We visited Hardwick Hall yesterday, one of our local stately homes. It's an interesting enough place but as with so many National Trust properties the life of it has long gone and its absence seems to permeate every aspect of the place. Acres of worn and faded tapestry teeming with obsolete allegory do nothing to bring the place back to life. Just the opposite.
As ever with such buildings, there is a sense of cans being kicked down the road. How long will Hardwick be maintained and for how long will the National Trust keep at bay those relentless processes of decay? Centuries? Currently work is being done to repair part of the roof. After that it will be something else, then something else.
There is still a touch of life in the rooms occupied up until the mid twentieth century by Evelyn, Duchess of Devonshire, but apart from that there are few echoes of Hardwick's long history.
Among its treasures is the so-called Sea-Dog Table above.
This elaborate table, supported by four finely carved winged dogs with fishes' tails, was one of the original acquisitions for Hardwick Hall made by Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury.
A marble-inlaid walnut 'drawing table', or draw-leaf table, France, probably Paris, circa 1575, of extremely fine quality and one of the most important pieces of sixteenth century furniture to survive in England.
How anyone ever saw merit in such a hideous piece of furniture I don't know. To my mind this is what Hardwick suggests most strongly, the astounding ugliness of elite Tudor taste.