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Hardwick Old Hall: an Elizabethan great house

A Scheduled Monument in Ault Hucknall, Derbyshire

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Latitude: 53.1681 / 53°10'5"N

Longitude: -1.3108 / 1°18'38"W

OS Eastings: 446173.249767

OS Northings: 363663.053539

OS Grid: SK461636

Mapcode National: GBR 7CH.CF4

Mapcode Global: WHDFQ.VM0M

Entry Name: Hardwick Old Hall: an Elizabethan great house

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 24 September 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015889

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29895

County: Derbyshire

Civil Parish: Ault Hucknall

Traditional County: Derbyshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Derbyshire

Church of England Parish: Ault Hucknall St John the Baptist

Church of England Diocese: Derby


The monument includes the ruins and below ground remains of Hardwick Old Hall,
a great house situated on the crest of a hill 14.4km south east of
Chesterfield and 200m south west of Hardwick New Hall. The site consists of
the main house which, sub-rectangular in plan, is aligned east to west. A
forecourt to the north contains two lodges, both of two storeys, at its north
east and north west corners. The forecourt is enclosed by a circuit wall which
is pierced by a gateway which lines up with the porch of the Old Hall itself.
The structure of the main building survives to varying degrees; the west wing
survives more or less to its original height but the north face of the east
wing and all but the ground floor of the centre were demolished in the
18th century to provide stone for Chatsworth House.
Central to the main building is the hall and its entrance porch. The hall ran
from the front to the back of the building with wings two or more rooms deep
on either side. A hall of this type, in contrast to those which run along
the length of one front in the traditional manner, was an innovatory feature
which was later copied in the New Hall. At the southern end of the hall, a
massive fireplace and chimney stack have been inserted into an earlier wall.
Above the chimneypiece are the remains of elaborate plasterwork decoration
including a depiction of a crouched stag, the crest of the Hardwick family.
Decorative plasterwork is also evident high on the southern wall of the east
wing and indicates the position of the Forest Great Chamber, one of two grand
chambers incorporated into the house. Documentary evidence indicates that the
plasterwork which survives in a number of locations throughout the house was
the work of Abraham Smith, a craftsman who had earlier worked at Chatsworth
House, and who stayed on at Hardwick until the New Hall was completed.
The second of the grand chambers was the Hill Great Chamber situated in the
west wing. This is a large room with huge windows and elaborate, integrated
decoration. It would have offered impressive views across the valley. Most of
the plasterwork and the chimneypiece survives, the latter dominated by the
overmantle in which giant mailed figures (possibly representing the forces of
evil, Gog and Magog) frame a figure of Eros, the god of love, in full tilt
with bow and quiver.
The west wing, unlike the east wing, was occupied at least until the end of
the 18th century, and the Hill Great Chamber was still complete when it was
drawn by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm in 1785 and recorded by the diarist John Byng
in 1789. The wing is divided into three vertical sections, the middle one of
which contains a long narrow staircase giving access to rooms on either side.
The service rooms on the ground floor include the buttery. In most houses of
this period the Buttery had direct access, by its own staircase, to a beer
cellar. Hardwick Old Hall is unusual in as much as it had no cellars but beer
may have been stored in one of the rooms in this section. The serving place at
the front of the wing provided a throughway from the kitchen to the hall and
would have enabled food to be carried either to the hall or upstairs to one of
the great chambers. The kitchen houses a huge fireplace with a privy in a
recess next to it. A door in the south wall of the kitchen leads to the
larders, one above the other with the higher larder on a mezzanine floor
reached by steps in the lobby. To the east of the larder is the pastry where
the baking was done. Here there are four ovens of different sizes leading from
a common fireplace.
The Old Hall had at least two staircases, one lit from the south lay between
and provided access from the hall to the Forest Great Chamber. It was designed
with wide flights with gentle risers set in a square plan. A second staircase
in the south wing is dog-legged and of narrow dimensions with long flights.
The design of this second staircase lacked grandeur.
The lodgings on the first floor included the wardrobe, nursery and Mr William
Cavendish's Chamber(the heir to the Hardwick estate). The second floor housed
Mr Digby's chamber (a servant) and Mr Reason's chamber (the receiver of
rents) both of which display elaborate overmantels. The third floor housed the
Hill Great Chamber and an adjoining lodging. Across the landing are the
remains of the Little Gallery which was accessible from the Hill Great
Chamber. The gallery spanned the width of the house and led to the best
lodging through a now blocked doorway. From this landing stairs lead to the
top of the turret which opened out to the leads and an impressive view. To the
west of the west wing was a garderobe or privy tower. It contained a number of
