Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #PotLuck – Hardwick Hall: another ‘jolly’ from 2016 – Part One – Bess of Hardwick, a force to be reckoned with, by Jane Risdon

Welcome to the new series of Posts from Your Archives, where bloggers put their trust in me. In this series, I dive into a blogger’s archives and select four posts to share here to my audience.

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This is the first post of four from author Jane Risdon… Jane loves to go on a ‘jolly’ for those of you who are unfamiliar with the expression… It is taking a road trip and having fun.. basically. In Jane’s case it usually involves visiting a place with history, and finding out more about the people who lived there.. The first post from her archives of 2016 is an example of that.

For those of you who would like to read part two of Hardwick Hall as well… here is the link: Hardwick Hall Part Two.

Hardwick Hall: another ‘jolly’ from 2016 – Part One – Bess of Hardwick, a force to be reckoned with, by Jane Risdon

My ‘jollies’ have taken me to many fascinating places (I think) and I enjoy sharing my experiences with you.

I have had to divide the posting of my ‘Jolly’ to Hardwick Hall into more than one due to the sheer volume of items to see and, as usual, I went crazy taking photos. Sadly I don’t have information for every item but I hope just seeing everything will be enjoyable and might even tempt you in to visiting yourself.

Hardwick Hall Ruins Oct 2016 (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Hardwick Hall is a great Elizabethan House, built to create and proclaim the impression – and fact – of great wealth and status of a great woman, Bess of Hardwick who – four times married – became the most remarkable Elizabethan woman in England, next to the Queen herself.

Fine tapestries and decoration throughout (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Bess was born at Hardwick Hall, then a small manor house in the mid-1520s, her father was John Hardwick, a country squire who died when she was under a year old, leaving his family of five young children in reduced financial circumstances.

Hardwick Hall Gatehouse with elaborate finials and decoration (c) Jane Risdon 2016

He left money but due to the cash strapped Henry VIII reviving tax rules, the estate was seized by the Crown and at least half sold into ‘Wardship,’ meaning the family lost control of their land until an heir, Bess’s little brother James, came of age.

Unfortunately the family was squeezed so hard, by the appointed ‘Wards,’ for revenue from the farms, that there was nothing left for the family. The lands and Hardwick Hall were valued at £20 remained with the Crown, although the family remained there, it is possible they were paying rent for the privilege.

The Penelope Tapestries (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Bess’s mother, also Elizabeth, to keep her family together, re-married. Her husband was Ralph Leche, the younger son of a Chatsworth family. He owned very little but had a small annual annuity of just under £7 per year and an income from some scattered leases.

Fine tapestries throughout (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Learning from her childhood adversity Bess’s lessons stood her in good stead. For the rest of her life she fought for what was rightfully hers, dealing skillfully with financial and legal matters.

Hardwick Hall is magnificent, inside and outside.

This amazing woman knew that her hill-top mansion, with tall turrets, stone carved initials and fabulous display of costly glass glittering as visitors arrived (even today) would be marvelled at and discussed at every level of society. People came to stare at the mansion as it stood golden on the hill-top.

Bess had so many windows which need to be glazed that it proved expensive to pay the glaziers to do the whole house, so she went into business making and fitting window glass, and was soon supplying vast numbers of customers. Such was her entrepreneurial skills and ambitions.

The architecture, the grand chambers and furnishings of precious tapestries and rare needlework hangings are awesome now and I can only imagine the impact they made back in her day.

In the State Rooms the fabulous wall hangings are topped by rural scenes of forests and we were told by one of the guides that the trees on the decoration were in fact real trees, which Bess had placed along the top of the walls creating a 3D effect.

There is so much to see inside, that you really need more than a day to do it justice, but I had only an afternoon.

I took dozens of photos as usual, and this is going to have to be spread over several different postings.

The State Rooms (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Just a word – it was taken over by the National Trust fifty years ago and the volunteers who occupy each room as you move around this wonderful house, go out of their way to inform, answer questions, and generally make the tour so very interesting. One elderly gentleman also filled us in on his own family history as he followed us from room to room, which was riveting, but a little time-consuming.

The introductory talk by one such gentleman outside in the rain-soaked entrance porch was so entertaining, we didn’t realise how hard it had begun to rain.

As a young girl Bess explored the hillsides and pastures at Hardwick with her siblings and half-sisters. She enjoyed playing with wooden toys, games and chanting nursery rhymes so we were told.

She learnt her letters and arithmetic from her mother who was reading from a ‘hornbook‘ which I discovered is paper protected by a thin layer of translucent horn.

Bess could play a keyboard instrument, given lessons in deportment (I had those at school, the Nuns had us carrying books on our heads with a stick down the back of our clothes ensuring we walked straight, head held high) I imagine Bess had to do the same.

She was encouraged to express herself confidently. As she got older she helped her mother manage the household.

Early financial difficulties taught her that she should take her chances when she could and the world owed her nothing. A very modern woman.

