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Hardwick Hall (Chesterfield)

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5 Reviews

Address: Doe Lea / Chesterfield / Derbyshire S44 5QJ / Telephone: 01246 850430

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      02.03.2015 21:58
      Very helpful



      Bringing history to life - no gimmicks required.

      Hardwick Hall is situated just off the M1 near to Chesterfield and was the former home of Bess of Hardwick.
      I am not going into all the historical detail as I feel that is for a different place and I had no idea of the history of the Hall until my visit. What I will say is that a visit to Hardwick Hall stays with you long after your journey home.
      If you and your family are fans of historical dramas such as The Tudors, this stunning building brings the history to life. Climb the huge staircase and take in the splendour of the rich tapestries and gaze down the line of stunning portraits, the grand finale being a fabulous painting of Elizabeth the First.
      There are spacious grounds to this National Trust property, which are lovely to walk around on a warm sunny day where you can imagine yourself as an Elizabethan lady of the manor inspecting her gardens.
      Hardwick Hall does not rely on gimmicks to interest its visitors. The staff are knowledgeable and delight in telling you the story of Bess of Hardwick and while I find it irritating when places go all plastic and play centres in a bid to keep the interest of younger visitors, there were nice touches for the children when we visited, such as historical dressing up and quizzes. This isn't an adventure playground though and might be of more interest to older children who may have studied the era at school.
      Close to the main Hardwick Hall is the very first hall, now largely a ruin, and I feel that unlike the main hall, you would need to be something of a history enthusiast to gain something from visiting it.

      My only word of advice is to check the prices, as there are various packages, and opening times before setting out on a visit. We didn't do this the first time we went and unfortunately it was closed to visitors on that day.


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      10.09.2009 08:54
      Very helpful



      A major significant display of rare hIstorical treasures.

      Hardwick Hall.

      Having recently visited Chatsworth it was a natural inquisitiveness that I wanted to then explore Hardwick Hall the home of Bess Hardwick who was instrumental in the building of nearby Chatsworth house.

      Who was Bess Hardwick?

      Elizabeth Hardwick otherwise known as Bess of Hardwick was born on the 27th August 1627 and grew up at Old Hardwick Hall from fairly comfortably well off family. It was customary in those days for young ladies and gentlemen to enter service at a fairly senior level such as a companion and would not have done menial or heavy duty work. It was here where she met the first of four husbands. She was only 12 when she married and he Robert Barlow, was 14 years old but as he was a sickly person he died a year later leaving her unconsummated but financially well provided for with a 3rd of his estate going to her.

      Her second marriage in 1547 was to Sir William Cavendish and they had 8 children during this marriage however only six children survived. Through this marriage she gained the title Lady Elizabeth Cavendish. Her husband had been married twice before and was much older than she he also had two children who were older than she was from his previous marriages. He was flattered to have a young bride. He was very wealthy acquiring land from the dissolution of the monasteries and estates in Suffolk and the South of England. Elizabeth persuaded him to sell this land and acquire the land that we now know as the Chatsworth Estate. He died ten years later after building Chatsworth. From this marriage came the Devonshire Dukedom dynasty that is very much around today.

      Her third marriage was to William St.Loe who also had a lot of properties. He died probably due to poisoning by his younger brother but he had left all his wealth and property to Bess who was only in her late 30's. She became the second richest woman in the whole of England after Queen Elizabeth the 1st being worth millions of pounds at today's equivalent rate and having amassed this through her marriages coming from a modest background.

      Queen Elizabeth played matchmaker and furnished the marriage between Bess and George Talbot the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury hence her becoming known as the Countess of Shrewsbury. He was charged with the imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots whom stayed with them from time to time at Chatsworth. This was not a particularly happy marriage and Bess bought Hardwick old hall from her brother and lived there for six years until the death of her husband in 1590 after which she was instrumental in the designing with architect Robert Smythson the building of Hardwick new Hall where she spent the remainder of her life dying there in 1608 at the grand old age of 80.

      Hardwick Hall.

