Saturday, 28 May 2016

The Great Survivor - Part 3


Here in Derby Cathedral lies Elizabeth Countess of Shrewsbury 1527 - 1608
A lifelike effigy of Bess of Hardwick which she designed for herself, thus ensuring that even in death she remained in control, an icon of Elizabethan female power. The tomb is made from marble and I strongly suspect local Chellaston alabaster, famed in the middle-ages for its superior quality and transported all across Europe to make fine statuary.
To live for 80 years during the Tudor period was in itself a feat when the average age reached was 35 years. About 25% of people died during birth or before they were 5 years old - it was also common for women to die giving birth. If you survived childhood and your teenage years then you had a good chance of living to your 50s or if lucky your 60s, so Bess's life could be considered charmed. She survived giving birth to eight children, avoided succumbing to any of the countless childhood diseases, and avoided getting smallpox or the dreaded plagueIn her early 60s at a time when most of her contempories would be dead, Bess set about the major task of building her beloved Hardwick.

Bess's resting place in Derby Cathedral is somewhere that I used to pass twice daily as a six year old on my way to Convent School, where incidentally I was not very happy. You can read my school tale here if you are interested.
The Cathedral is fortunate enough to be filled with the most wonderful ironwork crafted by Derby's Master Ironsmith, Robert Bakewell. He is considered England's greatest and most accomplished wrought iron craftsman. Born in 1682 he went to London to learn his trade under the celebrated French craftsmen Jean Tijou and Jean Montigny at Hampton Court. It is thought Bakewell may have been introduced to Tijou whilst Tijou was working at Chatsworth House, which too was built by Bess and her second husband William Cavendish.
He returned from London to Derby specifically because of the rising prosperity of the town and the wealth of the local gentry. He forged a friendship with Lunar Society founder member John Whitehurst that led to them making weather-vanes together. 
In 1725 Bakewell was commissioned to make an iron screen for the interior of what was then All Saints' Church (now Derby Cathedral), but ended up making a screen for the Mayor's Pew, altar table, communion rail, churchyard gates, and railings to surround many of the monuments. He was apparently paid just under £500 for his work which was actually a princely sum in 1725.

The Mayor's Pew
My brother-in-law was the Mayor ten years ago, and I now wish that I had seen him sitting here in all his mayoral regalia


 We stayed two minutes away from the Cathedral in an hotel which we were delighted to find had a wonderful stained glass window showing Robert Bakewell

Two notable 'Derbyshire Worthies' to the left Izaak Walton with his fishing rod, and famous book "The Compleat Angler" - to the right Robert Bakewell with his ironwork tools 

38 comments:

  1. It just gets better and better. Another post I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Such beautiful photos too.

    Bess was a fascinating woman. I would love to read her life story. Another point of interest for me is that I am a metalsmith (non-ferrous metals) and have many friends who are blacksmiths all over the USA. I know they will enjoy seeing this post. We happen to have the National Ornamental Metals Museum here in Memphis, TN.

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    1. Dear Catherine - I am delighted that you enjoyed these posts, thank you very much.
      There is a book about Bess available on Amazon called Bess of Hardwick by Mary S Lovell, as it is an old book it can be picked up for next to nothing.
      I was so interested to read that you are a metal smith and about the Ornamental Metals Museum in Memphis. Had you heard about Robert Bakewell previously?

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    2. Hi Rosemary,

      No, I had never heard of Robert Bakewell. I am sure my blacksmith friends will have. Certainly there will be some more to learn about his work in our metal museum library here. I will have a look the next time I go there.

      Thank you for telling me about the book. I will order it from Amazon.

      I am really enjoying your blog. I have found your first post and intend to start from the beginning. I have a bit of catching up to do. ;-)

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    3. Gosh! that will take some doing - the early ones have very poor photographs and it is so long ago now that I am not sure how they would read today.

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  2. Thank you yet again for illuminating parts of the UK that I've never visited.

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    1. I love that there is so much for me still to discover both here and abroad.

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  3. What an incredibly beautiful church and so full of light. My husband loved the Izaak Walton stained glass window.
    I read your post on attending the Convent School, my that must have been frightening. As for all the travel changes, I'd be hard pressed to make them now, let alone as a 6 year old.
    My recurring nightmare is of us traveling and my wallet being stolen.

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    1. Ah! your nightmare is similar to mine - however, ever since I wrote about the Convent School and my dreams, I don't get them anymore - perhaps it was like a form of therapy writing it down.

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  4. Bess was quite the woman. And I LOVE wrought iron! What a magnificent church.

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    1. You take things for granted when you are a child, but returning as an adult I now realise just what a lovely interior the cathedral has.

