Thursday, September 13, 2007

attingham: hardwick hall

The saying goes "Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall" ~ and it is a truly wonderful Elizabethan house and garden! Anne, please tell us about it...

Hardwick Hall is noteworthy for having been built by a woman in the late 16th century. Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury, who famously had four husbands, built this house as a testament to the wealth and personal influence she had amassed over the course of her life. Hardwick is certainly impressive, not least in the high great chamber, with its plaster frieze depicting Diana and her court in a forest filled with animals both quotidian (deer) and exotic (monkeys). The views from this room, and from the roof are extraordinary ~ and a reminder of the necessary link between the country house and its landscape, one that is not merely aesthetic but a marker of the real political and cultural authority conferred on landowners.

Hardwick is famous for its needlework collection, and though I was unable to photograph any of the pieces, there many similar examples at the Victoria & Albert Museum (see below). I found the garden at Hardwick particularly delightful. The courtyard is encircled with flowers that gradually progress through the rainbow, from whites to blues to greens, yellows, pinks and reds in the manner of Gertrude Jekyll. And, also not to be missed are the ruins of old Hardwick Hall, which sit a few steps from the gate to the new house. Left abandoned when the death of Bess’ last husband made the construction of an even grander residence possible, plasterwork overmantles still cling to the crumbling walls.

(bottom image: Casket Panel, English, 1640-1680, satin, embroidered in silk and metal thread, Victoria & Albert Museum, London)


Anonymous said...

Ah yes Hardwick - one of my favorite visits during Attingham.
Being timid when it comes to heights I let the rest of my class scamper about the roof admiring the view – while I remanded below – catching a much needed moment of solitude. However I soon found you’re never alone in the English country house. As I wondered the dusty Long Gallery Mary, Arbella, Georgiana and a handsome Dutchman soon found me and proved delightful company. KDM


Lovely outdoor images. World of Interiors has done some breathtaking ones of the interiors- those alone have fully convinced me that this is one of my favorite "homes" of all time. And I haven't even had a chance to go! One day. Lauren