An exciting experience has now been launched at Hardwick Hall, offering visitors a bird’s eye view of the Elizabethan landmark for the first time in centuries.
As part of ongoing conservation work, visitors can now climb the original 136 steps of the North Stairs and emerge among the chimneys and turrets to experience the full impact of the 16th Century mansion’s position overlooking the Derbyshire countryside.
It was the formidable Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury, who built the internationally recognised mansion in the 1500s.
Her initials, ES, and her coat of arms, decorate the rooftop.
A notable figure of Elizabethan society, Bess would invite important guests to ‘take the leads’ as they leisured on the roof - named because of lead being the material used for the roof at this time.
The tours will be held on Mondays to begin with, led by trained volunteers and supported by house and collections manager, Nigel Wright.
"We’re very excited to be launching roof tours, enabling visitors to ‘take the leads’, as they would have done over 400 years ago,” said Nigel.
Hardwick’s elevated position leaves it open to the elements.
This has meant that, for centuries, Hardwick has needed a constant programme of repair and replacement of its walls, balustrades, roofs and windows, which are a main feature of the Hall.
Currently, scaffolding is in place along the front of the hall to enable highly skilled stone masons to continue these essential building works by hand on the exterior of the house.
Tours will begin at a discounted rate of £8.50 as a summer introductory offer.
The funds raised from the tours will directly help towards the hall’s vital building conservation project, allowing the National Trust to preserve the 400-year-old sandstone building.
The hall houses a unique collection of rich 16th and early 17th Century tapestries and needlework collected by Bess and ‘unsurpassed in Europe’.
The estate also has 900 acres of parkland along with a herb garden, orchards and colourful borders- all visible from the rooftop.
Denise Edwards, Hardwick Hall’s general manager, said: “We are very pleased to be providing a new experience for visitors to see the magnificent Hardwick Estate, and hope to raise awareness and important funding towards our vital building conservation project.”
For more information or to book tickets for a rooftop tour, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hardwick/whats-on/ or contact 03442 491895.