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"Hardwick Hall, More Glass Than Wall"

Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, one of the UK's most complete Tudor houses, became famous almost as soon as it was built more than 400 years ago. The rhyming couplet, "Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall" was the way locals expressed their awe at the huge windows and lacy construction of a house that people said looked, when lit up at night, like a lantern on a hill.

The house was the extravagant project of Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury, known as Bess of Hardwick. After Queen Elizabeth I, she was the wealthiest and most powerful woman of the Elizabethan Age. She wasn't shy about showing off either. Click on the photo above, to enlarge it, and you will see her monogram "ES" worked in stonework lace along the top of Hardwick Hall. 

Throughout Hardwick Hall, there are examples of that monogram, carved in stone and wood and worked into the many embroideries and tapestries for which the house is famous. According to the stories, every servant at Hardwick Hall, both men and women, had to spend part of their time stitching the elaborate hangings that now make up Europe's finest collection of 16th and 17th century embroideries. 

Today the house is as she left it, having been maintained by her descendants, the Dukes of Devonshire, for hundreds of years until given to the National Trust.
Hardwick Hall is surrounded by 500 acres of parkland and has walled courtyards enclosing herb gardens, orchards and lawns.

After Queen Elizabeth I, Bess of Hardwick was the Alpha female of the Elizabethan age. Imagine a combination of Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna, and Julia Roberts - with a bit of Tina Turner and Hillary Clinton thrown in - and that about sums her up. Bess of Hardwick was a star.
The daughter of an impoverished landowner, she married well and outlived all four of her husbands. She also lived through four reigning monarchs, reaching the grand old age of 80 - most unusual in her time

A Teenage Bride

Bess was in the service of a wealthy Derbyshire family when she met and married her first husband, Robert Barlow. She was 15 and he was only 13. Apparently he died before the marriage was consummated but, by law and custom, she was left a third of his property.

She subsequently went on to marry wealthy landowner William Cavendish, (from whom the Dukes of Devonshire descend) and later Sir William St.Loe, who was captain of the guard to the Queen.
Her last marriage, to the powerful George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, was not a happy one - she accused him of an affair with Mary Queen of Scots (he was her guardian) and he called her a shrew. But she outlived him by almost 20 years.

Though each of her husbands was richer than the last, each of them must have benefited from Bess's canny head for business. In her own right, she was renowned as a moneylender, property dealer, investor in iron works, coal mines and glass works. She bought the famous pearls, in the portrait above right, by herself - one at a time.

"Hardwick Hall, More Glass Than Wall"

Owner of original"Hardwick Hall",, revisited or retrieved, recorded & uploaded to the website,, Wednesday, February 7th, 2018, by David A. Hennessee,
File name50694_1.jpg
File Size190.29k
Dimensions898 x 900
Linked toLady Elizabeth Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury

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