Monday, 4 April 2016

Visit to Hardwick Hall - Part 2

Hello there Everyone:

Again, it's Isobel posting this week's blog - Cy Bear is doing his guardian duties sitting on my pillow in the flat, while I continue to stay with Clare, Alan and GrandsonE.  This arrangement has been on going for some time, and although I've done some sewing (replacement Baby Bunnies), I've found it difficult to get stuck in - with notions and fabric often in the "other place", when I do get around to it in the evening.  Hopefully, things will be back to normal soon - but in the meantime, the ColdhamCuddlies have been very fortunate in being highlighted in a huge number of Treasuries - thanks to the wonderful supportive actions of several Team Mates on my Etsy Teams in the past week.  That's also meant less time for making Cuddlies!

However, at the end of last week's unexpected topic, I did say I had further pictures of our visit to Hardwick Hall to show you - so without more ado, here they come!

This is the west facing view of Hardwick Hall (pretend you've come along the side of the south side and turned in to this side of the house - from the left of the picture).  The family group is in the foreground.  You can see the balustrade along the roof continues, and each wing of the house has the E and S indicating it's the residence of "Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury"!  The windows are also well to the fore.

If one was inside and looking out of the southern face of Hardwick Hall, this avenue of Yew Hedges would be what you see - looking towards the stables and other Estate out-buildings I showed in my last week's post.

There is a huge pond just in front of the west-facing side of the Hall, and the afternoon we were there, just one drake could be found swimming in the immense structure.  The whole pond can be seen in the first picture - just to the right of the family group!

If you were looking out of Hall, on the west side, this is the view you would get - looking over the Estate for as far as the eye can see.  Being Springtime, the Estate sheep were grazing and the day we were there, we could see lots of baby lambs - although, because of the very blustery wind, they weren't doing their usual skipping about.

We walked across the grass to the gap between the yew hedge, to see how the sheep were being kept away from the Hall gardens, by means of a big ditch - otherwise known as a "Ha-Ha".  You can see from the previous photo, the ditch is not visible from inside the Hall.
Having arrived early on in the afternoon, we had, had to wait to enter the Hall itself.  So, as the weather wasn't improving, and the front door opening time was imminent, the party moved back to the front entrance and moved out of the bitter cold wind - into the Banqueting Hall, which runs from the front entrance through almost the whole length of the house.
The Banqueting Hall seems to be a dark place, but in fact it is not.  I'd hazard a guess that on a bright, sunny day, the light would flood in and the embroidery and paintings would show off to a much better effect.  However, my snapshots do give you an idea of the height and splendour of the inside of Hardwick Hall.  (This is just the ground floor!)
Here is a better view of the Coat of Arms of the Earl of Shrewsbury, and throughout the inner rooms on the Ground Floor of the Hall visitors can see examples of the exquisite embroidery commissions by Bess of  Hardwick during the 1570's.  One commemorating some of the "Legend of Good Women" by Chaucer - which as a well-educated lady of the time, Bess of Hardwick would have known well. -  is shown below of  Penelope, Lucretia and Cleopatra. 
Photography is allowed inside Hardwick Hall, but flash lights are not.  So, although I did use a flash to take these inside pictures, they are not as clear as they might be had a light been allowed.  Given that all these hangings were made from medieval church vestments and sewn mostly by Bess of Hardwick's household servants, they are in amazing condition.  Professional embroiderers would have been responsible for the designs.  In all, according to a 1601 inventory, there are "fyve peeces of hangings of Cloth of golde velvett and other like stuffe imbrodered with pictures of the vertues.....every piece being twelve foote deep".    Here's another example - 
and yet another - which I think could be part of the collection celebrating the Noble Women of Chaucers tale.
Even to the untrained eye, and allowing for no flash lights, there is real difference in quality of these hangings, and given that they've been hanging since the 1570's, these embroideries are currently being conserved at the National Trust Textile Conservation Studio, the work having been started in 2012.  Each hanging have different types and levels of damage, so will vary in times taken for the conservation work to be carried out. Certain stages do remain the same however. For those who currently enjoy embroidery or other stitching crafts, according to the leaflet describing the work - 

(a) The condition of the hanging is assessed - and conservation needs decided.
(b) Pictures are then taken- because everything a conservator does should be reversible, and they provide a record of the work done on each hanging.
(c) The front is then cleaned - making the fabric colour and threads more visible.  Previous repairs will kept unless they threaten the hanging's overall stability.
(d) Very fragile areas will be covered with protective netting.

As I said in my last week's post, the trip to Hardwick Hall was halted because I had found myself unable to walk much more.  We'd only done the Ground Floor of the Hall, and there are two more floors to explore another time. 

But before I close this blog about Hardwick Hall, before the weather closed in and made outside exploration uncomfortable, I did manage to take one more picture - confirming that Spring is not too far away - with daffodils showing between some of the trees in the Hardwick Hall gardens.
So - here's to the next time:  goodness knows what I'll be posting about then, but I do hope you've enjoyed sharing this visit to one of the picturesque Stately Homes in our local vicinity.  We're blessed with many of them.
Your Friend, Isobel
Coldham Cuddlies Clinic