Edited by David Adshead and David A. H. B. Taylor (Yale, £75)
The New hall at hardwick— famously with ‘more glass than wall’—enjoys a place in the national consciousness. how welcome, therefore, to have a major new assessment of the architecture, furnishings and collection of this celebrated and vastly important house. It’s generously produced, with 402 pages and 340 illustrations, and follows in the format established by the volume created for ham house in 2013.
The book comprises 20 essays by different authorities on particular themes. These contain much to fascinate, stimulate and even amuse and the structure determines its character as a specialist work. There are considerations of the architecture of the New hall, its superlative tapestry collection, paintings, furniture, needlework, beds, books, gardens and parkland. It concludes with a series of essays on the figures that shaped the later history of the house (the life of the celebrated Bess of hardwick is treated in the various chapters rather than in isolation) and its growing popularity as a tourist destination.
as an afterword, there is a warm memoir by Mark Girouard, whose childhood experience of hardwick catalysed his own interest in the architecture of the Smythsons. Seven technical appendices conclude the volume.
The National Trust is warmly to be commended for this book. Its challenge now is to absorb the scholarship it articulates into the modern visitor’s experience of the building. at the launch of the book in December, the New hall was dressed up for Christmas with such decorations as a figure of Rudolph at the entrance and carols playing in the chapel. Perhaps next year we might be able to enjoy something more ambitious, informative and appropriate: the re-creation of a 17th-century Christmas, for example, based on the evidence of the household accounts? John Goodall