Books

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

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

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