Canons Ashby is an Elizabethan manor house built from the local dark orange ironstone taken from an Augustinian priory on the same site. The priory existed between 1147 and 1151 and housed around 13 monks. The medieval priory church, St Mary’s, was built in 1250 and designed like a small cathedral. It was not used for building stone; however today’s church is only a small part of the original building. It sits just across the road from the manor house.
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Henry VIII gave the priory to a friend, Sir Francis Bryan, after the dissolution of the monasteries, 1536-1541. In 1551 the Dryden family inherited Canons Ashby estate and used the church as a private family one as well as letting it serve as a parish church. It is still private today.
The house, built by the Dryden family began as a staircase tower, after which an H shaped house was added. It was added to in the 1590s, altered in the 1630s. In the 18th century the south facing rooms were remodeled and the exterior was faced with dressed stone. Sash windows replaced the stone mullioned ones. At the same time the interior was modernised to create a Palladian design. Florence Nightingale was a regular visitor to the house.
Inside the house are Jacobean plasterwork, Elizabethan wall paintings, tapestries, a Chinese room and a grand staircase. The servants’ quarters are also on show.
There are 70 acres of terraces, walled gardens, and parkland. In the formal garden are gate piers dated 1710.
South-west Northampton and south of Daventry on minor road
Tel. 01327 861900
Open: house, tea-room, gardens, shop, church and parkland, daily, mid Feb-mid March10.30am-3.30pm; until 5pm from mid March-end Oct; Nov, Fri-Sun only; first week Dec, weekends only
National Trust property; parking; second hand book shop; special events
Photos © by Barbara Ballard