Denise Silvester-Carr investigates the restoration of Hardwick Hall, home of Bess of Hardwick.
Duchess Evelyn, wife of the 9th Duke of Devonshire, spent fifty years trying to halt the depredations of time at Hardwick Hall, the great Elizabethan house in Derbyshire that her husband inherited in 1908. Her grandchildren remember her repairing the tapestries in the late 1940s; holes or borders that she could not recreate with her needle were patched with rough textured beige repp and the missing pictures miraculously reappeared with the help of pots of paint! 'One has to look very closely to distinguish the fake from the original', her daughter recalled.
Keeping the decay at bay in the years since the Duchess' death in 1960 has been an uphill struggle. The fabric of the pale sandstone house is crumbling. Large gaps have appeared at the sides and beneath the enormous windows. Rain runs in rivulets down the walls onto sills, causing pools of water on the floors. Upholstery on the centuries-old, chairs and stools needs attention. Tapestries have faded some are falling apart.