Canons Ashby, Daventry, Northamptonshire
Canons1. Clerics who live a semi-monastic life, but who are also involved in the community; 2. General rules or principles by which something is judged; 3. A collection or list of sacred books accepted as genuine. Ashby is a Tudor home in Northamptonshire which has been brought back to life by the National Trust. The village was first mentioned in Domesday BookThe two-million-word report of the survey commissioned by William the Conqueror into land-holding and worth in England and parts of Wales. Its name comes from the a reference to the final account at the Last Judgement, as it was such a complete record., and during the Medieval period we hear of a number of canons behaving badly at the Augustinian priory, from whence Canons Ashby gets its name. Their behaviour was so dissolute - with their preference for spending time in the pub rather than at prayer - that the priory was one of the first to fall foul of Henry VIII's Dissolution of the MonasteriesA set of administrative and legal processes between 1536 and 1541 that disbanded the Catholic monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in England, Wales and Ireland. It including taking their income and property and dismissing their members.. It passed into the hands of Sir Francis Bryan, the ‘Vicar of Hell’, before finding its way as a wedding gift into the hands of the Dryden family, the most famous of which was the first poet laureateA poet appointed for life as an officer of the royal household who is expected to write poems in celebration of the court and national events., John Dryden. The house was altered in the early 18th century by his nephew, Edward Dryden, and has remained more-or-less unchanged since. During the 20th century, it was let out to tenants and allowed to fall into disrepair, before being given to the National Trust in 1980. They spent a considerable sum of money to make it safe and restore many of its treasures to their former glory, and it is now open to the public.
As such, Canons Ashby is a fine example of what the National Trust do best. The work they have undertaken in restoring the building and its interiors is impressive, and makes it a very atmospheric house to visit. Some parts feel as if they have been taken directly out of the Tudor period, while others show the tastes and fashions of the early 18th century. The house, and the gardens, can therefore provide a walk through history in very tranquil surroundings. There is plenty of information available in both, with stories about the family during the Civil War and the First World War to add flesh to the bones. More information can be found in the rooms of the house, but the way to get the most from your visit is to talk to the staff and volunteers around the house. These are stationed in every room and are probably the best I have come across in any National Trust property. They are enthusiastic, knowledgeable and very happy to talk to visitors of all ages. Everything they say adds to the story of the property and its inhabitants, and for this reason alone the house is worth a visit. Furthermore, the staff do their best to ensure children enjoy their visit, from letting them play with the toys in the nursery, to parkland walks, to different treasure trails.
Sadly, as with many heritage sites, access is restricted, although there is a virtual tour. Facilities are the usual for these places, with a pleasant tea room and a gift shop, and the house runs a series of events throughout the year, all of which will help you to extend your visit beyond a few hours. If you're not a National Trust member, I would suggest tying your visit in with one of these events to get the most from the entrance fee of £26.25 per family.Gift-aided, prices correct as of November 2016