Elizabethan England underwent a series of great changes, or trends, and these are what you will be examined upon.
The most significant of these are:
- The increasing wealth of the Gentry
- A move towards peaceful homes rather than castles
- New Renaissance architecture and design
- The desire of individuals to leave their mark on local areas
- New technologies
We will go through each of these, discussing how they are reflected in Hardwick Hall and specific examples of this.
The gentry were becoming increasingly wealthy during Elizabeth’s reign
The Elizabethan period saw a new class of people emerge; the gentry. They were able to increase their wealth due to the time of stability in England and increased trade.
- her wealth has increased due to her marriages, and she would be considered one of the new gentry class.
- The materials used to build Hardwick Hall – largely glass and sandstone – were extremely expensive, and often imported from abroad.
- This was also largely possible because of the increasing peace. Not only did Elizabethans require peace to import these, but these are not strong materials, and so would not have been suitable for building castles out of.
- The size and scale of the building reflected how expensive it would have been, and how rich Bess therefore had to be.
Elizabeth herself was by far the richest person in England; however, Elizabeth was actually supportive of the emerging gentry class. She supported new and rising people in court (in exchange for loyalty of course - patronage), and appointed members of the gentry to important positions. This helped facilitate the spread and growth of wealth in England.
The country was peaceful - residences were homes rather than fortresses:
The Elizabethan era saw a culture of comfort in manor houses. The focus was on how the house looked and how homely it was, rather than on the security of the owner. With this, came a move to greater privacy as servants’ quarters were set away from areas for the owner.
- decorated, tapestries and painting
- New rooms such as long gallery and the withdrawing chamber
- Servants sleep on the ground floor
- Great fire places
- Plush chairs
- The use of impractical but ‘aesthetic’ materials instead of sturdy stone.
This amount of class would have been entirely impractical for a defensive fortress - one hundred years before Elizabeth, the nobility felt the need to defend themselves and keep safe in powerful castles. The Tudor prosperity and relative stability encouraged the move towards houses designed for comfort rather than power.
New renaissance architectural designs were influencing builders in England
During the Renaissance, it was the height of fashion to be inspired by ancient or classified civilisations, since it demonstrated a cultured mind and refined taste. Rich oak wood panelling and elaborate geometric plasterwork set off walls hung with colourful tapestries.
- __Loggia __– this Renaissance trend was added to the front of the house.
- __Sea Dog Table __– a luxurious table made out of walnut, a very expensive wood.
- Statues in renaissance style, such as Diana the Greek Goddess and Virgin Huntress
- Symmetry – the entire house was symmetrical
The new designs gave rise to a set of new rooms, full of Renaissance tastes such as the overmantel above (tells the story of the Virgin Goddess Diana). This chamber, the High Great Chamber, was a room of great status in Hardwick.
Powerful individuals were making their mark and demonstrated their local status
Houses were built to impress the Queen and other nobles. Often, members of the gentry would build them in their local area to show how far they had come and to establish themselves within the area. The number of rooms in a house showed a family’s importance and wealth and Elizabethan houses had more rooms which allowed individual privacy.
- Elizabeth of Shrewsbury everywhere
- Eglantine roses – these were Bess’ personalmark.
- Family crest on fireplaces (marked, again, by Eglantine Roses to show Bess’ power).
- Elizabeth’s portraits in Great high chamber
- Elizabeth’s crest entwined with Bess’s
- 46 rooms to show importance
- Going back to Hardwick (legacy)
The stags and crown above the fireplace represent the intertwining of Bess’ personal crest with Elizabeth’s royalty. Some saw this as an ambitious move by Bess; however, Bess always claimed it was just to show respect and her commonalities with Elizabeth.
New Technology, Building Techniques and Materials Were Available
The Great Rebuilding saw a number of new techniques. Glass, which was particularly expensive, was used by those wanting to show off their wealth. Chimneys were based on classical columns and were often in stacks of two or three. The design of the building was symmetrical, usually built around an E or a H shape. There was a move towards more stories in a house, with the room height getter bigger the higher up the house you go. Houses were often built in sandstone, a relatively new material.
- __Glass __– East facing to sparkle in the sun
- Staggered room heights (trend of the time)
- Chimneys – these were built to go all the way up the house, and out of the room, which was a new technique. This kept the new glass windows clean.
- Sandstone (new material)
The chimneys were actually a fairly revolutionary design, which sent the smoke up and out of the roof, rather than sideways out of the wall, which would then stain the glass.
Remember, the technique for Level 4 in this essay, you need to make links between the trends, or with wider ideas about the Elizabethan period.
Here are some key links to consider:
- England, and Europe, was going through a time of increased peace and stability, which allowed the Renaissance to spread, wealth to gather, and trade to flourish. This made building materials, architectural ideas, and labour more readily available. This time of peace also prompted the move away from castles towards homes.
- Without the wealth and rise of the gentry, it is highly unlikely that Bess would ever have earned the money or status to build Hardwick. Just as the money paid for the entire project, Bess’ status made it happen.
- Similarly, without the Renaissance starting in Europe and then spreading to Britain, it is unlikely that the architectural advances or ambition needed for Hardwick would have been present.