Monday, May 19, 2014

Hardwick Hall, England

In the late 1500s Bess of Hardwick had amassed quite a fortune after four husbands died and left her their estates. She built a new Hardwick Hall to replace the medieval hall (which is still standing (though in ruins) on the estate). Being fabulously wealthy and having great social status, she hired Robert Smythson to build the new house. The hall is quite impressive from the outside with its pleasant symmetry and the (at the time) unheard of number and size of windows.

Hardwick Hall

We had come to the estate previously and only seen the mill and the old hall. (We did have an abortive attempt to see the inside of the hall). Now we finally had a chance to tour the inside of this Elizabethan masterpiece.

The entrance hall is tall and well stocked with protective items used decoratively and with the first among many sets of huge tapestries.

Entrance hall

Armor at the back

Even the staircases have tapestries! Not only were they a sign of wealth, they also helped to insulate the stone building.

A staircase landing

Must be where the servants stayed

An interesting decoration in the stairways

A large hall upstairs was clearly used for entertaining. In addition to tapestries, the wall's top borders have some relief showing a hunting party.

Great hall for entertaining

The family crest?

Or is this the family crest?

A table with built-in games!

Another (kinda shocking) relief

Running the length of the building behind the great hall is the long gallery, which is full of paintings and tapestries and the occasional fireplace.

A good spot to observe guests from

An ornate cabinet

A nice fireplace

Marriage relief

The house also has several bedrooms kept in the same sumptuous style as the rest of the building.

The blue bedroom (supposedly the most haunted room in the house)

A more cheerful bedroom

Goddess Cybele frieze from the 1590s--better than a flat-panel TV on the wall!

The house also has a simple chapel, as most stately homes did back in the day.

A humble chapel

Back downstairs, we saw the kitchen on our way out. It was also comparatively large and well stocked. The oven in particular looked like it could prepare a dozen dishes at a time if there was an especially big gathering going on at the hall.

Kitchen workspace

The oven

The hall is quite impressive and is definitely worth a visit. The estate also has a mill which we have visited several times, even if I only blogged about it once. The flour from the mill is quite good. We bought another bag and have made some nice loaves from it.

More of the grounds in the next blog!

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