Hardwick Hall is one of the most fascinating places I have ever visited. The great house was built in Elizabethan times by Bess of Hardwick – the Countess of Shrewsbury – to display her fabulous wealth. The story of Bess herself is incredible – how she rose from a modest farmer’s daughter to become the richest woman in the land (even richer than Queen Elizabeth I).
The house has been built ‘upside down’. Right through the front door you enter the servant’s hall. All of the service rooms, kitchen, servants’ quarters are on the ground floor. The higher floors are for the family and their noble and royal guests, with the best rooms being right at the top. Bess felt that the best views should be enjoyed by the wealthy people and that they should literally be ‘above’ the help.
Reception room. Notice the traditional rush matting on the floor. Carpets were too expensive for the floor and instead they adorned walls and tables.
Gorgeous painted plaster work. The Long Gallery. Famous portrait of Bess’s friend Elizabeth I. Somewhere for the Queen to sit down.Bess’s coat of arms again.Dining room. Bedrooms. A guide with school children – the sort of thing I used to do at Speke Hall.