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Inspired by my new found interest in obscure Stuarts (more of which one day) we visited Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire this Summer. Although overshadowed by the more spectacular nearby Chatsworth, it is well worth a visit. There are actually two halls. The “New” hall, completed about 1697 is intact and gorgeous (“more window than wall” according to a contemporary) but in a testament to the magnificent extravagance of Bess of Hardwick it was begun before the “Old” Hall was complete. The Old Hall is now a ruin, although a lovely one with some of the rather grand plasterwork still intact.

The New Hall is National Trust but the Old Hall is run by English Heritage. With the iPad not having any signal and not wanting to add any more guide books to the groaning shelves at home I picked up one of the free audio guides. The tour is given by Bess’s steward, a gruff well to do accent, somewhere between General Melchett and Rumpole of the Bailey. It was actually rather informative, but I was very entertained when he announced that he and his fellow servants were amazed when they first moved into the hall, with its cross-wise main hall “as they had always lived in Medieval Halls”. How many of us can claim to know our place in history so well?

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