      Hardwick Hall is a magnificent property which highlights grand and gracious living from the Elizabethan age. It took seven years to build and on top of the house there are the initials E.S. on the parapets. It is built high on a hill over looking the derelict old hall and commanding wonderful views of the valleys below and the Derbyshire country side. The hall is built of local stone and is three stories high. Each floor has thousands of tiny windows which was a sign of wealth and there was a saying coined 'Hardwick Hall more glass than wall' and this is certainly true.

      Hardwick Hall houses the most impressive collection of tapestries in the world; practically every wall is covered by magnificent tapestries and embroideries to cover the whitewashed walls and to provide warmth. There was no plumbing or heating in the house apart from fire places which would have had roaring log fires but it must have been absolutely freezing to live here and not very nice for the poor servants who had to walk up all the stairs with water from the ground floor to the upper floors. There was no electricity in the house and it would have been dimly lit by candles. There also were no toilets and chamber pots would have been used at night which would have been collected by the servants and walked through the house and downstairs for disposal. Not a pleasant job I shouldn't wonder for anyone.

      What is unique about this house is that the higher the floors went the higher the rooms were built. There are other features that were unique to Hardwick Hall. The high servant's quarters were on the ground floor and would have housed the more senior servants whereas the others or junior staff would have lived in near by accommodation around the estate. The entrance hall used to be the dining room for the servants and there is a large trestle table and benches where they would eat. There is a gallery above the hall over looking it. The children of the family would live on the top floor of the house and come down to the dining room to eat their meals and return to the top floor where they were taught by governesses. There are is some wood panelling and a couple of tapestries on the wall but nothing compared to the rest of the house. A large plaque above the fireplace is Bess's coat of arms are inlaid are a set of real antler horns. There is a massive painting of Bess on the opposite wall.

      On the ground floor there are exhibitions of the fine needlework that was sewn and embroidered by Bess and Mary Queen of Scots from her time spent imprisoned at Chatsworth. Much of the furniture and paintings hanging on the walls were moved from Chatsworth to furnish this massive house.

      When there were visitors to the house the house would become awash with servants who would just have to find a place to sleep anywhere within the house. The ground floor also housed the kitchen and laundry facilities.

      There is a grand staircase leading up to the middle floor which is open on one side so you would need to hold on to small children just in case. Here are found the state rooms. The first room you come into is an extremely grand room with tapestries covering all the walls. It is known as the High Great chamber. At the top of the walls are painted plaster frescos depicting hunting scenes. The room is exceptionally high and must have been quite cold. On the floor is a carpeting made out of reeds which is still used today. To prevent it drying out and turning to chaff it has to be lightly moistened with water to maintain it.

      Here in this great hall Elizabeth would greet and dine with important visitors to her house and there is a pair of throne chairs under a canopy so that all eyes were on her. Her chair was easily identifiable as it was embroidered and had gold tassel threads and her initials on it. Here the guests would eat quite sumptuously before moving to the retiring rooms however being that it was quite a way from the kitchen it was more than likely that the food was never served piping hot.

      To the side of the large banqueting hall the guests would have been able to play games and be entertained. There is a large games table with various inlaid games on the surface. In the middle of the long wall is a grand fire place with the coat of arms of Bess featured quite largely.

      After leaving the banqueting hall you enter the long gallery hall which is one of the longest halls in any house in the country. Most halls like this would only have been found in very rich households or in palaces stretching the whole length of the house. In those days a long hall signified power and status and would have been used to display wealth. It would have been here when the weather was bad that the guests would promenade up and down the hall.

      All the walls are adorned with tapestries and paintings usually of the monarch and family members. There are two large alcoves with windows all around and on the wall side of the hall there are two very grand fireplaces. In the middle of the hall there are two throne chairs again sat beneath a canopy. The windows allowed the hall to be quite bright but now they are shaded by blinds to protect the rare, delicate tapestries from being ruined by the sun. Leading off from the hall are small retiring rooms for people to relax in. One had been turned into a library and there is some very old wood furniture here that is delicately carved.

      On the top floor of the house were smaller more homely rooms in which the family lived, All of these rooms were smaller and more comfortable and it is here that Bess died in her bed.
      Some visitors might find it somewhat overwhelming with tapestries adorning every available space on the walls but it is a treasure that you may never see anywhere else in the world on this scale. We should be proud of our national treasures especially as they are left in trust for us to experience and enjoy.

