Hardwick Hall Report : 7th April 2017
By Zara Kelly and Jessica Harris - Cardwell
On 7th April 2017, the year 10 students who take history had the chance to explore and learn more about Hardwick Hall. With a question in our GCSE paper focusing on Hardwick Hall this was truly an amazing experience to be able to see the hall for ourselves.
There are two halls which we were able to view. The old hall was an old house which was built over the building where the Bess of Hardwick was born, and over the years it was taken apart for various resources to be able to make the new hall. Both halls are seen to have many windows, which in the 16th century was very rare as glass was incredibly expensive, however as Bess of Hardwick was the second richest woman in the country next to Elizabeth, glass was easily accessible for her. The widows were made out of small pieces of glass in the shape of diamonds (as this was the largest size glass could be made at the time). The diamonds were held together by lead, which was also very expensive. However, Bess could easily afford this as she owned a lead mine.
This also showed a sense of wealth to others as the use of natural light was very modern as Hardwick Hall was a state of the art Tudor house. The Old Hall was kept after the New Hall was finished in case Elizabeth I ever visited, as she always travelled with a court of at least 300 people who would need somewhere to stay.
Bess argued with the Queen many times, and at one point was even placed in the Tower of London. Despite this, Bess and the Queen were good friends. However, the Queen never visited Hardwick Hall as it was too far away from London, but Bess was constantly prepared for her arrival. The state room was built for precisely this reason, and was decorated with incredible detail.
The New Hall was the height of English architecture during the Renaissance, and was designed by Robert Smythson. It was finished in 1597 and built over the course of 7 years.
With various symbols around the structure such as snakes and teardrops, these extraordinary details show the time period, inspiration and also show the small characteristics added by Bess of Hardwick herself. On top of the hall you can see the initials ‘ES’ which stand for Elizabeth Shrewsbury. Many of the decorations for the outside of the house were inspired by design books from France and Holland.
Hardwick has various rooms for various reasons where the main layout allowed the aristocrats and royals to be at the top of the house, with maids and servants staying at the bottom. The main feature of the hall is the gallery, which is the longest room in England. Amazing tapestries and paintings surround the house, also including original furniture, and show the extent of Bess of Hardwick’s wealth.
Bess and her husband had to spend 15 years looking after Mary, Queen of Scots for the Queen. Hardwick Hall has a room named after her which held her possessions, despite her never actually sleeping there. After Elizabeth I died, Mary’s son became the next monarch.
Overall, the whole of our year thoroughly enjoyed the trip and it was the brilliant end to the term. It provided an incredible insight into how aristocrats lived during Elizabethan times, and will benefit us greatly when it comes to our GCSE History exams next year.
All of the pictures can be found in our gallery here: http://www.cardinalnewman.coventry.sch.uk/Gallery.