Saturday, 7 June 2014

Canons Ashby

I am now going to risk being disowned by my parents and tell you that my family was not really into visiting historic places of interest when I was young. I remember being 6 or 7 and wanting to go to Rockingham Castle and my dad generously saying "as soon as your mother passes her driving test she can take you anywhere you want." So I waited and she did indeed pass her test soon after, but 33 years on and the trip to Rockingham is yet to materialise.

Anyway, Canons Ashby in Northamptonshire isn't far from where I grew up but I had never been. I decided to invite my family along, although the last time my sister and I attempted a scone mission it was an unmitigated disaster. This time I put some ground rules in place, namely 'let's set off before 3pm and it might still be open'.

We got lost on the way (of course we did) but within five minutes of arriving we were all in love with the place:


Canons Ashby

Canons Ashby was originally a priory, established in 1147. Henry VIII did away with the monasteries and gave Canons Ashby to Sir Francis Bryan, one of his cronies. Soon after, it ended up in the Dryden family, who owned the estate from 1551 to 1981, when they gave it to the National Trust.

John Dryden, who inherited in 1551, was responsible for extending the original building. He was followed by a long line of ancestors who left their mark on the property, which is displayed today as it would have been when Sir Henry Dryden lived there. He took it over in 1874 - when his wife gave birth to a girl he was hugely annoyed and sacked two female members of staff because there were too many women in the house (his wife reinstated them). 

The most famous Dryden was the poet John Dryden, who was Poet Laureate from 1668. He was prevented from inheriting Canons Ashby because he was considered to have married beneath him, while his son was disallowed from inheriting property because he was a Catholic. There's a painting of John in the Dining Room:


John Dryden at Canons Ashby

The church next to the house is well worth seeing. It's part of the estate owned by the National Trust and there's a model in the bell tower showing the scale of the original church - it was a mini cathedral before it was greatly reduced in size. 

The gardens at Canons Ashby are also stunning, extraordinarily neat and tidy with fantastic views of the Northamptonshire countryside. The view is visible from many of the rooms and it's enough to make you want to move in tomorrow.


Canons Ashby garden view

Canons Ashby also has a cat that has clearly been on the National Trust Tourist Management for Cats training course. It came up to us, lay at our feet, rolled about a bit, and then boldly continued on its way to meet and greet the other visitors. I'm not having a go at Jock the cat at Chartwell but I would suggest that he might like to learn some of the Canons Ashby cat's moves if he gets the chance. 


Canons Ashby National Trust cat

But onto the scones. They're strange things, scones. I've had scones that are light and fluffy and I've snaffled them down in about four seconds, with room for six more. And I've had scones that are a bit Tardis-like - they look fairly small but when you start eating there's a LOT of scone. The Canons Ashby scone was definitely of the latter type - crispy on the outside and so, so tasty.

The scone got the highest accolade from my sister, who went back for a second. And she did that thing that happens a lot with my mum and her family - she offered my mum half and my mum said "No thanks" and my sister gave her half anyway and my mum ate it. 

But the highest praise of the day went to the tea. I've mentioned before that I have never had a bad cup of tea at the National Trust and when my mum said "this is a lovely cup of tea" - this is a woman that KNOWS tea - my opinion was validated.

I didn't pick my scone and it looks a bit like a butterfly cake, but it was delicious:  


Canons Ashby National Trust Scone

I'll finish with a note on how much of an eye-opener it is going to a National Trust property with non-members. As we drove out of Canons Ashby, my sister said "That's SO nice, the man on the gate waved us goodbye. Make sure you put that in your blog." And I thought 'of course he did, we're at the National Trust'. But she's right - it's not a given and it was a lovely touch.

Canons Ashby: 5 out of 5
Scones: 4.5 out of 5
The tourist management skills of the cat: 5 out of 5 

4 comments:

  1. Canons Ashby is one of those places the trust does so well don't you think?

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  2. Absolutely. It was great from start to finish.

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  3. I went to Canons this week and even for the Trust (who do being nice quite well I think) all the people we encountered were exceptionally good eggs who made us feel incredibly at home. We were travelling up that way to go to Dunham Massey as it's got the super special visitor experience at the moment with the Hospital but I'm afraid that Canons rather rained on their parade.

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  4. I went to Canons this week and even for the Trust (who do being nice quite well I think) all the people we encountered were exceptionally good eggs who made us feel incredibly at home. We were travelling up that way to go to Dunham Massey as it's got the super special visitor experience at the moment with the Hospital but I'm afraid that Canons rather rained on their parade.

    ReplyDelete