UK Tour: Hardwick

10/27/12: Hardwick Old Hall
(Located in Chesterfield, Derbyshire)

Hardwick Old Hall is an Elizabethan manor house which was a major building project of Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury. This noble lady and second richest in the land after the Queen is also known as Bess of Hardwick. She is most famous for her association to Mary, Queen of Scots who was under her watch for fifteen years. Bess also outlived four husbands and proved that a woman could hold her own and advance to the highest levels of society. I will include further information about Bess in the next post.
As for the manor house, she built upon her father's starting from 1587 to 1596. As impressive as it may have been, it was doomed from the start. Even while the old hall was being completed, she started building another far grander Hardwick Hall next door! The old house quickly fell from favor and was partially dismantled 150 years later in the 1750s. Having seen both halls, I must say I prefer this one. Let us look, then, at Old Hardwick Hall:

The Yard:
Upon exiting the exhibition rooms (which themselves were lodges) we come across the first of two service yards. This one was enclosed as a tennis court in the early 17th century.
The second yard.

Remains of the plaster which may have covered the entire building.

Ground Floor:
A view from the kitchen lobby up about 4 or 5 stories. The lobby is entered via the service yard and disperses into on the following areas: Dry larder, cold larder, pastry and kitchens.

 The cold larder. Perishable items were kept here because of slightly cooler temperatures.

The holes which held the woodbeams are still visible. This floor seperated the cold from the dry larder which is accessed via some nearby steps.

View upwards from the dry larder.

The pastry room has an interesting fireplace layout with four major ovens.

Inside the main oven.
Ground Floor (Kitchen):
Wooden crossbeams are still in situ.

The main kitchen fireplace which would have held several rows of spits. The brick filler in the middle is not contemporary.

A water basin which drew cold water through a lead pipe system.

A smaller fireplace and what looks to be a storage room.

 A serving window where food would be handed off and brought to its final locations (perhaps either the Great Hall, Forest Great Hall or Hill Great Hall as will be shown later).
If we look up one floor above the kitchen, we can see the remains of the nursery room. Its position over the kitchen is not by accident. The heat given off by the two fireplaces would actually warm the floor above and keep the room at a respectable temperature.
While not located in the kitchen, this overhead shot gives us a great idea of what the wooden flooring actually looked like. It is likely that the timbers would have been covered up in all but the least important rooms.
First Floor:
While not the Grand Staircase, the secondary stairs are actually intact and lead visitors all the way up to the lead roof viewing platform. These are approached via a hall that connects the kitchens with the second wing of the house that includes the Great Hall. The wooden balusters are Elizabethan, another neat in-situ feature. 

View of the stone steps from below.
The William Cavendish room. This is thought to be the room of Bess of Hardwick's second son. As such, it would have been elaborately fitted and decorated.  
Detailed shot of the Cavendish fireplace.
The corridor between the Cavendish room and the nursery. The pastry would be below left and the kitchens bottom right.

Second Floor:
One of the two chambers dedicated to Bess's gentlemen servants: Mr. Digby and Mr. Reason. The next room on the way up would be the Best Bedchamber but for some reason I didn't take any pictures!

Third Floor:
The Hill Great Chamber. This two storied room dominates the west side of Hardwick Hall. It is here where guests would dine in full view of Bess's estate. The massive windows, carried over in design to New Hardwick Hall, allowed for plenty of light which picked out the finely painted stucco and carved oak panelling.  

The stucco only went halfway down the wall. The bottom section would have been covered in carved wood. While this was sometimes enough of a display on its own, some noble houses then added expensive tapestries, painted leather or painted the wood itself.

The massive fireplace, perhaps the most memorable part of the building. It must have looked amazing painted.

 The similar windows at New Hardwick Hall. Especially the second floor with it's elongated versions.

 Fifth Floor:
Steps leading up to the roof.
And the amazing view! Just imagine that some 412 years ago Bess and all of her guests came up to this exact spot to view her massive estate below. To paraphrase my friend Natalie: "It is only a matter of time, not space, which separates us from our subjects". Besides the intersecting highway and the enclosure of farm land, the view would be pretty much the same then as now.
East Wing: 
The eastern section of the building does not have any remaining floors to climb. Instead, we must view everything from the ground. This last set of pictures will cover this area.
The Buttery which stored beer.

The Great Hall. Despite being a "great hall", this one was not elaborately furnished and seems to have been used more for serving staff members than actual guests.

The nice fireplace design may say otherwise!
The Great Stairs. These seem to be the inspiration behind the flowing staircase at the newer Hardwick Hall.
This feature lies under the great stairs and is gated off. I am going to guess that it is part of the drainage system.

At the culmination of the staircase lies the Forest Great Chamber. It is the start of a great processional route which ends at the eastern Hill Great Chamber. The Forest Great Chamber is so named because of the stucco design. When it was painted, the viewer must have been immersed in fauna and wildlife imagery. Instead of wood panelling, the bottom half of the walls were covered in elaborately painted leather.

So ends the tour of Old Hardwick Hall. Time to take a stroll around the corner and see what the new one is all about!
10/27/12: Hardwick Hall
(Located in Chesterfield, Derbyshire)

While Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury, was still undertaking work at Hardwick Old Hall, she began an entirely new building just next door. With the help of a professional architect, Bess built Hardwick Hall from 1590-1597. It is considered one of the finest Elizabethan houses in all of England and shows how archtectural style changed within the span of 80 years. The early Tudor period still saw the use of fortified manor houses, a legacy of the medieval past when the wealthy nobles had to protect themselves. Over the 16th century, this changed to be just for show. While houses were crenellated and arrayed with massive towers, the "defenses" were anything but. Towards the end of the century, fortification was no longer needed and elegance and magnificance took over (as can be seen below). The chain is thus: castle, fortified manor house, manor house, country house.
Symmetry, in late Elizabethan England, was the byword for style. Hardwick Hall pulls it off quite well, being a perfect mirror image on the exterior.

