IMG_3709Hardwick 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).

IMG_3693The first thing you notice is that there is a grand ruin right next door to Hardwick Hall. It was Bess’s old house but she wanted to upsize.

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IMG_3702Remember that this was the time of the Tudors – to be able to afford this much glass in so many windows showed the world how rich you were.

IMG_3701She built Hardwick Hall literally on the village she was born and grew up in here in the Peak District.c

IMG_3705Her initials adorn the building.

IMG_3706Her coat of arms is everywhere.

IMG_3711The 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.

IMG_3713A portrait of Bess.

IMG_3728You ascend to the grander rooms.

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Reception room. Notice the traditional rush matting on the floor. Carpets were too expensive for the floor and instead they adorned walls and tables.

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Gorgeous painted plaster work.IMG_3738  IMG_3739IMG_3731IMG_3760The Long Gallery. IMG_3748 IMG_3764 IMG_3751 Famous portrait of Bess’s friend Elizabeth I.IMG_3759 Somewhere for the Queen to sit down.IMG_3749IMG_3715Bess’s coat of arms again.IMG_3796Dining room. IMG_3783 Bedrooms.IMG_3780 IMG_3788 IMG_3772A guide with school children – the sort of thing I used to do at Speke Hall.

IMG_3804Hardwick Hall was inhabited by the family until 1960. It now belongs to the National Trust.

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You then head back downstairs to the servants’ areas.IMG_3815The great kitchen. IMG_3819 IMG_3814  IMG_3812An incredible place to visit!

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