Hardwick Hall

Alan Titmarch’s programme Behind the Scenes at the National Trust focused this week on Hardwick Castle which we visited in June last year.

The castle is full of wonderful tapestries and is well worth a visit.

Hardwick’s history is closely associated with the lady who built it Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury known simply as Bess of Hardwick.

Bess rose to a position of great power within Elizabethan society.

In 1547 she married William Cavendish, Treasurer of the King’s Chamber and they set up their home at Chatsworth. They had eight children, six of whom survived. William died in 1557 and two years later Bess married Sir William St Loe, Captain of the Queen’s Guards. The marriage was short-lived as he died in 1565, but Bess managed to secure great wealth for herself.

She was married for the final time in 1567 to George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury and moved from one and another of his many mansions, including Chatsworth.

It wasn't a happy marriage and after several years of quarrelling Bess left Chatsworth and came back to her childhood home at Hardwick Old Hall. In 1590 the Earl of Shrewsbury died and within a month the foundations were dug for Hardwick New Hall.

Bess died in 1608, she was in her eighties, and is buried in a tomb in Derby Cathedral.

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