      During the 2nd world war the house was used as a training base for the RAF due to its position on top of the hill and the suitability for a landing strip. The soldiers were billeted here during the war and once the war was over the lakes at the bottom of the hill were dredged and 300 bicycles were discovered probably nicked by the soldiers who were going to be late returning to barracks.

      The Hardwick estate consists of some 300 acres of parkland and gardens. Around the house in the front courtyard and at the rear were formal gardens and to the side orchards, herb and vegetable gardens. There are woods, forests, lakes and fields to explore on foot. Some of the buildings are still in use today, a 17th century inn currently used as a pub and restaurant which was probably used as staff quarters, stables, a restored flour mill with a water wheel at the entrance to the Hardwick Estate there is also a stone masonry workshop which is still used today and all kinds of other small buildings and farms. There is also a farm shop and cafeteria. There are even two small properties that can be rented for between 6 and 12 people.

      The old Hardwick hall is situated right near the brow of the hill and would have had wonderful views. Sadly this is now in ruins but it is preserved by English Heritage on behalf of the National trust. This must have been quite magnificent too in its hey day. You can explore the ruins which incurs an additional charge.

      It is also possible to get married at Hardwick hall.

      How to find Hardwick hall.

      For drivers with Sat Nav assistance the address is:-

      Hardwick Hall,
      Doe Lea,
      S44 5QJ.

      The hall is in view of the M1 motorway and leave at Junction 29.
      There are plenty of brown tourist signs to direct you to the hall.

      Parking is £1.50

      We parked at the base of the hill at the inn and boy is it a steep walk up the hill. Take my advice and enter the estate by the Mill entrance and parking is right near to the house.

      By train to Chesterfield then by bus.

      Admission prices.

      Adult £10
      Child £5
      Family £25
      Garden only.
      Adult £5
      Child £2.50
      Joint admission to Old and New Hardwick Hall

      Opening times are only between 12PM and 4.30PM or 11AM and 3PM in winter
      Wednesday to Sunday only but you need to check.

      If you are in this area please try and make a visit it is such a wonderful historical house preserved and maintained by the National trust.


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      • More +
        10.02.2009 11:54
        Very helpful



        Plenty of choice of places to visit in the Hardwick area of Derbyshire

        PLACE NAME
        Hardwick Hall/Stainsby Mill

        These are situated at Stainsby near Holmewood, just off jnc 29 of the M1 and Hardwick Hall is clearly visible from the Motorway.
        Hardwick Hall, a National Trust property, is near Stainsby Mill, another National Trust site, which is a former flourmill reopened for the public.

        If visiting Stainsby Mill, there is very limited parking available on a country lane and if you park in Hardwick Hall for this site, you have a long downhill trek to the Mill and of course a long uphill trek back to the car.
        There is a Heritage bus most weekends in the summer (price about £5) which takes you between several interesting sites around in the area including Stainsby Mill and Hardwick Hall. You can get the bus at one of these sites and get off at another then get back on the bus to return to the original site to get back to the car. I have not yet tried it but would love to do so.

        The main car park for Hardwick Hall is a field next to the property. There is usually people directing traffic into parking spaces and there are toilets in the car park area. In addition, there is usually an icecream or other type of food stall outside the property in the car park area.
        Picnics are allowed but I believe that no food is allowed in the house.

        English Heritage/National Trust members are allowed to park for free, all other visitors must pay the parking fee at the entrance to the long drive. English Heritage members are allowed to park free as the Old Hall is an English Heritage site.
        Visitors get a reduced ticket if they produce their English Heritage/National Trust ticket at the alternative site. When I last went as an EH member, I got a pound knocked off the NT price. However, I have now joined NT, too.

        Hardwick Inn, a restaurant on the edge of Hardwick Hall's estate, and there is a café in the New Hall's kitchen area.
        Dogs are not allowed on site to the best of my knowledge, but check before travelling.

        Stone Centre, this was not open last time we went so I can not comment on it, but should be open this year.
        Hardwick Old Hall
        This is the English Heritage building and is a ruin. It was discarded by Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewbury, when the New Hall was ready.

