Bess of Hardwick and Her Halls

Hardwick Hall Front

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 Old and New

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.

Hardwick Hall Piano

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!

Hardwick Hall Throne

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.

Hardwick Hall Derbyshire View

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 Front

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.

Hardwick Old Hall FireplaceOld fireplace with decorative plasterwork above and a grass lawn for carpet.

Hardwick Old Hall Kitchen

Kitchen in Hardwick Old Hall.

Hardwick Old Hall StairsStairs in Hardwick Old Hall heading up from just off the kitchen.

Hardwick Old Hall w ViewView from the top of 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.”

Hardwick Hall SideThe side of Hardwick Hall viewed from the garden.

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.

Hardwick Hall High Great Chamber FireplaceFireplace in the High Great Hall.

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.

Hardwick Hall Muniment Room

Muniment Room.

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.

Hardwick Hall Muniment Room Drawer

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.

Hardwick Hall Lantern

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.

Hardwick Hall StairsStairs leading up to the High Great Room.

Although we couldn’t catch a house tour, we questioned docents posted throughout the property, viewing many lovely rooms, including the Blue Room.

Hardwick Hall Blue RoomThe 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.

Hardwick Hall Formal Garden

Formal garden at Hardwick Hall.

About satnavandcider

An American expat living in England, exploring the United Kingdom and Europe through five senses and a camera lens.
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9 Responses to Bess of Hardwick and Her Halls

  1. Beautiful place isn’t it? I’m sure I have some photos kicking around somewhere from years back, but yours are lovely. The tapestries and the plasterwork were superb.

  2. Mary Lovell says:

    As a biographer of Bess of Hardwick I know Hardwick pretty well, and I thought your photographs of it were stunning. They really convey the grandeur, style and textures of Hardwick and its superb setting, and are among the best I’ve seen. Congratulations!

  3. leah says:

    It looks beautiful! And well maintained!

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  5. These photos are fantastic! The stairs shot with the walking feet was amazing, they are all gorgeous in fact. I want to go there, now!!

  6. Dan Laxuma says:

    How much would it cost to restore/rebuild Hardwick Old Hall to its former glory as hotel? Imagine if visitors were able to spend some time at Hardwick Old Hall and enjoying all of the conveniences that the Bess of Hardwick experienced. It’s like reliving the life and times of the Elizabethan Era of the 16th century!!
    Besides, if the people of Bristol, England could find the money to bring back the SS Great Britain from a ruined hulled shell back to its former self, why can’t they do the same for Hardwick Old Hall? They could find the money to rebuild the house back to how it was. Do you agree?

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