Spirit of place: HS2 and the power of space at Hardwick Hall

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.

HS2's route will cut into the oppostie valley

HS2’s route will cut into the opposite side of the valley

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.

More of Hardwick's stunning landscape

More of Hardwick’s stunning landscape

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's famous tapestries

Hardwick’s famous tapestries

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.



3 thoughts on “Spirit of place: HS2 and the power of space at Hardwick Hall

  1. @Samuel Weaver: 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.

    In reality it is you, @Samuel Weaver, being economic with the truth here?

    At the point of closest proximity to Hardwick Hall itself, HS2 will be approximately 1200m distant and in cutting – what’s more between the Hall and the planned route of HS2 sits the M1 motorway, again in cutting; https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/69010/hs2-arp-lr0-dr-rt-55135_3-0.pdf

    At that distance the new rail line will be virtually invisible to visitors at the Hall – or are you planning on hiring out high powered binoculars as a revenue raising side-show?

    As for noise, traffic on the M1 generates far greater levels of constant intrusion to the aural landscape, 24 hours a day.

    So let’s have a little more factual context and a lot less scaremongering rhetoric. The Trust’s land holdings extend a significant distance from the Hall itself – both the M1 and planned pathway of HS2 pass through them – one wonders what the Trust’s stance was when plans for the M1 were first put forward back in the 60s – there’s a strong sense of déjà vu surrounding this issue?

    Yes, I am in favour of HS2, (although I have no vested interest in the scheme – I simply want to see my Region [NW.England] benefit from the same connectivity already taken for granted by London & the South East courtesy of HS1) and I am a paid up Trust member.

    • Thanks for the interesting comment Peter.

      Ha, no scaremongering intended!

      Yes, HS2 will be largely sat in the M1 corridor, but at one point the track (and its electrical pylons) will not sit firmly in the valley. Also, we should think of Hardwick Hall as not just the building, but the greater estate around it- HS2 of which will cut through the middle.

      As for the noise: we need to remember that the sound of constant rumble from the M1 will contrast significantly from a a high speed train that will sporadically fly past every 10-15 minutes. Motorway traffic can become part of the general ambiance, however a train noise is much more disruptive.

      I’d like to add that the National Trust is neither for nor against the railway, but demands it should be done so that enviroment, residential and heritage sites are protected.



  2. Pingback: 6 National Trust places that inspired great people | National Trust Places

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