        Hardwick New Hall
        This is the National Trust building and has literally thousands of windows. It was built by Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewbury.
        Stainsby Mill
        A former flourmill opened to the public, this costs a couple of pounds (can't remember exactly how much) each to enter. It is a working flourmill and still has a working water wheel. It is very small and can be seen in about an hour to 2 hours. Quite interesting for the children though.

        As a National Trust member, I do not pay as I pay £60 for a joint ticket for the year for my boyfriend and me.
        However, I believe that the price is pretty reasonable. When I went as an EH member, it was £12.95 for adults, which I got a pound knocked off, and cheaper for children/concessionaries but this is just for the New Hall, it is more expensive for a combined ticket to see both halls and it would be a shame to miss the Old Hall site.

        The English Heritage site has an audio tour of the ruined building and associated buildings, which is extremely interesting.
        1. Good for children - plenty to keep them occupied
        2. Several sites in one little area
        3. Have various events during half term/summer holidays to bring "history to life". When we went they were holding a WW2 games session in the garden area.

        BAD POINTS
        1. If you are not a NT or EH member, it can get quite expensive.
        2. No audio tour in the NT building, although there are plenty of guides to ask information from.
        We joined the National Trust and got our entrance fee back.

        The National Trust website www.nationaltrust.org.uk


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        • More +
          09.11.2008 10:20
          Very helpful



          The former home of Bess of Hardwick now cared for by the National Trust

          If you have ever wondered what an old English country manor house looked like in its heyday then you might want to consider a visit to Hardwick Hall.

          Perched on the top of a hill between Chesterfield in North East Derbyshire and Mansfield in North Nottinghamshire this house can be seen from the M1 motorway. If you are travelling southbound between junctions 28 and 29 it can be seen in the distance to your left. Hardwick Hall was the family home of Elizabeth Hardwick, usually referred to as "Bess of Hardwick", who eventually became, through marriage, the Countess of Shrewsbury. Hardwick Hall is now in the care of The National Trust.

          Five hundred years ago Elizabeth Hardwick was the second richest woman in England, with a fortune surpassed only by that of Queen Elizabeth 1. With this incredible wealth came an enormous amount of power and two of her sons would become forbearers to the Dukes of Devonshire and the Dukes of Newcastle dynasties.

          Elizabeth was born at Hardwick Old Hall, the ruins of which stand adjacent to the present house. She had her new house built for herself after she had amassed a personal wealth of over £60,000 - a phenomenal amount of money at that time. Through her first marriage at the age of just 12 she had inherited one third of the Barlow Estate in southern England. Through her second marriage she acquired the Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire and further estates in the West Country from her third marriage, but it was her fourth marriage to George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury that brought her the greatest wealth and made her a personal friend of Queen Elizabeth 1 herself.

          It is not surprising giving her power and wealth that Hardwick Hall is a grand affair. It was built at a time when such houses no longer needed to be fortified like castles and no expense was spared. The phrase "Hardwick Hall - more glass than wall" was punned as a reference to its huge glass windows. This was at a time when glass was very expensive and considered to be a real luxury.

          Robert Smythson, a leading architect at the time was drafted in. He had designed Longleat House and Wollaton Hall and was the most sought after architect of the day. Construction began in 1590 but it would take seven years to complete.
          Today, Hardwick Hall is recognised as one of the finest Elizabethan houses in England and it is now cared for by the National Trust. The Old Hall, Bess's birthplace, is now in the care of English Heritage.

          I visited Hardwick Hall on a recent National Heritage Open Day in September 2008 when all National Trust properties that normally have admission charges were free to enter. At normal times the admission charges are:

          Adult - £9.50
          Child - 4.75
          Family tickets and group tickets are available.
          National Trust members - free

          The first thing that is noticeable about Hardwick Hall is that the driveway to the house is incredibly long. In fact it is over a mile from the entrance into the grounds and the car park at the house. The landscaped grounds around the house that you drive through are free to visit and there are several footpaths and trails that cut through them. As a child I came here quite a few times and I remember seeing herds of Fallow Deer with their distinctive white spots, which I called "Bambis". That was 30 years ago, but if you are lucky you might still catch a glimpse of one today. As far as I recall, I had never been inside the house before.

