A wonderful couple of examples of 17th century grandeur relating to Bess of Hardwick, the second richest woman of the Elizabethan age, after the Queen herself. She married four times, working her way up from minor gentry to wife to the Earl of Shrewsbury, one of the wealthiest men in England.
Hardwick Hall was built between 1590 and 1597 by Robert Smythson, one of the first ‘architects’, and is one of the first and finest examples of what we now know as Elizabethan style architecture. Without the threat of war country houses no longer needed to be fortified, and huge windows could be used instead, though at great financial cost.
Inside is probably the largest number of tapestries I’ve ever seen in one place.
Neighbouring Hardwick Hall are the remains of the Old Hall where Bess was born.
Bolsover Castle is an unique place, built in the early 17th century by William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle, son of Bess of Hardwick. The Little Castle was built on top of a 12th medieval castle as an entertainment palace. Inside were the finest things that could be bought at the time, some like the paintings are the only surviving of their age. William was a major patron of the arts, as well as author himself of poetry and plays.
There are plentiful fireplaces, all of a slightly different design.
The walled gardens were lovely even on a wet day.
The connecting Terrace Range unfortunately hasn’t survived as well but the scale is still clear, and the views over the Derbyshire landscape panoramic. It was built for housing and entertaining guests, which included King Charles twice within a two year period, an expensive privilege for any nobility of the age.
The Riding Range was where modern dressage was effectively born, with William Cavendish writing an influential book including moves still used today in competition. The buildings continue to house horses, and there are regular events held.
Things didn’t end so well for William Cavendish as a Royalist during the English Civil War. He was the head of the King’s Northern Army, which was defeated at Marston Moor in one of the largest battles of the war. After this he left England for Europe for seven years until Charles II was on the throne.