (literally a minute away).
She moved into her new house in October 1597.
Hardwick Hall was a true statement for her power and wealth.
This is just one of the impressive rooms that this House has. It is HUGE. And I really couldn’t believe how impressive this room was.
There were pieces around the place like this table that just showed how much money had been put into this home.
I have to say though, that I think the true treasure of Hardwick Hall is the remarkable contents inside that were collected by the Countess.
An exceptionally unique collection of paintings and furniture from the 16th century are still present inside.
The Hall is fully furnished, exactly as Bess would have kept it.
The second floor contains one of the largest long gallery that has ever been present in an English house.
The most notable features are the tapestries and needlework on display. Much of the needlework art has the ‘ES’ initials and it is therefore assumed that Bess herself created much of it.
You’ll find so many tapestries like this all around the rooms, and similar furniture. This house is not empty, which is great. You can really get a sense for what this house would have been like.
I do have to say I remember that this house was quite dark though and there are a load of stairs that you will have to walk up.
Apparently the most important people would have stayed in the top floor, so I have no idea how Bess would have managed to walk up and down all those stairs in her old age.
When you go outside, you can also enjoy the gardens that they have to offer.
This is just the back of the house, but if you walk to the left then you can go and explore the rest of the gardens.
If you’re looking at the picture of the house and think that you recognise it, then as a little bonus fact – Hardwick Hall was used as the exterior of the Malfoy Manor in the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Part 2 (which I think is a great little fact, particularly as I love Harry Potter).
So there you have it, I feel like I’ve just given you a history lesson here, but I loved learning about this place though, and I hope you have too!