The adage "Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall" is attributed to the massive windows built into all sides of the house. Besides letting in plenty of light (and cold as one contemporary visitor complained) the windows served as a status symbol. Glass was still very expensive and to have this much of it gracing the facades showed how wealthy Bess had become. It would not have been beyond her to flaunt it this openly.

Speaking of flaunting, each tower is capped with Bess's initials: Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury. No one would be in doubt as to who they were meeting.

The great stags holding up the Hardwick coat of arms. The crown at the top symbolizes Bess's rule over the county of Shrewsbury.

Even from the sides Hardwick is symmetrical.
Elizabeth was born at Hardwick Old Hall (when it was a much smaller house) in 1527. The first of her four marriages occured in her early teens and was never consumated as her husband died shortly thereafter. Some years later, Bess was married to William Cavendish, a treasurer under Henry VIII and a lead figure in the Dissolution of the Monasteries. After six children, Bess was once again a widow albeit much richer. She then married Sir William St. Lowe which lasted for about six years. Probably poisoned by his younger brother, Lowe made sure to leave all his possessions and wealth to Bess. At this point, Bess was quickly rising in monetary status and eventually became the second richest woman in the country (after the Queen of course). Bess also became a Lady of the Bechamber to Elizabeth I and enjoyed private access to her friend and Queen.

Her last marriage was to the powerful 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, George Talbot. (While my academic focus is on the 4th Earl, Sheffield's ties to the 6th can be seen in several locations including his grand tomb at Sheffield Cathedral). Their marriage started happily enough and it was this power couple to whom Elizabeth I entrusted the task of housing her rival Mary Queen of Scots. But fifteen years of having to cater to the Scottish queen and her lavish expenses put a heavy strain, emotionally and monetarily, on the couple. The couple had separated by the earl's death in 1590 and not even personal intervention from the queen saw them reconciled. Still, the earl left Bess once more with a grand inheritance. Deciding to consolidate her estates and power, Bess now set about building grand houses as a capstone to her family legacy.
Upon entering the house, visitors first walk into a grand welcoming hall. Now containing a mixture of several centuries worth of adornments, the hall would have been less furnished in 1601. Based on sources, we do know that it would have been hung with very rich (and expensive) tapestries. The wood would have been much lighter too. In terms of purpose, the hall was where servants had their meals. More higher ranking visitors were ushered up the grand staircase to the second and third floors as befits their status.

The fireplace is contemporary and is emblazoned with the Hardwick stags and coat of arms. The antlers are actually real.

The processional staircase is quite a walk but would have been nigh unadorned in Bess's time. 

The High Great Chamber. In terms of ratio, the camber is quite large in relation to the house. Even Lord Burleigh's house at Theobalds did not have a chamber as large. Here Bess would eat with her guests and entertain. The walls give us an idea of what Hardwick Old Hall must have looked like. The top is covered in painted stucco while the bottom is hung with tapestries. Again, tapestries were the sign of wealth in the Tudor period. Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey both had massive collections.

The royal coat of arms probably meant to impress Queen Elizabeth should she visit.

I've noticed that the fireplace designs were incorporated into Bess's tomb at Derby Cathedral.
While it is thought Bess or Elizabeth would have sat here, the canopy dates to the late 1600s and was only installed at Hardwick in the 1800s! Had I known that initially, I wouldn't have spent so much time trying to get a good picture. Don't get me started about "authentic" Victorian era embellishments...

The Eglantine Table, also known as the marriage table. The center table shows the arms of Talbot, Cavendish and Hardwick all impaling one another which represents the union of the houses in marriage. Bess of Hardwick married George Talbot (6th Earl of Shrewsbury). Additionally, a daughter and son of Bess married a son and daughter of George! This triple marriage of the family is celebrated in this table.

The redolent smele of Aeglantyne
We stagges exault to the deveyne

The Long Gallery is the largest in England. Back at the turn of the 17th century, it would not have had the decorated ceiling or the excessive amounts of furniture. The paintings, however, would have almost all been present.

The North Bay. Tables were covered with grand "carpets". Another show of wealth.

The Best Bedchamber was reserved for top guests. As with many of the rooms in Hardwick, it is a mix of furniture and tapestries from the early modern era. Personally, I am not a fan of this. If we are attempting to show an Elizabethan house, then the furnishings should be contemporary. If we must do this mix, I wish for some sort of color chart that tells me which pieces correspond to particular centuries. Hmm, note to self...

The Mary Queen of Scots Room. If anything, this room shows how quickly myth can become reality. Why? Mary never stayed at Hardwick. In fact, she was executed before it was even built!

If she never stayed here, then why are her initials and arms mounted above the inner door? (Sorry for the blur, visitors can't enter the room and I had to reach in and blindly shoot up). It is thought that the arms were from the original house at Chatsworth where she did stay. When the house was torn down and rebuilt as the Chatsworth house we see today, it may have been brought over and incorporated.

Contemporary drawings on a hallway panel. The Talbot dog was the emblem of the Talbot family, the Earls of Shrewsbury. The breed itself usually had white fur and is now extinct.
Bess's bedchamber. Besides the fireplace, nothing else is original and it is now an exhibition room.

The kitchens, heavily modified from their first design.

And so we complete our tour of Hardwick. Now can we please get back to some early Tudor stuff?


  1. One question: the stucko, is it old or a reproduction to show what it looked like in the olden days? I cannot imagine it surviving the elements so long.

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