The men who built Hardwick: part one

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Days began before 5am in the Summer.

In Winter working hours were fewer, but earnings would drop accordingly & the same would happen in heavy rain.

Bess displayed a concern for and sympathy with her employees, even going so far as reimbursing them for losses through robbery and presenting newlyweds in her workforce gifts. Wages even increased according to the height the masons worked at within the Hall.

 

In the sixteenth century, Bess was fortunate in being able to quarry high quality sandstone right here on the Hardwick estate and due to the death of her last husband, which led to an increase in her wealth; the decision was made to face the whole of the Hall in square-hewn stone (ashlar).

Quarrying the stone was a relatively unskilled job that quite often poorly paid labourers carried out; attracted by the prospect of long term employment.       

Once broken from the quarry face, large blocks were reduced in size and carried by ponies up the hill to the house in panniers.

Then shaped by skilled masons who worked in covered timber framed workshops & lodges (lodges that were also workers living quarters) smoothing the stone which was then levelled on a bed of mortar that contained slivers of oyster shells. The mortar was manufactured on the estate, and burnt in kilns at the ‘keln croft’ in the north orchard which is now the car park.

The amount of huge windows gives the Hall it’s distinctive appearance and pushed the boundaries of architectural design.

The scale of the stoneworking was immense, the spine wall that supports the main staircase and the walls of the six turrets are four and a half feet thick.

The last & greatest building project of Bess, Hardwick was designed deliberately to symbolise power and wealth.

The photo above shows just a few of the details that do just the same

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