I travel as much as possible at home and abroad. I'm always ready for new experiences
Published June 7th 2012
Hardwick Old Hall was the birthplace of Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury, later known as Bess of Hardwick, who, through a series of strategic marriages, became one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in Elizabethan England. In fact, Bess of Hardwick's fortune and preeminence is often described as being second only to Queen Elizabeth I. The Old Hall was abandoned in the late 1590s in favour of a grander manor house, which stands beside the ruins of the Old Hall.
View of Hardwick New Hall from the top of the Old Hall. Photo by Erin Connelly.
In Anglo-Saxon England an anonymous poet walked through the ruins of long-neglected Roman buildings and considered the transient glory of these once-proud houses so diminished by the inevitable passage of time and people. He writes, in an Old English poem known as 'The Ruin':
Wonderous is this foundation - the fates have broken and shattered this city; the work of giants crumbles.
The roofs are ruined, the towers toppled, frost in the mortar has broken the gate, torn and worn and shorn by the storm, eaten through with age. The earth's grasp holds the builders, rotten, forgotten, the hard grip of the ground, until a hundred generations of men are gone. (Translation by Roy M. Liuzza)
Similar to the ruins described in the poem, Hardwick Old Hall has been without a roof for some time and exposure to the elements has hollowed out and eroded the inside of the building. However, decorative plasterwork still adheres to some sections of the stone walls providing a glimpse of the grandeur of the hall's former occupants.
View of plasterwork from the lower floor. Photo by Erin Connelly.
Visitors are free to wander through the whole of the ruins and even climb four stories to the top of the building. There is little evidence of human presence in the ruins and the freedom to explore the hall without the usual precautions of 'Do Not Enter' signs, locked doors, security guards and roped off areas is one of the most attractive features of the site. Particularly during off-peak times, you may have the sense that you're the first to enter this silent building in four hundred years.
View of the lower four floors. Photo by Erin Connelly.
Entrance to the grounds and both the Old and New Halls is free for National Trust members. In addition, National Trust memberships are available for visitors from abroad. See the National Trust for more information on home and visiting memberships.
Fees for all others are as follows:
Family Ticket: £12.50