privies and was isolated from the west wing by a narrow corridor. The tower
was accessible from the lodgings in the west wing.
The southern facade of the building survives almost intact and gives some
impression of the scale and character of the demolished north facade. A
conduit house, Listed Grade II, located to the south of the Old Hall was
probably built to contain a lead water cistern which, fed by a spring, would
have supplied water to the house.
The fabric of the Old Hall largely dates between 1587 when Bess of Hardwick
began to re-model the older building and 1597 when she moved to the
recently constructed New Hall. It was almost entirely executed in rubble
walling, except for external areas of the east wing which was the last portion
to be built and is faced with ashlar. The ashlar work is visible on the south
and east exterior elevations of the building.
The Hardwick family had been established at Hardwick since at least the end of
the 14th century and had taken their name from their place of residence.
Hardwick Old Hall incorporates fragments of an earlier house built by the
Hardwicks but was remodelled and greatly enlarged for Bess of Hardwick between
1587 and 1597. Most of the original building accounts survive, along with an
inventory of 1601, from which the names of the rooms can be derived. Bess
bought the house in 1583 when her brother James, the former owner, died. She
moved into it in 1584 when a quarrel with her fourth husband, the Earl of
Shrewsbury, made it the only house available to her. Bess's husband died in
1590 and with her widow's portion Bess built a bigger and more elaborate new
house next to it but did not move in until October 1597. In the meantime she
continued to live in the Old Hall.
The west wing continued to be partly lived in until at least the end of the
18th century. In 1789 John Byng found the Hill Great Chamber empty but the
lower rooms were still occupied by the house keeper of the New Hall and a
family. Serious degradation of the west wing set in during the early 19th
century when lead was removed from the roof. Now, there is no roof and the
floors that survived until 1956 were removed for safety reasons.
Archaeological evaluation trenches dug inside the building and in the
forecourt prior to consolidation work, confirm the good preservation of
features under ground. A ground radar survey carried out to the south of the
main building indicates the survival of footings and a possible pipe running
between the conduit house and the main building.
The easternmost lodge which is Listed Grade I, the metal paling fence which
encloses the monument on the east and south sides, the later gateway to the
east, modern trackway surfaces and the garage and porch associated with the
eastern lodge are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath all
these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Great houses were built throughout the medieval and early post medieval
periods and were the residences of high-status non-Royal households. They had
domestic rather than military functions and show little or no sign of
fortification, even of a purely cosmetic nature. Great houses share several of
the characteristics of royal palaces, and in particular shared similar
characteristics of size, sophistication, and decoration of the architecture.
Great houses usually consist of a group of buildings, including a great hall,
service rooms, one or more kitchens, several suites of chambers for the
owners, the household and its guests and a gatehouse. Other ancillary
buildings are known to have been present but very rarely survive. Earlier
examples typically comprised a collection of separate buildings, but through
the 14th and 15th centuries there was increasing integration of the buildings
into a few larger buildings. By the later medieval period, such complexes were
commonly laid out around one or more formal courtyards; in the 16th century
this would occasionally be contrived so that the elevations were symmetrical.
Many great houses are still notable for the high quality of their architecture
and for the opulence of their furnishings. Several examples contain
substantially intact buildings, others consist of ruins or complexes of
Great houses are found throughout England, although there is a concentration
in the south and Midlands. Further north, great houses were more heavily
fortified, reflecting more unsettled political and social conditions, but
their domestic purpose and status were still predominant. Fewer than 250
examples of great houses have been identified. As a rare monument class which
provide an important insight into the lives of aristocratic or gentry
households of the period, all examples will be nationally important.
Despite later stone-robbing, the ruins of Hardwick Old Hall survive well and
retain many original architectural features. The historical context of many of
these features are recorded in the numerous, surviving documentary sources.
Its great height, large windows, unconventionally placed hall, unusual
staircases, great chambers and decorative plasterwork are of particular
interest. The hall, staircase and plasterwork are innovative and provide
prototypes for features later incorporated into the New Hall.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Girouard, M, Hardwick Old Hall, (1993), 9
Harris, A, Report on Hardwick Old Hall, Derbyshire, (1989), 8
Sheppard, R, Archaeological Recording at Hardwick Old Hall, (1994), 9
Ashbee, J., MPP Single Monument Class Description - Great Houses, (1994)

Source: Historic England

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