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Pictures of Hardwick Hall

a Historic Building in the town of Doe Lea, in the county of Derbyshire

About Hardwick Hall

This magnificent Elizabethan house was begun by Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury (Bess of Hardwick) in the year 1591. For the times, building progress was rapid with the main structure of the property being completed within three years, and by 1597 the house was fully decorated and furnished ready for occupation.

The outstanding feature of the exterior is the four great towers at each corner, and casting your eye's in an upward glance you will note windows which increase in size the higher your eye travels. The crowning glory is the parapets incorporating the initials E.S.(Elizabeth Shrewsbury), this was meant to proclaim her wealth and position in society. It is thought much of the design of this beautiful house is owed to the architect Robert Smythson.

Bess was married four times, each marriage brought her more riches, Hardwick Hall was built after the death of her last husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury. Bess had already rebuilt her father's old house, this now stands in ruins a short distance from the Hall.

There is little doubt that Bess was a woman of influence, she was one of the most powerful people at the court of Queen Elizabeth the Ist. The Queen handed to Bess and her husband the responsibility of guardianship for Mary, Queen of Scots.

Descendants of Bess have included powerful members of the nobility, these include the Dukes of Devonshire, Newcastle, Portland and Kingston.

In Bess's time the private apartments where on the first floor, the ground floor was mainly used by servants, save for the Great Hall. The house as we look at it now is sumptuously furnished and hung with exquisite tapestries, it is these wonderful works that are the defining feature of the house, most of them remain from when the house was originally completed, and many of these can be seen as you ascend the staircase leading to the upper floors. Above these is a magnificent painted plaster frieze by Abraham Smith. The high great chamber is the showpiece of the house, this is on the same floor as the luxuriously appointed Drawing Room. In the long gallery you can see family portraits as well as more tapestries. When descending the back staircase, make note of the examples of excellent embroidery.

Visitors enjoy the grounds as much as the house. There is a pretty walled garden and other enclosed decorative gardens including a scented herb garden. The grounds have numerous beautiful trees, and part of the landscape is given over to Rare Breeds, Cattle and Sheep. The orchard provides a lovely place to stroll, this is particularly pretty when the blossom is out.

There is a shop for souvenirs and a cafe for refreshments.

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