Hardwick Hall architecture, design and history

Hardwick Hall’s History and Story

Hardwick hall, the great manor house known for its beautiful work of english tudor style architecture is located at Doe Lea, Chesterfield, Derbyshire S44 5QJ, United Kingdom, on the hill in north-central England, was built for Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury (1520-1608).

The Countess, who came to be called Bess of Hardwick, was a formidable figure, a four-times-widowed dowager who was one of the wealthiest and most influential women in England—after Elizabeth I.

Hardwick Hall architecture - Bess of Hardwick

                                           Bess of Hardwick

Following long legal dispute with her fourth husband, the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury (whom she accused of conducting a lengthy affair with Mary, (Queen of Scots), Bess received a substantial settlement, giving her the means to embark upon a grand project: to reinvent Hardwick Hail, the rather modest country house that was her birth-place and family home.

Bess returned to Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, in 1584 and soon began making improvements to the original house. Alas, these early design “experiments” created something of a shambles.

Around the time of her husband’s death in 1590, she decided she would build a new mansion on the same site, one that would fully reflect her tastes and her status.

This time, she hired Robert Smythson (1530-1614) to help execute her ideas. Smythson, a freemason noted for his work on such distinguished manors as Longleat, Wiltshire and Wollaton Hall, Nottinghamshire, is widely regarded as the greatest house designer of the Elizabethan era.

Addition of a Personal Style – Tudor style architecture

sketch drawings of hardwick hall

Smythson’s plan for Hardwick is basically a wide H, with a two-storied hall that crosses through the center and divides the structure into two wings. Three massive square towers rise up from each arm of the H, giving house its distinctive profile. Bess’s initials “ES” appear in pierced stone-mirk on the tower balustrades.

Hardwick Hall plan not to scale

The sandstone building has a rigorous symmetry; its squareness, generous gazing, and overall austenty combine to create a curiously modern effect. At the same time, Hardwick is decidedly eclectic, owing to its builder, its owner, and most of all, its era.

Elizabethan architecture is a transitional style that borrows elements from Italian early Renaissance French Loire style, and Flemish ornamentation as well as local design. So while the towers of Hardwick’s exterior are reminiscent of English castles, the interior plan is that of an Italian villa, the ceiling strapwork reflects a Flemish influence, and certain furnishings are based on French designs.

Inside, the house is spatially dramatic. The rooms becomes vaster and brighter as one ascends from the service area on the ground floor through the family and formal entertaining quarters on the first and second floors, respectively, to the third level, where the roof and upper towers begin.

Long gallery in Hardwick Hall building

Long gallery in Hardwick Hall building

The Long Gallery runs the entire 162-foot (54m) width of the second floor and is lined with portraits and tapestries. Hardwick still contains most of its original furniture and fittings which thoroughly reflect its owner’s taste and temperament. One of the most striking pieces is the “sea-dog table” in Bess’s withdrawing room, named for the fantastical creatures that support the table, bearing wings, fishtails and enormous breasts.

Corner of the Long Gallery in Hardwick hall

                  Corner of the Long Gallery in Hardwick hall

Hardwick Hall’s construction and interior was completed in 1597 and has scarcely been altered since. It is a triumph of Elizabethan architecture and one of the finest manor houses of the period. The house was lived in until the onset of World War I and in 1959 was turned over to the National Trust.

A major restoration effort was embarked upon in honor of Hardwick’s 400th anniversary in 1997, with masons and conservators busily plying their trades to restore the hall to its original state. Today, the grand old house is a popular destination for tourists.

Aerial view of Hardwick Hall

A less known fact about the Hardwick hall is that it was used to film the exterior scenes of Malfoy Manor in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Hardwick hall as Malfoy manor in Harry potter series

Hardwick hall as Malfoy manor in Harry potter series

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