Mar
23

Hardwick Old Hall

Between 1587 and 1596, Hardwick Old Hall was built around the core of an older manor house, the birthplace of Bess of Hardwick, more formerly known as the Countess of Shrewsbury. This is a ruin now, hugely atmospheric with some of the original plasterwork still visible to give an idea of the radically modern Italianate style of the house.
One of the truly exciting aspects of the ruin is that you can still climb the staircase right up to the fifth floor and what would in Bess’s time have been the lead roof over the Hill Great Chamber. Bess’s household and her visitors would have enjoyed a walk around the perimeter, safe behind the stone balustrade, and with views out across the parkland and landscape beyond.
Even before the building of the Old Hall was complete, Bess had started work on Hardwick New Hall, just metres away. Both houses continued to be built at the same time, so the newer house did not replace Hardwick Old Hall, it complemented it. Nevertheless it is Hardwick New Hall that still stands today intact, as Bess would have seen it whilst the Old Hall was demolished from 1745 onwards.
The reason for the demolition is not know. It could have been to save money – the sale of the lead, iron, plaster, wainscot and doors raised over £300, or it could have been to create a picturesque garden ruin for the inhabitants of the New Hall to enjoy. The Old Hall’s open interior was planted with trees in 1793 to appreciate as a garden feature!