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I’ve been quite busy this last week – so apologies for not posting very much – or for visiting your blogs either. I intend to have a bit of a nose around later – but also wanted to share some of the things that I’ve been up to these last few days.

The other day was my birthday – so I’ve been celebrating my birth ‘fortnight’ ! Well I think having just ONE day to celebrate is abit short – considering we spend over a third of it asleep! It also gives me a chance to see different groups of friends – as well as experiencing a few nice things that I’ve wanted to do for a while.

One of those things happened yesterday. (I’ve decided to work backwards – so by the end of the week you’ll know what we’ve been up to over the last 7 days!)

I love Derbyshire – and so, my beau and I got in the car and went a sight-seeing. We’ve both had a few days off – so we wanted to make the most of our holidays and also the sunshine! First up, we went to Sutton Scarsdale Hall.

This is somewhere I’d wanted to go for years! As you can see it’s a shell! Driving up and down the M1 to my parents I see this from the motorway every journey and vowed to go and find it. It’s slightly off the beaten track so I could be forgiven for getting slightly lost – which I did. However, I ended up going down miles of unkept dirt tracks only to be greeted by furrowed stares, dog patrol signs, tripwire alarms and CCTV cameras! The hall wasn’t at the end of it as I’d hoped – but a private house instead! I locked the car doors and did a U-Turn pretty sharpish! Eventually we found it – and I’m so glad we made the effort. This stunning vision stood before our eyes; ravaged by time, vandals and unscrupulous businessmen!

The existing structure is believed to be the fourth or fifth built on the site. In 1724, Nicholas Leke, 4th Earl of Scarsdale commissioned the building of a design by architect Francis Smith, to develop a Georgian mansion with gardens, using parts of the existing structure. On a scale and quality with Chatsworth House, internally it featured both oak ornamental panels and stucco plasterwork by Italian craftsmen Francesco Vassalli and the Atari brothers; carved Adam fireplaces in both marble and Blue John, and a signature carved mahogany staircase.

(you can see 2 scrumptious photographs of its past interior here)

Following the death of the 4th Earl, Member of Parliament Godfrey Bagnall Clarke purchased the estate in 1740. After his death the Marquis of Ormonde then gained ownership by marriage, and after his death in 1824, Richard Arkwright Junior of Cromford Mill fame, became the owner.  William Arkwright of Sutton Scarsdale was High Sheriff of Derbyshire in 1890.

After many years of neglect, in November 1919 the estate was bought by a group of local businessmen who literally asset stripped the house – this went as far as removing the roof in 1920. Some parts of the building were shipped to the USA, where one room’s oak panelling was bought by newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst, who planned to use it at Hearst Castle. After many years in storage in New York, Pall Mall films bought the panelling for use as a set in their various 1950s productions. Another set of panels are now resident in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

In 1946, the estate was bought by Sir Osbert Sitwell of Renishaw Hall, with the intention of preserving the remaining shell as a ruin. Scarsdale Hall is now in the care of English Heritage, and is freely accessible to visitors.

We wandered round and round for absolutely ages – I felt like I didn’t want to leave it to be honest, alone with the elements.

As the afternoon was still young, we drove to nearby Hardwick Hall – a most significant and impressive Elizabethan House – now 420 years old!

Hardwick Hall is one of the earliest examples of the English interpretation of the Renaissance style of architecture, which came into fashion when it was no longer thought necessary to fortify one’s home! Situated on a hill top, it was designed for Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury by Robert Smythson in the late 16th century and remained in that family until it was handed over to HM Treasury in lieu of Estate Duty in 1956.

Hardwick is a conspicuous statement of the wealth and power of Bess of Hardwick, who was the richest woman in England after Queen Elizabeth I herself. It was one of the first English houses where the great hall was built on an axis through the center of the house rather than at right angles to the entrance. Each of the three main stories is higher than the one below, and a grand, winding, stone staircase leads up to a suite of state rooms on the second floor, which includes one of the largest long galleries in any English house and a little-altered, tapestry-hung great chamber with a spectacular plaster frieze of hunting scenes. (Click on the photos to make them bigger).

The windows are exceptionally large and numerous for the 16th century and were a powerful statement of wealth – at a time when glass was a luxury: “Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall” the saying went.

There is a large amount of fine tapestry, embroideries and furniture from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A remarkable feature of the house is that much of the present furniture and other contents are listed in an inventory dating from 1601.

Hardwick Hall has a fine garden, including herbaceous borders, a vegetable and herb garden 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.

As you can tell – we thoroughly enjoyed our day out in Derbyshire and intend to return to visit both Bolsover Castle and Haddon Hall sometime in the summer.  Stop by again for more adventures ;-)

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