Monday, May 23, 2016

Hardwick Old Hall

Hardwick Old Hall in North East Derbyshire was built by the redoubtable Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury, or Bess of Hardwick as she is more often known, between 1587 and 1596.

 It is maintained by English Heritage and you can wander around the atmospheric ruins to your hearts content.

 I visited here some years ago but this time there was a new reception area, exhibition and shop and there did seem to be more of the building open to view than I remembered from my previous visits.

Open to view are apt words as everything is open to the outside world and the blue sky above.  Pigeons and swallows accompany you on your way around.

 On and on up the stairs as you head for the blue skies above.

 There are many of the Italianate plaster over mantles left

 Showing how grand and up to date for the time the old hall was.

 You can climb up the stairs right up to the fourth floor where the Hill Great Chamber was. Above was a lead roof with walkway where guests would walk to take in the views across the countryside.

 Before this hall was finished Bess had started to build another one close by, this time using architect Robert Smythson who was also architect of Wollaton Hall in Nottingham.

 There is a myth that the old hall was abandoned in favour of the new one but it was in fact intended that each should complement the other and the older hall wasn't partly demolished until 1745. 
 

 The ruins were left and made part of the grounds and gardens when trees were planted within the ruins in the 1790s.  Given that this is the time for the fashion and appreciation of both the Gothic and the Picturesque movements you can see why this might have been done.
 
 The views from the top of the old hall across the countryside are amazing.  It's an area I know well as I grew up in a village no more than three miles away and we learnt at school about Hardwick Hall and Bess of Hardwick.

The countryside stretches for miles and you wouldn't know that the M1 motorway is down there somewhere.  You can see both Hardwick Halls and nearby Bolsover Castle from the motorway standing proud on their hills for all to see and be impressed by.

From the other sides you can look down over the stable block where the National Trust now have their administrative buildings, shops and cafe.  This had changed since our last visit as we remembered coming into the grounds from the opposite direction and showing our passes at a kiosk near the gate of the new hall.  The National Trust now own and maintain the new hall, gardens and grounds. 
When we were at school we also learnt the saying 'Hardwick Hall more Glass than Wall' and looking over from the ruins of the old hall to the new one you can see that this is true.  I'll take you to the new hall in another post.


34 comments:

  1. Spectacular ruins in beautiful countryside. I am glad that birds have made use of the space! x

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    1. Yes, the birds certainly make use of all the cavities for nesting purposes:)

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  2. Such an interesting post - I'd heard of the new Hall (long been on my list of places to visit one day....) but I had no idea about the ruins of the Old Hall. Fascinating to see the remains of plaster over the mantles and the views are stunning :) Look forward to reading about the new hall too :)

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    1. It is fascinating to see both halls side by side, there is still alot of the decoration left as you wander around the old hall, the new one is full of wall hangings and tapestries:)

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  3. I've always liked the old Hall better than the new one. The plaster over mantels are really attractive and so are the views from the top. Must take my grandadughters, they'd enjoy clambering up all those stairs.

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    1. Yes, the old Hall is more likeable in a way. The views from the top are amazing:)

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  4. It does look very atmospheric. Beautiful views.

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    1. Thanks, Janet it is an interesting visit:)

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  5. I recently (re)joined English Heritage and plan to visit Hardwick Old Hall sometime this summer. I'm thinking of going to Bolsover too because I've never actually been! Thanks for the taster of Hardwick. The plaster work is amazing. You can imagine how grand it was in its day.

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    1. You have a treat in store with both the old hall and Bolsover Castle. Bolsover town has changed quite a lot since I was a child and we used to shop there as our nearest little town and Chesterfield or Mansfield if we wanted more shops:)

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  6. What a great place to visit, have enjoyed looking through the photos..
    Amanda xx

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    1. Thanks, Amanda, glad you enjoyed the photos:)

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  7. This is somewhere I would love to visit. I read a book about Bess of Hardwick awhile back and found her a fascinating character. xx

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    1. She is fascinating, I also remember watching a television series or play about her but can't remember who played Bess:)

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  8. What a fascinating place to visit. Bess of Hardwick was such an interesting person. It must be a place to let the imagination run riot.

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    1. It certainly is both fascinating and atmospheric. Bess of Harwick was an interesting and enterprising woman wasn't she?:)

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  9. Incredible. In fact, I got shivers when I was reading this!!

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    1. It is very atmospheric and I can see why the owners of the larger hall would leave the ruins as a feature of the garden and grounds. I'm glad they didn't dismantle it all:)

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  10. It's a fascinating place, you took some great photos. I'll look forward to the next post.

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    1. Thanks Louise, the ruins are very photogenic and I enjoyed wandering around them:)

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  11. I love all the plaster reliefs in the old hall. It was lovely to see your photos. The old hall was closed the day we went and we were only able to see the new house. I love the fields of rape in view. Isn't this a stunning time of year. B xx

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    1. I think the old Hall is more fascinating then the newer one and the atmosphere there was lovely, it is a wonderful time of year:)

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  12. Bizarrely, this is the second post today on my feed about Hardwick Hall. A cold and unloved house, I felt but with a fascinating history. My grandmother's family were from Derbyshire and my mother grew up there too, so familiar territory for me. I do hope your next post will be about Haddon Hall, one of the most beautiful and evocative houses and gardens I have visited. I long to go there again.

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    1. Hello Marianne, thank you for your kind words. I'm afraid my next post won't be about Haddon but it is a place I love, in fact it is my favourite of all the Derbyshire houses. If you look back at my posts for 24th June 2014, 11 Dec 2012 and 8 and 9 May 2011 you will find much about Haddon Hall. the later one with the Tudor Group re-enactment weekend. We didn't visit last year so must try to get there again this year:)

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  13. It looks so exciting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    1. I was quite lovely to be there, thanks Kezzie:)

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  14. There certainly seems to be more glass than wall in both of the halls. The views across the countryside must have been fabulous.

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    1. Bess certaily built to impress didn't she? The countryside around the hall is lovely and I expect was quite different then but equally impressive:)

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  15. Buildings that are half in ruin, open to the skies seem to have a special atmosphere. They're as fascinating to look around as the country houses that are still occupied. To get the opportunity to climb up and see what has survived in the fabric of the building must be so interesting. I hope to get there some day - perhaps this year?

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    1. I hope you get to visit soon, Linda both old and new halls are fascinating. I must admit I loved the old hall for its loftiness and atmosphere, the newer hall seemd enclosed somehow after visitng the older one:)

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  16. This is a spectacular site and just shows how wealthy she was. I haven't been in the Old Hall but did enjoy a tour round the New one and the garden a few years ago. Such a lovely place and the views over the rape fields were great to see. I'm so cross with myself for missing these posts, I don't know why I didn't notice before. :-)

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    1. I'm glad you found the post Karen and enjoyed looking at it. The rape fields are stunning in the landscape aren't they? I expect you enjoyed all the tapestries and neeedlework in the main hall:)

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  17. Hi Rosie, this looks like such an interesting place to visit. Thank you for the guided tour. Marie x

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    1. Glad you enjoyed visiting Marie:)

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