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 Information for 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.