In her sixties when Bess of Hardwick was estranged from her fourth husband, George Talbot sixth earl of Shrewsbury she returned to her childhood home at Hardwick. She then embarked upon the task of completely rebuilding the old manor and transforming it into a more modern hall in keeping with her status as countess of Shrewsbury. The building work took place between 1587 and 1596.

Bess of Hardwick is almost as famous for her four marriages as she is for her building activities. She was married at 15, but her young husband, Robert Barlow, died a year later. She outlived three more husbands, all Elizabethan courtiers, bore eight children and became an intimate friend of the queen. After the violent collapse of her fourth marriage to the earl of Shrewsbury, Bess retreated to her family estate at Hardwick.

As a countess, Bess needed something grander than her father’s medieval manor house, She began to build Hardwick Old Hall in its place in 1587, making use of its bold views across the open Derbyshire landscape. In 1590, Bess began building another house immediately adjacent – the New Hall – this time using a professional architect Robert Smythson. The Old and New Halls were intended to compliment each other, like tow wings of one building. *

When Bess died in 1608 she left her son, William Cavendish in charge of Hardwick. William was the founder of the Cavendish family, dukes of Devonshire based at the Chatsworth estate. Over time the dukes came to prefer Chatsworth and the Old Hall was partially dismantled in the 1750s.

The Secondary Stone Stairs


In Disrepair

*From the English Heritage Guidebook

16 Comments CherryPie on Aug 3rd 2010

16 Responses to “Hardwick Old Hall”

  1. midwesttomidlands says:

    Love Hardwick Hall too. One place I might like to revisit. I will llok forward to more of your posts from there. Hope you enjoy Chatsworth when you visit there.

    • CherryPie says:

      I loved both the old and the new hall even though they are both very different in atmosphere.

      Thanks I will let you know how I get on at Chatsworth. I have been before but it was a long time ago.

  2. Andrew Scott says:

    “Bess of Hardwick”? Now that’s an evocative name. And she got through four husbands?

    • CherryPie says:

      Now that you come to mention the name… She outlasted them all, there is some suspicion that the third one might have been poisoned but not by her.

  3. anonomouse says:

    When will you be going to Chatsworth?

  4. Helen says:

    Loved Hardwick Hall both old and new when we visited two years ago. Chatsworth too – a truely beautiful property. Haddon Hall is in the same area and well worth a visit too

    • CherryPie says:

      There are more pictures to come of the old hall and some of the new too. I have not been to Haddon Hall so thanks for the suggestion.

  5. jameshigham says:

    Very, very interesting indeed and those shots … !

  6. Ellee says:

    I hope to visit some stately homes in Wales. Do you have any recommendations?

    • CherryPie says:

      The one that immediately springs to mind is Powis Castle. Chirk is also nice and if you want to visit a garden Bodnant is a must.

      I will have a think to see if I can think of any others. Where in Wales are you going?

  7. Anjali Angel says:

    Thank you for your info. I am doing a bit of research and felt sure I remembered the Old Hardwick Hall was Bess’ childhood home (as in father’s manor) but no one mentions it. You are appreciated.