Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, is one of the most significant Elizabethan country houses in England. In common with architect Robert Smythson 's other works at both Longleat House and Wollaton Hall, 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.
Hardwick Hall is situated on a hilltop between Chesterfield and Mansfield, overlooking the Derbyshire countryside. The house was designed for Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury and ancestress of the Dukes of Devonshire, 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. The Treasury transferred the house to the National Trust in 1959. As it was a secondary residence of the Dukes of Devonshire, whose main country house, Chatsworth House, was in nearby Chatsworth, it was little altered over the centuries and indeed, from the early 19th century, its antique atmosphere was consciously preserved.
Hardwick Hall contains a large collection of embroideries, mostly dating from the late 16th century, many of which are listed in the 1601 inventory. Some of the needlework on display in the house incorporates Bess'monogram "ES", and may have been worked on by Bess herself.
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.
Architectural historian Dan Cruickshank selected the Hall as one of his five choices for the 2006 BBC television documentary series Britain's Best Buildings.
Although the hall was unconventional in its own time and did not spawn many contemporary imitators, it would serve, three centuries later, as a source of inspiration for the enormous Main Exhibition Building at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876. Hardwick Hall was an ideal model for a building which was intended to merge historicism with the large expanses of glass that had, become de rigueurfor the main exhibition halls at international expositions and fairs in the wake of the enormous success of The Crystal Palace constructed for the 1851 London Exhibition.
Hardwick Hall was used to film the exterior scenes of Malfoy Manor in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.
It also featured in the television series Mastercrafts episode 6 on Stonemasonry,where trainees vied to create fitting sundials for the garden of Hardwick Hall.