Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Old Hardwick Hall

After visiting Stainsby Mill, we went up to the main part of the Hardwick Estate, where Hardwick Hall and Old Hardwick Hall are found right next to each other. It was easy to decide which one to look at first, since the old hall opened at 10 a.m. and the new hall opened at noon. But before going to the halls, we decided to have a snack at the stables, which were converted into a rather large cafe.

Lucy decided to opt out of the outdoor seating, even if it was green

Fortified for the next leg of our journey, we went over to the ruins of the old hall to explore. As members of the National Trust, we were able to get in for free and even get the audio tour for free. We didn't have much of a chance to listen as the children pulled us from spot to spot.

The old hall was the birthplace of Bess of Hardwick circa 1521. After being married four times, she had amassed quite a bit of wealth and power. She had the New Hall built, moving from a massive medieval manor to a more massive Elizabethan manor.

Approaching the ruins of Old Hardwick Hall

Approaching the splendor of Hardwick Hall

The old hall ruins look remarkable similar from the other side:

Another view of the ruins

With a little help from the audio guide, we were able to see the various parts of the house, like the kitchens and tennis court and various rooms inside the house.

Listening to the audio while the kids took us away from the tennis court

Jacob plans our visit

Being able to walk up four flights in the ruins was quite an amazing experience, though Lucy tired out early. Only Jacob and I made it to the top of the house for a look around.

The ruins from inside

The Cavendish Room

Jacob at the top

The Great Chamber with great plaster

View from the top

View to the New Hall

The other remarkable thing about the ruins is how much of the decorative plaster has survived for hundreds of years with little or no preservation work. In addition to what you can see in the photos above, many other spots still had fine decorations easily visible.

Part of a family crest

Good thing that ledge is there!

Green Man motif

Coming back down the stairs, Jacob and I looked in at the kitchen and saw the old ovens and such built into the walls. All the utensils and appliances were long gone, but you could still get a sense of how large and busy the kitchen would be to support such a palatial manor.

They had several bread ovens!

We soon returned to the shop/entrance building, where we found Mommy and Lucy waiting. The building also had an exhibit on Bess of Hardwick's architectural adventures, which we didn't see much of since it was not very engaging for the children. So we were off to see the New Hall. More on that in the next post!


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