The June edition of House Matters is out!

Newsletter – House Matters June 2015DSC01779

Read the update on our textile conservation work and find out about one or two things you may not have known!


Major Lord John Spencer Cavendish

This year marks 100 since the beginning of the First World War Hardwick Hall has its own connection to the war in one of the members of the Cavendish family, affectionately known at Hardwick as ‘Lord John’.

We have Lord John’s suit of armour on display in the back of the Entrance Hall, and I had never really though about its history or the man who had owned it. With it being a suit of armour I didn’t even consider that it could have such a connection to the First World War. The two images, ‘knight in shining armour’ and ‘tommy in the trenches’, seem like they should be hundreds of years apart and not within the span of one man’s career.

Lord John was born on the 25th March 1875 to Emma Elizabeth Lascelles and Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Edward Cavendish, has was the youngest of their three sons.

As the youngest son John would not inherit the family property, or be expected to follow his father into politics, so he made the military his career. He joined the First Regiment of Life Guards, a Cavalry Regiment, on the 3rd February 1897.

He was part of the First Regiment of Life Guards and served with distinction in the South African Was, for which he was awarded a Distinguished Service Order in April 1901. When the Great War broke out in 1914 Lord John joined the British Expeditionary Forces and was deployed to France on the 16th August 1914.

Less than three months later on the 20th October 1914 Major Lord John Spencer Cavendish was killed in action.

An account of John’s death by an unknown soldier, dated 24th October 1914, who served alongside him recalls that John was killed instantly by German Maxim Machine Gun fire whilst leading a regiment trying to hold the line in the village. The account talks about how well liked John was, saying that he was so nice to work with, and how much his regiments would feel his loss.

After his death Lord John’s family received a huge number of letters of condolence, showing how well thought of he, and his family, were thought of. Lord John had a successful military career earning the respect of those he served with and recognition for his good service.

I have found this project really interesting and even though the story had a tragic end it was nice to know Lord John was so well though of, I have become rather fond of him! On Monday we shall be remembering Major Lord John Spencer Cavendish and the men like him who served in the Great War for what they believed was right.

If you want to know more about the men who gave there lives during the war follow this link to the Every Man Remembered website.

What’s going on at Hardwick Park



Those of you that have recently been to the park may have noticed that some parts of it are sectioned off to the public

Firstly…A little bit of history. Some of you may well already know that Hardwick Park was once home to the only existing Duck Decoy in Derbyshire
Built in 1860 and worked with trapped doors at either end to capture wild ducks
Around the time of the Great Depression, many duck decoys fell in to disuse as was the case with Hardwick’s around 1893

So…We have some exciting news; we’re currently working on a new project! The reason that bits of the park have been sectioned off is because we’re working on restoring Hardwick’s duck decoy!
The pictures attached will help give you a little bit of an insight as to what’s been going on
We’ll be sure to keep you updated as we get on!

Gideon through time

Textile Conservation Studio

Have you ever wondered what our tapestries would have looked like with their original unfaded colours?

Take a look at this brilliant digital representation of one of the 16th century Gideon tapestries from Hardwick Hall. See it fade from it’s original colours through to what we see now – 450 years later.

There are 13 of these tapestries, 10 have been conserved with the 11th currently in the studio and fundraising for the remaining two ongoing to preserve them for the next 100 years.

Thanks to our colleagues at Hardwick Hall and Rusty Monkey Ltd for this video and to Chris Tims who took the original photos.

Video and digital colour restoration by Rusty Monkey Ltd

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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.

The men who built Hardwick: part one


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

Paratrooper’s 70th Anniversary Parade

If you looked to the skies this Sunday you may have seen the Red Devils team carry out their display 15, 000 feet over Hardwick Hall. The Red Devils, the official display team of the Parachute Regiment and the British Army, were part of the celebrations for the Paratrooper’s 70th Anniversary Parade on 13 May.

The decision to form the 1st Parachute Brigade was made in August of 1941 and the last Parachute Battalion to be formed at Hardwick was in January 1942. The British Army leased 53 acres of the estate from the Duke of Devonshire and established a camp and training areas, complete with assault courses and a parachute jump tower, on the site. During these years Hardwick became the centre for parachute training for the airborne forces.

The Paratrooper’s story will be brought to life as part of a new interpretation project at Hardwick.

As you can imagine, the training of the entire Commonwealth’s parachutists was a huge undertaking, and the park near Stainsby Mill was given over to housing the troops and the services they needed in a huge village made entirely of Nissen huts.

After the war, the army and RAF moved out of Hardwick, but the Nissen hut village continued to be used by Polish refugees until they could be relocated. Because it was a temporary camp, no trace of the Nissen huts survive, but strong links between Hardwick and the paratrooper regiments remain to this day.

The festivities on Sunday also included a flyby from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Dakota Aircraft, one of the most numerous transport aircraft in service during the Second World War. On the ground, military vehicles were on display and the Royal British Legion Riders Branch were out in force on their motor cycles. The Sheffield Military Band provided live music throughout the event and a platoon of paratrooper recruits from Catterick formed a parade through the grounds at Hardwick, watched by the chief guests; the former Airborne Men and Women who trained at Hardwick Camp from 1941-1946.