Saturday, 15 October 2011

Hardwick Hall - Lousy crumble, lots of exciting beds, tapestries, and furniture.

Hardwick Hall is the home of Bess of Hardwick.  It was built in the 1590's by Bess and is home to some of the finest tapestries in Europe from Elizabethan England. Visitor details here.

I'm not sure who caught who on a bad day, but not my favourite place.

Now before I share photos and history with you, a word of caution. Lots of people enjoy a nice lunch when they go out for a day trip, but you won't find one at Hardwick. The restaurant is sadly lacking; the loos are cramped and scruffy - but clean - and there's not enough of them.  After you've queued for a seat in the cramped dining hall (there aren't nearly enough places) food orders are taken by some lovely young waiters, but you have to sit at trestle benches, elbow to elbow with a group of people haven't chosen to dine with, you have to wait for ages for your order to arrive (40 minutes in my case) - the kitchen simply can't cope. I only ordered fruit crumble and it was inedible. Here it is for you to make your own mind up. The custard was made with water and the crumble wasn't crumbly; I suspect someone had torn up soggy, left over pastry. It was a hard yet glutenous mass and the fruit wasn't sweetened. Yuck.  I've never left a crumble before. My heart bled. It wasn't even a particularly busy day.

I haven't finished moaning, but onwards to the pretty bits.

The outside 
Built by Bess of Hardwick in the 1590s, and unaltered since. It has huge windows in the stone walls that make it look like there's more glass than wall.  It has six towers which make a dramatic skyline. 

Please note the number of school children in the photo. Great that they're there learning stuff, but you can imagine what it's like to visit a house, to try and appreciate the atmosphere, and concentrate on what you're seeing, with masses of children running around and having lessons in fenced off areas of the rooms, making them no-go areas and filling the space with loud voices, at the same time as having to listen to the teachers trying to keep order and pass on information.  Ok, moaning done for now.

Hardwick is a conspicuous statement of the wealth and power of Bess Of Hardwick, who was the richest woman in England after Queen Elizabeth 1st. It was one of the first English houses where the Great Hall was through the centre of the house rather than at right angles to the entrance.

 Hardwick Hall contains a large collection of embroideries, mostly dating from the late 16th century, many of which are listed in the 1601 inventory. Some of the needlework on display in the house incorporates Bess's monogram "ES", and may have been worked on by Bess herself.

 Up the stairs....

 ...along the corridor....
 .....through the very crooked doorway......

And into the most beautifully decorated, huge room.  Just look at all that needlework on the walls, chairs, and canopy. The Great Chamber with a plaster frieze of hunting scenes

 ...looking through a doorway into another room...
(Same room), ....looking towards the fireplace.
And into the long gallery.

Hardwick Hall has one of the largest long galleries in any English house. The windows are exceptionally large and numerous for the 16th century and were a powerful statement of wealth at a time when glass was a luxury, leading to the saying, "Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall"

Bess of Hardwick, rose from humble origins to become on of the most powerful people in the court of Queen Elizabeth I. She married four times, each time gaining more wealth and her fourth husband was the Earl of Shrewsbury, one of the richest and most powerful of the English nobles of the time.

For many years the Shrewsburys were responsible for the guardianship of that unhappy Queen Mary Queen of Scots. The dynasty created by Bess included many powerful descendants including the Dukes of Devonshire, Newcastle, Portland and Kingston.

 The story is that Bess had a furious dispute with her husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and in 1584 had to leave their home at Chatsworth. She came to the Old Hall at Hardwick and largely rebuilt it as a place for herself to live. However, when the Earl died in 1590 her finances became much more secure and she immediately began the construction of the 'New' Hall. The Old Hall was abandoned and gradually became a ruin.
 This canopy and chairs was mid way along the Long Gallery.

 Queen Elizabeth 1st
 Some of the furniture.

 And here we are back with some of my favourite things;  the beds and bed headings.

 The dining room.
 A modern sitting room.

 Something we don't get to see very often....the reverse of some embroidery.
 These fantastic boxes filled this small room completely. It's storage for all the paperwork; deeds and legal documents relating to the land and property of Bess.

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