Bess built Hardwick Old Hall in 1587 on the grounds of her father’s medieval manor house. Bess intended for both the old and new hall to complement each other. However, after her death in 1608, the Hardwick estate was passed to her son, William Cavendish who partially dismantled the Old Hall in the 1750s.
In 1789, the lower rooms were still occupied by the house keeper of the New Hall and a family. In the 19th century lead was removed from the roof leading to the hall’s final demise to a ruin.
The Old Hall is managed by English Heritage. As of 2019, the hall can only be viewed from the outside but there is a small exhibition and shop. Parking is £5 (free for EH and NT members). The EH website states that entry is £6.80, but there was a sign which said the exhibition was free entry when I visited. I assume when the restoration work is complete, there will be a charge again. The EH website also states that the hall is closed Monday and Tuesday, but as only the exterior is currently viewable, I think as long as the park is open (managed by the National Trust), you can have a walk to the old hall ruins.
Elizabeth (Bess), Countess of Shrewsbury, built Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire as a display of wealth and power. However, Bess came from modest beginnings. Her father was not much more than a yeoman, yet Bess was able to climb the social ladder through a string of marriages to wealthy men.
Bess was first married at the age of 14 and widowed at 15. Her second marriage was to Sir William Cavendish in 1547. The couple had 8 children together, one of their grandchildren was William Cavendish, who built Bolsover New Castle. When Cavendish died in 1557, Bess inherited his fortune. She then married Sir William St Loe in 1559, on his death in 1565, Bess became one of the richest women in England. In 1568, Bess married George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury and the richest man in England. They remained married until his death in 1590.
In 1590, Bess began the building of Hardwick Hall. The house was completed in 1597 with Bess living there her death on the 13th February 1608, aged 81.
Useful Informationfor visitors
The hall managed by The National Trust. Entry to the house and garden is £15 for an
adult and parking is £5, garden only entry is £7.50. The house is open from 11am to 5pm from
Wednesdays to Sundays. The garden is open daily from 09:00 – 18:00 and the park
is open from Park Dawn to dusk. There is
also a shop and restaurant.
Hardwick Old Hall is managed by English Heritage but it is
currently closed for renovation work.