The men who built Hardwick: part two


Today we’re going to talk a little more about some of the men who built the new hall…
John Adams set the ‘battlements’ on the great stair, while Henry Nayll and Richard Mallory manufactured all eighteen chimney shafts, the balustrade with its head, the sill around the roof, the fireplace in the long bedchamber and other work on the gallery fireplaces.

John and Christopher Roods

Although incredibly skilful, we know that John at least could not write. His receipts throughout the accounts were signed with just an ‘X’.

Their jobs varied, from rough walling and it’s facing with ashlar from the top of the first floor upwards and building the entire great stone staircase.

They manufactured; cornices, friezes and architraves throughout the Hall, the windows, door cases, fireplace mouldings and the interior capitals in the state apartments.

They had worked with Hardwick’s architect Robert Smythson at Wollaton Hall previously.

The men in total received £890 for their work; with their wages altering depending on the height at which they worked in the hall.


Abraham Smith

Abraham was a skilled modeller in plaster and also worked as a stone carver. His work included; the carving of the Hardwick coat of arms on the over door to the High Great Chamber and the decorated stone surround of the hall fireplace.

He earned £6.13s.4d and was allowed to wear the Cavendish livery – which showed his long term and trusted place within Bess’s household.


Thomas Accres

Thomas also worked at Wollaton. He worked largely in marble on the Halls interior fittings as a decorative mason. His work however didn’t start until the roof was in place. The accounts suggest he was also an engineer- he received an additional sum for “the Makeinge of an Engyne for the sawings of blackstone”.

His wages reflected his skill status; a half yearly wage of £6.13s.4d & also a rent free farm.


William Gryffyne

A stone mason paid £6 for carving the Hall Screen. He hewed and laid the hall paving’s, carved the balustrade on the Chapel Landing and the newel by the door of the High Great Chamber and the fireplace in Bess’ Withdrawing Chamber.


and finally the surveyor…

Robert Smythson

Or what we would these days refer to as an architect. Smythson was responsible for the overall plan of the hall (with the detailing left to Bess’ team of craftsmen) & the initial survey of the site.

In his lifetime Smythson worked on the rebuilding of Longleat and also Worksop Manor Lodge.

Smythson had 20 years’ experience as a stone mason and master mason before getting into designing, his first design being Wollaton Hall in Nottingham and then Hardwick Hall.


Workers who expected to be employed for a long time often brought along their families. Sometimes their wives were offered work as plaster mixers or even rubbish removers.

Some of the workers lived on the estate or in local inns, but it was more common for them to sleep in completed portions of the house.


This year at Hardwick we’re focusing on the men who built the property.

We’re holding meet the masons day on March 13th, we have new areas in the garden to give you a great vantage point for seeing key areas of the Hall & you can follow the new pillars around the house which point out great architectural features.


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