I've wanted to revisit Hardwick Hall for some time. I hadn't been there since I was a child, possibly just for a picnic in the grounds. It is a short distance from where both sets of my grandparents lived when I was small, one couple in Mansfield, and one in Chesterfield. Since then I have just had glimpses of the Old Hall high on the hill as I drove past on the M1 heading north.
Time to make use of the NT membership once more! Last Wednesday the weather was wet in the morning, but going north was a good move - plenty of sunshine later in the day.
After the obligatory coffee stop, we headed for the "new" Hall, and a short talk by one of the guides.
She gave a clear and entertaining account of the life of Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury, normally known as Bess. She was an astute businesswoman and eventually a very powerful woman, whose descendants include many of the present day nobility and landowners.
One of her daughters married Lord Darnley's younger brother, Charles. After the death of both her parents, their daughter, Arbella (Arabella) Stuart, spent a lot of time at Hardwick with her grandmother. At one time her claim to the throne of England rivalled that of her cousin, James I (and VI). Her story is featured throughout the house and gardens this year, the 400th anniversary of her death at the age of forty.
|Mirrors tell bits of Arbella's story - not that you can read it on this photo!|
The house was built by Bess of Hardwick, when she left Chatsworth after the break up of her fourth marriage. The architect was Robert Smythson, and Hardwick Hall is in a magnificent position with views of the Derbyshire countryside to the north and west.
|more glass than wall . . .|
|It is magnificent from the side too and the initials E S (Elizabeth of Shrewsbury - Bess of Hardwick) are clearly visible.|
|The gardens, protected by walls, and the superb colours of the flowers|
|The long gallery, where guests would walk after dinner!|
|This year the Hall is featuring the story of Bess's grand-daughter, Arbella Stuart, who was at one time a possible candidate for the throne of England|