Hall To Hall
Hardwick Hall seen from the within the ruins of Hardwick Old Hall.
Hardwick Hall, in Derbyshire, is one of the finest examples of an Elizabethan mansion, built by Bess of Hardwick at the end of the 16th century and still standing today.
Bess of Hardwick was one of the most famous ladies of the era, a friend to the Queen, married four times to influential men and the mother of eight children. Hardwick Hall is a fine memorial to her.
Built as hew new home, as tribute to Elizabeth I and as a home for her children and the Cavendish dynasty to follow – they upped sticks to Chatsworth soon enough as they preferred it there – it is just yards away for the Old Hall she also built.
Designed by professional architect Robert Smythson, it has six towers, a large expanse of glass and is crowned by the initials ES at the top of each tower, while the interior is hung with tapestries and needlework.
The hall is now run by the National Trust and you can walk both inside and through the gardens.
A striking ruin within a stone’s throw of the new Hardwick Hall – built but a few years after this one – Hardwick Old Hall is an insight into the life of Bess of Hardwick, a legendary figure in Elizabethan history.
The hall was built between 1587 and 1596 by Bess, one of the richest and best-connected women in the land – married four times, the mother of eight children and a friend of the Queen.
Built to replace her father’s old manor house and with sweeping views across the Derbyshire countryside, it was not yet complete when Bess began building the New Hall just yards away.
Much of the old hall was dismantled in the 1750s and, while the new hall still stands much as it was built, it is now stark ruins, with no roof, only a few walls and little of its original grandeur.
It is now looked after by English Heritage and you can climb to the top of the old Hill Great Chamber and wander in among the ruins.