          I was a little disappointed to discover that one end of the building was shrouded in scaffolding and looked somewhat ugly, but I then resigned myself to the fact that since this building is 500 years old it is perhaps inevitable that it is needs a bit of renovation.
          The house didn't open until midday and we arrived about 10am so that gave us an opportunity to explore some of the grounds and also have a look at the Old Hall. Hardwick Hall itself is surrounded by a wonderful garden and orchard. There are statues made out of some of the shrubs which is a topiary lovers dream but personally I found the herb garden more fascinating. In the days of Bess this herb garden would have provided fresh food for the table and cut flowers for the house. The herb garden has been well maintained and there are placards informing the visitor of the plant names and their uses in 16th century England. It was evident that many of the plants were also grown for their medicinal properties.

          To the rear of the house there is a lawn with extensive views towards the fields and woods. This is surrounded by a narrow ditch known as a ha-ha. Ha-ha's became common around such country houses because they not only kept deer and other wild animals from getting near to the house they also did not obstruct the view from the house as hedges or walls did. In the middle of the lawn there is a pond with water features and in front of the house there is a statue of Bess.

          The architectural appearance of the house is very square and solid and the rear of the building is more or less a mirror image of the front. The large windows are an obvious feature as are carved turrets along the top of the roof, each of which bears the large letters "ES" (Elizabeth Shrewsbury) carved into the stonework.

          On entering the house we were greeted by a very friendly lady who handed us a plan of the house and enquired if we had been before. When I said no she then explained the main areas of the house and suggested the best way to walk around so as not to miss anything. This involved starting on the ground floor at the far right hand side.

          The first room that we entered contained various displays relating to the history of the house and the story of its creator. There was so much information packed into this relatively small room that had we taken the time to read every note, letter and placard on display then we would have been there most of the morning. Instead we scanned the items on display and just read the bits that seemed to be of greatest interest.

          The next two rooms were both huge ballrooms. One of them had a balcony where an orchestra could perform and every bit of the ceilings in both rooms was ornately decorated. It was not explained why there were two different ballrooms but each was quite breathtaking.

          The biggest wow however was reserved for the Long Gallery. As its name suggests this room is very long, more or less the full length of the house and it is where the majority of the paintings can be found. The majority of the paintings are oil paintings of family members but there are also several portraits of members of Royalty too, reaffirming Bess's connections with the most important Royals of the day. There was a portrait of Queen Elizabeth 1, looking uncannily similar to Beth (or vice versa) and another of Mary Queen of Scots, who Beth looked after at Chatsworth House during a period of her life when she was in exile.

          Whilst the majority of the paintings are hung on the wall there are some that are so huge that they are simply stood on the floor on stands. Some of these are over two metres tall and I could not imagine what their monetary value would be.

          In every room there are tapestries on the walls and this answered my questions why the rooms were so dark and dingy. With so many huge windows all around the house the natural daylight would have originally flooded into the rooms but because this daylight causes irreparable damage to the tapestries there are now curtains on all of the windows.
          Bess was a very accomplished embroiderer as was Mary Queen of Scots and some of the tapestries on display are her own work. There is also a large tapestry that was a joint effort by the two of them that was created over a period of almost five years, during Mary's stay at Chatsworth.

          Hardwick Hall contains the largest collection of 15th and 16th centuries on display anywhere in the world although some of the most valuable tapestries, including four known as the Chatsworth Hunting Tapestries are now at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
          After we had fully explored the first floor we then headed off up a flight of stone stairs. One of the unusual features of this house is that each floor is higher than the one below. Another unusual feature is that the second floor is where the large stately rooms are to be found. This was possibly to show off the whole house to any guests who had to pass through the rest of the house to get to these rooms.

          The upper floor is where all of the bedrooms are to be found. Most of these are fully furnished and much of the furniture is original. In 1601 Bess had a full inventory of the whole house prepared and this is one of the reasons how it is known that much of this furniture is original and was here at that time.

