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Canons Ashby

Northampton
Northamptonshire
Post Code : NN11 3SD
Telephone : 01327 861900
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Canons Ashby is an ancient courtyard house that time has hardly touched.

The modest Tudor H-shaped manor house was built in around 1550 for John Dryden.

The material for the original great-hall range of the house with its unusual squat tower came from the demolished east end of the neighbouring church.

This unexpectedly grand church is all that is left of the Augustinian priory which gave Canons Ashby its name.

The priory once dominated a flourishing medieval village but all that can be seen today are furrows and bumps in the grass. The church has been reduced to a quarter of its original size but it is still impressive with a pinacled tower that can be seen for miles around.

In the 1590's John Dryden's son Sir Erasmus, the 1st Baronet, added the wings to the east that enclose the cobbled internal courtyard. In comparison to the finished stone of the exterior, the walls of the courtyard are rough and irregular and set with leaded windows.

In the 19th century Sir Henry Dryden altered the house so that the entrance is across the cobbled courtyard and into the great hall. Sir Henry, known as the Antiquary, had an interest in medieval architecture and mostly preserved the house as it was.

Inside the house, the murals painted in grey-blue monochrome date from Sir Erasmus's time.

The domed ceiling of the drawing room with its elaborate plasterwork was commissioned by Sir Erasmus and is lit by three long sash windows which were added when Edward Dryden altered the south front.

In the painted parlour the classical trompe-l'oeil dates from Edward's time and was created by his cousin Mrs Creed. Edward also purchased the beautiful needlework-covered furniture, decorated with pastoral scenes and flowers, found in the Tapestry Room.

Sir Henry added the oak bookcases in the small library where he studied and wrote his learned papers.

The leather-bound books include works by the three well-known literary figures associated with Canons Ashby: the poet Edmund Spencer, author of 'The Faerie Queene', who was a cousin of Sir Erasmus Dryden's wife, the poet laureate John Dryden who visited the house to court his cousin, the daughter of the 3rd Baronet and Samuel Richardson the playwright and novelist, who is said to have written most of 'Sir Charles Grandison' at the house.

Canons Ashby is surrounded by a 70 acre park.

The formal garden was created by Edward Dryden in around 1710. A flight of terraces falls away from the house, linked by stone steps, and the character of the terraces changes as they descend the slope.

The two upper terraces have smooth lawns and topiary. On the third terrace is an orchard which is planted with varieties of apple and pear trees common in the 16th century. The lowest terrace is a wild garden where meadow flowers grow in the long grass.

Leading from the garden to the church is an avenue of lime trees.

The walls encircling the garden are pierced by baroque gatepiers of 1710.

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Canons Ashby
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Opening Times
Main Season: Late Mar-Oct Fri-Wed 11:00-17:00. Also open a few days in other months, check the website for exact dates and times as they do vary.
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