Apparently she was a popular and personable woman, formed friendships easily (four husbands don’t forget) and she was very ambitious, determined that the hardships she endured in youth should never be inflicted upon her own children and step-children.

Her marriages brought her wealth and grand houses, she honed her architectural skills (which were plenty) on Chatsworth which was her first building project.

Her other family houses included Bolsover, Welbeck, Sheffield, Tutbury and Worksop.

She had dynastic ambitions and these were realised through her children with the dukedoms of Devonshire, Norfolk, Portland, Newcastle and Kingston. As a matriarchal figure Bess fought her way to the top of society in Elizabethan England. With each marriage she gained more power, more land and more security for her children.

I won’t turn this into a history lesson, I wanted to share the beauty of Hardwick Hall and some of Bess’s Achievements internally. If this has whetted your appetite to visit this wonderful house or to know more about Bess, do go online, there is so much information about her there.

I shall be posting part two soon – do keep an eye out – for more photos and information on this remarkable woman

Recommended reading:

Bess of Hardwick: Portrait of an Elizabethan Dynast – David N Durant (revised 2001 – Peter Owen)
Bess of Hardwick – Mary S Lovell (Abacus 2006)
Arbella: England’s Lost Queen – Sarah Gristwood (Murray 1991)
Hardwick Hall, Doe Lea, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S44 5QI
+44 (0)1246 850430
National Trust:

All photos (c) Jane Risdon 2016 All Rights Reserved.

For those of you who would like to read part two of Hardwick Hall… here is the link: Hardwick Hall Part Two.

My thanks to Jane for opening up her archives for this series.. you will find many more ‘Jollies’ on her blog and next week I will be sharing another of her posts.

About Only One Woman

Two women, one love story.

June 1968. Renza falls head over heels for heartthrob guitarist Scott. But after a romantic summer together they are torn apart when Renza’s family moves away.

December 1968. On the night she believes to be her last, Stella meets Scott at a local dance. He’s the most beautiful boy she’s ever seen and if this one night is all they have, she’ll take it.

As the final colourful year of the sixties dawns, the question is: can there be only one woman for Scott?

One of the recent reviews for the book

Colm Herron 5.0 out of 5 stars Two stunning authors 5 February 2019

The Sixties are still a bit of a blur for me. That means I was there. And I have a lot of broken hearts to prove it – all mine. I was shot down so many times in those ten or so years that it’s a wonder I’m still here. All of which means I know something of the problems and the heartache that Only One Woman’s main protagonists Renza and Stella went through. But it wasn’t Scott I was after. Definitely not, believe me. It was Patricia and Hazel and Marie and Ann and Sybil and Melanie and …. I can’t go on.

The two girls in Only One Woman tell of their crush on Scott in a way that can only mean that the authors of this wonderfully nostalgic and loving look at the Sixties were rapt witnesses to those amazing years. The people, the songs, the music, the styles – and most of all the attitudes. In one sense it didn’t matter too much to me which of these two girls ended up with Scott because far more important than that was the way that these two authors got right into the hearts of the lovestruck Renza and Stella.

Ah, the authors. First, Christina Jones. Apart from a scintillating career in writing which began when she was a mere child, she has done so many odd-jobs – as well as odd jobs – that her life experience cannot be doubted. (Possibly the only work she didn’t do was captaining a North Sea oil rig, although I’m open to correction on that). And her co-author in this labour of love they have written is the incomparable Jane Risdon. Jane has been closely involved in so many fascinating experiences that she needs a separate wardrobe for all the T-shirts she has to vouch for it. Rock, Thrash Metal, Pop, R&B, Chinese Opera as well as movies, television and radio worldwide. And now writing, which amazingly she only got into five years ago. Stunning. Both stunning people.

 Read the reviews and buy the book:

and Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Jane on Goodreads:

About Jane Risdon

Jane Risdon began writing five years ago having had a successful career in the International Music Industry which has taken her all over the world working with everything from Rock, Thrash Metal, and R&B/Pop to Chinese Opera. Her work has taken her to North America, Europe, and Singapore: even to Taiwan.

She’s been involved in Television, Radio, and the Movies around the world.

Travelling extensively and living overseas she draws upon her life experiences when writing Crime/Mystery novels, short stories in all genres – including humour, and she has dabbled in flash fiction.

Some of these experiences have found their way into her short stories about the Music Business, and she is presently working on a novel which will bring a lot of her more crazy ‘rock ‘n roll’ experiences into one tome.

Her main focus remains crime however, and she is working on a series of novels called ‘Ms Birdsong Investigates’ centered around a glamorous ex MI5 Officer forced into early retirement, who is trying to keep a low profile in a rural village in Oxfordshire. Her past experiences come to the fore when she finds herself investigating murder. Soon she finds herself back on old territory with Russian Mafia, Ukrainian People Traffickers and an old flame to deal with.

Connect to Jane Risdon

Accent Press:

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed this step back in time with Jane to the Elizabethan era..thanks Sally.