          Every bedroom has a different style but is as grand as the next with four poster beds, drapes and plush cushions and upholstery. It seems that blue was a favourite colour and this is used in many of the rooms. There was nothing to advise the visitor which bedroom was which so I presumed (wrongly as it turned out) that the largest bedroom was Bess's. In fact when we asked the woman on the entrance as we left she told us that Bess's bedroom is only open on a few days of the year and that particular day is wasn't open. Apparently the furnishings are blue again but it isn't the largest room in the house it is one of the mid size ones. What it does have in its favour is a south westerly facing position and wonderful views.

          When you leave the house the route takes you through the original kitchens, part of which has been converted into a café and restaurant and there is also a gift shop.
          Overall I enjoyed my visit to Hardwick Hall but I am not sure that it is worth the standard admission charge which seems a bit steep. Having said that there is enough to do to spend a full day here (including exploring the grounds). I was also a little disappointed that Bess's bedroom was out of bounds but then again with free entry I suppose beggars can't be choosers.

          Hardwick Hall
          Doe Lea
          North East Derbyshire
          S44 5QJ
          Telephone - (01246) 850430
          Fax - (01246) 858424 


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            25.03.2008 18:33
            Very helpful



            A must see stately home!

            When most people think of stately homes in Derbyshire, they generally think of Chatsworth House. In my quest to put some of the others on the map I am working my way through some of the Castles and houses that you will find in my local area. I have done Bolsover Castle and Haddon Hall and the next on my list is Hardwick Hall.

            ~~~WHERE IS HARDWICK HALL?

            Hardwick is located around 6.5 miles west of Mansfield and 9.5 miles south east of Chesterfield, in Derbyshire. To get there via the M1 you need to leave at junction 29 and head onto the A6175 - the Hall is signposted via brown tourist signs. Unfortunately the public transport links to Hardwick aren't great at all - the nearest railway stop is at Chesterfield and the nearest bus (the Pronto service between Chesterfield and Nottingham) stops at nearby Glapwell, but you still have 1.5 miles or so to go to get to the Hall and grounds.

            There is a car park to the side of the Hall, but this does cost £1.50 - on top of paying to get in the place! It's worth noting that it is free for members of English Heritage and National Trust to park (the property is owned by the National Trust).

            ~~~A BIT OF HISTORY

            Hardwick was commissioned by Bess of Hardwick; the second richest lady in the country during the Elizabethan period. The Hall has remained pretty much unaltered since the 16th Century and has an amazing collection of tapestry and embroidery. A visit this year is particularly worthwhile because it is the 400th anniversary of Bess of Hardwick's death, so you will get more for your money - there are a series of special events and exhibitions to look out for! Bess (Elizabeth) was Countess of Shrewsbury and, to make a statement of her wealth and position, she employed Robert Smythson (a famous architect) to draw up plans for this impressive stately home. Work started on the Hall in 1590 and Bess moved in during 1597, where she lived until she dies in 1608.

            The House is very impressive and dominates the hillside on which it is built (you can see it from the roads nearby too). The layout comprises of six towers (each with the crest ES for Elizabeth of Shrewsbury on the top) on the ends of rectangle and the walls are made up of many panes of glass. Inside the Hall you will find an interior that is largely unaltered since Bess first moved in. Most of the carvings, furniture, plasterwork and fireplaces are original and the place is elaborately decorated with tapestries and massive staircases.

            The grounds, which contain Hardwick Old Hall (the original manor house and birthplace of Bess) and magnificent gardens, are also a good example of the period.

            ~~~HOW MUCH & WHEN DOES IT OPEN?

            Please check before you set off because the prices and opening times change each season. It's gone up already on the website since I went in 2007!

            Opening hours are April to October - Wed, Thu, Sat, Sun, Bank Holiday Mondays 12:30- 16:30. Prices vary depending on which bits of the property you wish to visit too and on the size of your group - at the moment it is £12.15 for adults for a joint ticket to see the Old and New Halls and the Gardens. It's £9.50 for the Hall and £4.75 for the Gardens if you want to do it separately. There are special prices for concessions, family groups and larger parties. You can also get day or season fishing passes.

            In with the price you will get an audio tour, which is very informative and well worth listening to. You can pay for guided tours of some of the areas if you wish, but we found the audio tour to be sufficient for us.