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  5. Bess did a very good job of designing her tomb - that wonderful profile is true to the portrait. It's a shame you never saw your brother-in-law sit in that pew - I'm sure it would have been an impressive and memorable sight! Bakewell? Which came first, the name of the town or the man?
    I enjoyed clicking over to your post on your time in the convent, and how you took for granted the wonderful places you passed daily. When I was only 6 we lived in Baden-Baden and I walked, alone, down the hill to the edge of the Kurhaus Gardens to catch a bus, and repeated the journey at the end of the day. I can't imagine a child being expected to travel alone today.

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    1. That is an interesting question H, but the answer is definitely the town which grew up around a cluster of thermal springs and wells that attracted Iron Age settlers originally.
      How true times have changed so much, no doubt due to most people having their own car including mothers. The roads are also much more dangerous today, and everyone seems to fear dangers lurking around every corner for their children - me included for my grandchildren.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment and visit

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  7. Bess also survived the climate of political whims and intrigue which could change one's future in an instant. I think if I was to choose life as a courtier or craftsman I would pick the latter. The keepers of the Cathedral have done a wonderful job of preserving and maintaining the ironwork.

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    1. Courtlife must have been a minefield, and you are correct she did well to survive it all, unlike many others who ended up in the tower or hanging on the gallows.
      The ironwork was very recently restored so it is looking pristine.

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  8. Another lovely post about Bess of Hardwick. I am enjoying them and I'm learning so much about her and the buildings she was associated with. It is interesting reading about your connection to Derby Cathedral, too. The ironwork there is amazing and all the more special because it was made by a local craftsman.

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    1. The Cathedral is one of those things that as a child you take for granted, but returning as an adult I see that is a very lovely place.

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  9. What a beautiful, light-filled Cathedral. I'd not heard of Bess of Hardwick before your posts, but I am intrigued, now, and will be looking up more to read about her life.

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    1. Hello Lorrie - Thank you for reading these posts, and I am pleased that you are intrigued by Bess. She must have been a very determined and strong personality to survive so successfully in such a male dominated environment. Perhaps she was the first feminist but over 400 years ago.

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  10. Another fabulous post Rosemary. From a photography point of view I must thank you for the wonderful photos inside the Cathedral. They're far superior to any I could have taken. I've been to a concert there. It was very crowded, but I did admire the lightness of the building and all the details including the ironwork. I must return sometime and now read your account of your schooldays in the convent. (Our girls also went to a convent school. They had a good experience with lots of tales about the nuns who were still teaching at that time).

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    1. I always think that the Cathedral is a total surprise when you enter with the brightness and lightness coming from the large plain glass windows.
      I am pleased that you have visited and thank you for the kind comment re: photos.

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  11. I love that wrought iron in the Derby Cathedral but I'm absolutely fond of tht beautiful Mayor's Pew. The more heritage buildings I have seen in Britain, the more I know there is so much more to see.
    Thank you for your wonderful history stories with the always magnificent photos.

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    1. I think that we must have been looking at each others blogs at the same time. I wrote a comment on yours, and at the same moment one from you arrived here!
      The wrought iron work in the Cathedral is very lovely especially as the building is so light which shows it off beautifully.
      Glad that you enjoyed seeing it and reading the history too.

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  12. Such a beautiful post Rosemary! Happy to find time to come back here to blogland and I see I will have a lot of catching up to do on your blog. I will enjoy it, I already know that. Hope you're ok and things are going great. Have a lovely sunday!
    Marian

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    1. It is so nice to see you back here Marian - hope that all is well with you, and that we shall see much more of you again.

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  13. Beautiful images of a superior culture. Congratulations and a good week

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    1. Thank you for visiting Antonio and for your kind comment - it was lovely to hear from you

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  14. My goodness the Cathedral is beautiful and a privileged resting place for Bess.
    Off to read from your link :)

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    1. The interior is Neo Classical in style which Robert Bakewell's ironwork compliments well

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  15. What a beautiful cathedral full of light! The ironwork is superb! Living up to 80 in 16th is amazing. Talking of a peron’s life, we have a traditional rite to celebrate three-year-old as it was a miracle to grow into that age. I can understand how you were unhappy; living in Convent School away from your parents for a little girl is enough lonely and tough and seeing women dressed all in black must have been terrifying. Anyway, I’ll scroll down to the part 1.

    Yoko

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    1. It was a day school so I went home each day, but not being a Catholic I had never seen nuns before and found them rather frightening.

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  16. Bess seems like a badass. I'd love to know how she stayed so healthy and avoided death. I do love all that ironwork.

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    1. She must have been an incredibly stong women, not only in body but in mind too. A feminist 400 years before they existed in what was defintely a man's world then.

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  17. How much gold - so beautiful.

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  18. That ironwork in the cathedral is amazing.

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    1. You are correct Janey - it is ironwork at its very best

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