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Please note that due to necessary conservation work Hardwick Old Hall is currently partly closed, and we apologise for any inconvenience. Visitors can still view the exterior of the hall and see the exhibitions in the visitor centre which remains open.
Elizabeth ('Bess') is born into a minor gentry family at Hardwick. Her only brother, James, later inherits the estate.
Find out more about Bess and the history of Hardwick
Bess marries Robert Barlow at the age of 15. Two years later, Robert dies on Christmas Eve.
Bess is a lady-in-waiting to Lady Frances Brandon, mother of Lady Jane Grey. She meets and marries Sir William Cavendish, a 40-year-old widower and father of three.
Bess and Sir William buy Chatsworth and build a new house there. Sir William dies while under investigation for embezzlement.
Bess marries Sir William St Loe, one of Queen Elizabeth's favourite courtiers. She becomes a lady of the Privy Chamber. Sir William dies suddenly, leaving everything to Bess.
Bess marries George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. She arranges for her son and daughter to marry two of his children.
Bess's brother James dies a debtor and Hardwick is seized by the Crown. As a principal creditor, Bess buys it back.
Increasingly estranged from her husband, Bess flees Chatsworth for Hardwick. By the time Shrewsbury dies work has started on the creation of Hardwick New Hall, and the reconstruction of the Old Hall.
Work on the Old Hall is finished. The following year, Bess moves into the completed New Hall.
Bess dies. Her second son, William, inherits Hardwick. Philosopher Thomas Hobbes joins the family as a tutor, remaining at Hardwick until his death.
Hardwick is more or less abandoned, with Chatsworth becoming the preferred family residence. It falls into ruin and parts of the Old Hall are demolished and sold off.
The 9th Duke of Devonshire commissions the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings to restore the Old Hall. After his death, his widow moves into the New Hall.
During the Second World War, Hardwick park is used to train airborne soldiers and as a camp for Polish refugees.
The 11th Duke offers Hardwick's halls to the National Trust and Ministry of Works, who restore the buildings and open them to the public.
Learn more about the history of Hardwick