            The place opens up form 10am, although please note that some areas open later (especially in the winter months). It stays open until 6pm in summer and dusk in winter - also the different attractions close at slightly different times and the last entry to the Park is half an hour before closing. As there is a lot to see it's best to plan your route before you set off (or get the leaflet and have a good sit down when you arrive to check out your plan of action) because it would be a shame to miss anything!

            ~~~WHAT DOES A VISIT ENTAIL?

            In the park you have the Hardwick Inn - a pretty 17th century pub that is also owned by the NT. It can be found on the edge of the estate and is a good place to go for a drink on the way home. In the grounds you will also find Stainsby Mill - a restored flour mill. This is located near the main entrance to the parkland and is a very interesting place to visit, with a water wheel and working machinery. The Old Hall (now an English Heritage maintained property) is also within easy reach of the main house, but is now virtually a ruin. It is still worth a look at and is covered by the audio tour. The other notable place to visit in the grounds is the Stone Centre and Stonemasons Yard. This is a good place to go if you have children with you because it is pretty educational, as well as giving useful information about the traditional craft of stonemasonry - a skill that is ongoing in keeping Hardwick from crumbling over the years.

            You will also find two holiday cottages available for rent on the estate - a good thing to check out if you want to spend more time exploring the estate and surrounding area than one day's visit will allow. Also while in the grounds head to the South Gazebo to see the gardening exhibition and, my particular favourite, carry on around to the Herb Garden - a beautifully restored herb garden, full of smells, textures and colours! This, and the gardens as a whole, mirror the symmetrical feel of the Hall and have something to see whatever season you happen to time your visit with.

            The Hall itself is a beautiful place to visit, although it should be noted that there are lots of stairs to contend with. The ground floor (with the shop, restaurant, Threads of Time exhibition and Entrance Hall) is completely wheelchair friendly, but the same cannot be said of the rest of the property. A friend of mine who is visually impaired was really pleased to find that there were tactile items to handle on request throughout and I noted that large print and Braille guide books are also available. Other things to note is that there is no photography allowed inside the Hall and, although walking in the grounds is encouraged, muddy boots (or sharp heeled shoes) are not permitted. You can hire slippers and leave your other footwear at the entrance if you wish - I thought that was a good touch! You can also check heavy bags, coats and pushchairs in at the entrance and get a receipt - another good idea!

            As well as all the amazing examples of Elizabethan décor you can look at the Threads of Time exhibition in the nursery on the ground floor of the Hall. This provides a fascinating insight into the techniques and ideas behind the wonderful tapestries and needlework you will see all around Hardwick - some of which was probably done by the infamous Bess. I learned a great deal about the symbolism in the pictures and patterns! You can continue from here to explore the Evidence Room; full of artifacts and documents about the life and world of Bess and her contemporaries.

            The whole building is a twisting, turning treat of staircases, corridors and rooms full of wonder, but the jewel in the Hardwick crown is the High Chamber. This is the showpiece of the Hall and has a magnificent frieze around the walls with Diana the Huntress as its theme. Here would be the place where Bess would receive her visitors and hoped to entertain the great and the good of Elizabethan society. As with everything in the Hall the High Chamber, and the Great Hall that it leads to, are a symbol of Bess of Hardwick's social standing and money. The Great Hall is lined with paintings of the Tudor, Jacobean and Elizabethan greats; some family, some just the highest of the nobles of England.

            It doesn't stop there! I could explore Hardwick for hours and still marvel at the little things I missed the time before. I cannot recommend a visit highly enough and would advise that you allow yourself a whole day to do the place justice. As I said before, plan your route around prior to entering to give yourself the best chance of seeing all there is to see.

            It isn't a cheap day out by many means, but it is a great way to experience the world of the Elizabethans and to walk in their footsteps for just a little while....

            ~~~PROPERTY DETAILS

            Hardwick Hall
            Doe Lea
            S44 5QJ

            01246 850 430

            http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w- findaplace/w-hardwickhall.htm

            ***this review will appear on other websites***


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          • Product Details

            On display are Europe's finest collection of 16th- and 17th-century embroideries and tapestries. Learn about Bess of Hardwick, Elizabethan England's second richest woman. Enjoy the tranquil walled courtyards, the fragrant restored herb garden, orchards and lawns. And much more...

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