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Hardwick Hall and Country Park

I spent a great afternoon at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire with Sal a few weeks ago. We have a tendency to get lost on our trips out but even we couldn't miss this place. Straight down the M1 to the next junction and then it was first left and first left again. The Hall sits high on a hill, is a very imposing sight and it stands out by a country mile. 

It's a wee bit pricey if you visit the house and gardens but the Country Park is free and you can wander around the extensive woodlands and countryside for hours. Throw in an Inn, shop plus tearoom as well. What is there not to like?

My photos show how nice it is but it was just a shame that the weather was overcast. It was ok for walking but not very good for photography. I've read reports that on a Bank Holiday there are queues to enter the car park and the place is overrun by visitors but we chose a midweek to go so it was very quiet. We just kept our visit to the Country Park as the gardens didn't have much colour to them plus we didn't have enough time to go around the house and also have a walk. All the walks are way marked and none are difficult for a fit person. Maybe a visit in the height of summer would be the best time to see the gardens. 

We rounded off our day nicely with a coffee and piece of sticky flapjack each in the tearooms before popping to the Duke of Leeds in Wales (South Yorkshire Wales not the country Wales!) for a swift one.

We shall definitely pay the place many more visits.

Here we have it's history supplied by English Heritage.

"Hardwick Old Hall is one of the most innovative houses of the Tudor period. It was built between 1587 and 1596 by Bess of Hardwick, who was among the richest and best-connected women of the Elizabethan age. A radical modern mansion, it drew on the latest Italian innovations in house design. Although the Old Hall is now a magnificent shell, it remains a glittering reflection of Bess’s status and aspirations.
Bess of Hardwick is almost as famous for her four marriages as she is for her building activities. Born in 1527 into a minor gentry family, she was married at 15, but her young husband, Robert Barlow, died a year later. 
In 1547 she met and married Sir William Cavendish, a 40-year-old widower and father of three. Together they bought the Derbyshire estate of Chatsworth, built a new house there, and made it their main country seat. After Sir William’s sudden death in 1557 she married her third husband, Sir William St Loe, one of Queen Elizabeth’s courtiers, and herself soon became an intimate friend of the queen. When St Loe died suddenly in 1565 he left everything to Bess. 
After her next marriage, to George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury – one of the richest men in the country – she arranged marriages between her son Henry and Grace Talbot, and her daughter Mary and Shrewsbury’s heir, Gilbert, intertwining the two families.
After the violent collapse of her fourth marriage, Bess fled from Chatsworth in 1584 to her family estate at Hardwick. 
As a countess, she needed something grander than her father’s medieval manor house there. In its place, she began to build Hardwick Old Hall in 1587. On the upper floors, the two wings contained state rooms for formal entertaining, lit by tall windows which command bold views across the open landscape. Each suite of state rooms had its own great chamber. Although the Old Hall is open to the elements, many of the original plaster overmantels are still in place.
In 1590, before the Old Hall was complete, Bess started to build another house immediately beside this it – the New Hall – this time using a professional architect, Robert Smythson. Contrary to what might be expected, the Old Hall was not abandoned in favour of the new one: instead, the two were intended to complement each other, like two wings of one building. 
Bess died in 1608, leaving her son William Cavendish in charge of Hardwick. He was the founder of the Cavendish family, Dukes of Devonshire, who are still based at the Chatsworth estate that Bess and his father had bought. 
The dukes eventually came to prefer Chatsworth over Hardwick, and partially dismantled the Old Hall in the 1750s, which gradually became ruinous. Its open interior was planted with specimen trees in 1793.
The Hardwick estate was eventually transferred to the National Trust in 1959, and the Ministry of Works took on the guardianship of the Old Hall, carrying out a major programme of stabilisation works."

Hardwick Hall Courtyard

Horse sculpture

Wash and Grow

Plaster work in the old house

The old house


The old house

Hardwick Country Park

Hardwick Country Park

Hardwick Country Park

Hardwick Country Park

Hardwick Country Park

The Great Pond

The Great Pond

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