Hardwick Hall is an Elizabethan country house, located midway between Mansfield and Chesterfield in Derbyshire.
The house was built between 1590 and 1597 for Bess of Hardwick, designed by Robert Smythson in the renaissance style. Bess was the richest woman in England after Queen Elizabeth, her house reflected her status. The ceilings are higher than the one below, the ceiling height indicating the importance of the rooms' occupants, servants at the bottom and grandest at the top.
Bess died in 1608 and the house passed to her son, William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire. The family seat moved from Hardwick to Chatsworth, leaving Hardwick as a retreat for hunting and sometimes a dower house.
In 1950, the 10th Duke of Devonshire died. As death duties had to be paid, which was rated at 80% of wealth, caused the sale of many of the Devonshire assets and estates. Hardwick was occupied by Evelyn, Duchess of Devonshire, the widow of the 9th Duke. The decision was taken to hand the house over to HM Treasury in lieu of Estate Duty in 1956. The Treasury transferred the house to the National Trust in 1959.
Hardwick Hall contains a large collection of embroideries, mostly dating from the late 16th century, many of which are listed in the 1601 inventory. Hardwick is open to the public. It has a fine garden, including herbaceous borders, a vegetable and herb garden, and an orchard. The extensive grounds also contain Hardwick Old Hall, a slightly earlier house which was used as guest and service accommodation after the new hall was built. The Old Hall is now a ruin. It is administered by English Heritage on behalf of the National Trust and is also open to the public.
Hardwick Hall was used in the Connections TV series to illustrate a long series of changes that occurred in home design as a result of the Little Ice Age. The hall was also used to film the exterior scenes of Malfoy Manor in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.