Of Household Stuff

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Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury, more famously known as Bess of Hardwick, was born around 1527 and became one of the most influential women of the age. Bess was a great builder, starting in the 1550s with her house at Chatsworth and culminating some 40 years later with the New Hall at Hardwick. All her homes, including Chatsworth and the two halls at Hardwick, were adorned with sumptuous contents and furnishings, the value of which equalled or exceeded that of the buildings themselves. Bess was a meticulous record-keeper, and in 1601 probate inventories were compiled of her three houses. Published together for the first time, these extraordinary records provide a fascinating insight into one of the world's most important collections of 16th-century furniture and textiles. Commentaries by Peter K. Thornton and Santina M. Levey, both formerly of the Victoria and Albert Museum, explain the range and significance of the inventories.