Unravelling Hardwick's rush matting
Underfoot on the top floor and some of the middle floor of Hardwick Hall you'll find rush matting. This natural covering would have been used in Bess' time and is no ordinary floor.
Plaited rush matting has been used as a floor covering for centuries and would have been a feature of Tudor homes. This hardwearing material
Although a hardwearing material, it does require some special TLC, including regular watering, and with thousands of feet walking over it, it does suffer from wear and tear after time.
Over the winter of 2017/18, in the Long Gallery all 166ft of the flooring has been taken up and replaced, this time with large mats rather than rolls - as bit of a test to see if it will make it easier to rotate the wear and tear more easily.
Labour of love
Producing rush matting is no easy process, one which starts with harvesting bulrushes from the reed beds, before drying then plaiting by hand.
Rush Matters, based in Bedforshire, have made the new flooring which has taken many hours to produce. Made of freshwater bulrushes harvested from rivers such as the Great River Ouse, the dried material is plaited and interwoven with things like herbs, lavender, wormwood and camomile.
What of the old matting?
Where we can, matting from low-traffic areas are reused elsewhere. For those bits of matting that can't be used as flooring again, where possible they are repurposed as mulch in the gardens and bird nesting material.