Built between 1590 and 1597 the hall is located in Derbyshire. It was designed by the English Elizabethan architect, Robert Smythson, for Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury. Known as ‘Bess of Hardwick’, Elizabeth was married four times and her last marriage was to George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. She is said to have been a ruthless person with a reputation for cunning and politics. She is believed to have had many enemies and was once even warned by Mary Queen of Scots of a plot against her.
Bess of Hardwick was once the ‘keeper’ to the captive ‘Mary Queen of Scots.’ She was a woman of substance and after Queen Elizabeth I, she was the wealthiest woman in England. Well known for her building projects, as well as Hardwick Hall, Elizabeth, is most famous for her association with Chatsworth House.
As an accomplished needlewoman she had a love of textiles and furnishings and in 1601 she ordered an inventory of all the household furnishings and textiles across all three residences she owned. These were, Chatsworth House, Hardwick Hall and Shrewsbury House in Chelsea.
In her will she bequeathed these items to her heirs to be preserved in perpetuity. The 400 year old collection known as the ‘Hardwick Hall textiles,’ is the largest collection of tapestry, embroidery, canvas work and textiles to have been preserved by one private family.
The windows at Hardwick Hall are unusually large, built at a time when glass was a luxury and this lead to the saying, ‘Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall.’ The chimneys are built into the internal walls giving more scope to accommodate the windows without weakening the exterior structure.
Hardwick Hall was one of the first English houses that had its great hall built on an axis through the centre of the house rather than at right angles to the entrance.
Everything about the structure of the hall was created to emphasise and display Bess of Hardwick’s wealth and importance.
The three main storeys of the building have a higher ceiling than the floor below, the ceiling height indicating the ‘importance’ of the rooms occupants. The least, important at the bottom and grandest at the top.
In previous times the nobility had lived in close proximity to those who served them. However, from this period onwards servants and masters lived apart in clearly defined quarters.
A large winding stone staircase leads to the state rooms that are situated on the second floor; including one of the largest ‘long galleries’ to be found in any English house.
It became very expensive to maintain and in 1956 was handed over the HM Treasury in lieu of death duties. It was transferred to the National Trust three years later.
The extensive grounds have some fine mature gardens with wonderful landscapes and the ruins of ‘Hardwick Old Hall’ can be seen in the grounds. The old hall was a slightly earlier house which was used for guest and service accommodation after the present hall was built.
Hardwick Hall is now managed by English Heritage on behalf of the National Trust and is open to the public.
GHOSTS AND HAUNTINGS
The grounds and hall are said to be haunted – in the grounds a monk has been seen and a strange light with a face reflecting from it has been seen floating around the courtyard.
Inside the hall it is said a cat and a lady dressed in blue have been seen. Other claims say that Elizabeth, ‘Bess of Hardwick’ walks the Gallery and her private apartments. A crying woman has been heard.
TELEVISION & FILMS
Hardwick Hall has been used as a location for some of the Harry Potter films where it doubles as the dark and evil Malfoy Manor. In 2006 Dan Cruikshank, the architectural historian, selected Hardwick Hall as one of the top five for the BBC television series ‘Britain’s Best Buildings.’
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Silverhill Lane, Teversal
Nottinghamshire, England, NG17 3JJ
+44 (0)1623 551 838
- Address: Off Dukes Drive, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England, United Kingdom, S44 5QJ
- GPS: 53.168733,-1.308722
- Phone: 0044 (0)1246 850 430
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: S44 5QJ
- Entrance Fees: Yes
- Disabled Access: Very Good
- Visibility from Road: Yes
- Image Credits: Header Image: Neil Mitchell