Samuel Weaver is an intern working on the National Trust’s project to minimise the impact of High Speed Railway 2 (HS2). In this post he will be looking at the potential impact it will have on Hardwick Hall. Check out last week’s post on another property at risk from HS2 here.
As I make my way through the winding drive-way of Hardwick’s estate, the dominating presence of the Hall comes into view. Its raised position on the plateau of the hill means it demands the respect and attention from any onlooker.
However, I am not here for a nice day out, but for the purpose of preserving this priceless asset.
Sadly, the proposed route for HS2 will pass in close proximity to the property. HS2 have said the track would be ‘sitting low in the landscape past the hall’
Although, this is not strictly true.
The M1 is already lying in the valley close to the property and by HS2’s logic, the railway track could be similarly hidden by keeping it in the same corridor. However, the M1 is largely hidden from the estate, whilst the proposed HS2 track would have to be cut deep into the other side of the valley, becoming very much visible from the building and grounds.
Also, Hardwick’s attraction comes from its dominance of the surrounding landscape. So if HS2 were to become a prominent feature within the landscape, it would undermine the experience for thousands of visitors that it attracts each year.
National Trust’s HS2 project leader for the Midlands Keith Challis had this to say:
‘A large part of the significance of great houses like Hardwick comes from how we view them within the landscape. Protecting key views to and from Hardwick Hall is an essential part of our work to minimise the impact of HS2. This requires careful assessment of the extent to which HS2 will encroach on the experience of visitors both as they approach the Hall and as they explore the house and grounds.’
Everything about the property was created as a statement of power. This came from the building’s simple symmetry and pioneering large glass windows, which earned the saying ‘Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall’.
Inside is no different. On the third floor, just walking through the High Great Chamber and one of the longest galleries in the UK makes the visitor feel humble to its powerful ancestral owners.
Hardwick Hall is not only a great display of Elizabethan skill and workmanship, but it also perfectly reflects its original owner’s character. During the Elizabethan times, Bess Shrewsbury made a name for herself as a formidable and authoritative woman. As well as being the second richest person in England after the Queen, she boasted an impressive amount of political power.
Therefore, keeping HS2 hidden away is integral to maintaining the visitor’s experience and ‘spirit’ of the place.
It is worth clarifying, whilst the National Trust is neither for nor against the principle of high speed railway, it is arguing the project should not impact on heritage and ecology.
Samuel Weaver is a Media and Communications intern at the National Trust.
He is a recent History graduate from the University of the West of England. When not selling sausages in a deli, he usually occupies himself by researching and blogging on our nation’s more overlooked heritage.