Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, England.
What happens when the wealthiest woman in England besides the Queen wants to demonstrate to the world her ever increasing wealth and power? Why, you get the ruins of a grand mansion standing in the shadow of one of the most significant Elizabethan country houses in England.
Hardwick Hall viewed from within the ruins of Hardwick Old Hall.
These were the homes of an amazing woman, Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury. The Hardwick experience really brought the history of Bess and her family to life.
Piano at Hardwick Hall.
Bess of Hardwick outlived four husbands, each leaving her wealthier and more powerful. Her ascension was no accident. Ultimately, Bess was the personal attendant to her first son’s godmother, Queen Elizabeth I and did needlepoint with her third son’s godmother, Mary, Queen of Scots. Bess’s descendants include a long line of notables, such as Bess’s granddaughter, Lady Arbella Stuart (who had a claim to the thrones of England and Scotland), but none more so than Queen Elizabeth II herself!
In the Long Gallery, chairs under a canopy made from the tester and head of a bed from the state bedroom at Chatsworth.
Hardwick is situated on a hilltop overlooking the Derbyshire countryside.
View of the Derbyshire countryside from Hardwick Old Hall.
Hardwick Old Hall was the remodeled family home of Bess of Hardwick who transformed the medieval manor house of her birth into an Elizabethan mansion.
Hardwick Old Hall.
An audio tour of the Old Hall (included in the English Heritage ticket price) led us up all four floors as we viewed the surviving decorative plasterwork and learned about the house in its prime and its occupants.
Kitchen in Hardwick Old Hall.
In the 1590s, Bess built Hardwick Hall as befitting a woman of her increasing wealth and power. At that time, glass was a luxury, so Bess built “Hardwick Hall – more glass than wall.”
A bit of trivia: Hardwick Hall was used to film the exterior scenes of Malfoy Manor in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I and Part II
The interior was equally opulent, including a High Great Chamber with rich tapestries and a spectacular plaster frieze of hunting scenes.
Before entering Hardwick Hall, we enjoyed an informative talk on the front porch (included in the National Trust ticket price). Much of the ground floor was organized as a museum with case displays of various items from the collection, but the Muniment Room appeared to be as it would have been.
The Muniment Room contained muniments relating to the Hardwick estates. Legally, muniments are the title deeds and other documentary evidence relating to who owns land.
Box in the Muniment Room.
Each box in the Muniment Room contained legal documents relating to the land in and around a village. Boxes lined all four walls in the Muniment Room from floor to ceiling.
Lantern on a landing.
The upper floors of Hardwick Hall were organized much more as how the house would have looked during the time of Bess’s or one of her descendants’ occupation.
Although we couldn’t catch a house tour, we questioned docents posted throughout the property, viewing many lovely rooms, including the Blue Room.
We ended our visit with a stroll through the gardens before enjoying lunch at the site’s restaurant and peeking in the gift shop.
Formal garden at Hardwick Hall.