Wednesday, 15 August 2012

National Trust Property: Canons Ashby

On a wet Friday in July, The Velveteen Viking and I set off to Canons Ashby, a beautiful village in Northamptonshire between the M1 and M40 with a delightful tea room and National Trust shop.

Our main reason for going was to attend a writing workshop led by local author, Judith Alnatt which was held in Canons Ashby House: an Elizabethan manor house with beautiful gardens which have been authentically restored from Sir Henry Dryden's records.

The house was built by the Dryden family and updated in the eighteenth century and again in the nineteenth century by Sir Henry Dryden and it is his life, and that of his wife Frances and daughter, Alice which fills the house. It is still the Dryden family's home, but the public rooms are fascinating and the guides welcoming, knowledgeable and informative.

Unfortunately we didn't take a camera, but you can view the photographs and see lots of what a visit to the house has to offer on the National Trust Website (click here to view)

On the first floor the rooms are fascinating, one, Spencer's Room, has Elizabethan wall paintings which were discovered behind 18th century panelling.

At the other end of the Long Gallery is Alice's Room and the Nursery. The Gallery and some rooms have photograph albums containing the work of Alice Dryden, only child of Sir Henry and Frances (apparently he wanted a boy so that the house could stay in the family on his death so when Alice was born, he is said to have sacked the female servants, but his wife reinstated them when he had calmed down).  Father and daughter became very close and Alice did marry, but had no children. Alice's room has a gorgeous four-poster bed and looks out over the gardens. the Nursery is full of unusual and incredibly interesting toys, not least a puppet theatre,a racing game and a Zoetrope

Downstairs on the ground floor is the Great Hall which leads to the Dining Room where an array of portraits hang. The book room is more than a Library, it was originally the Billiard Room, but Sir Henry converted it and as he was a keen gardener, he kept his gardening tools in there too. From the Book Room you can walk into Sir Henry's Museum. Also from the Great Hall you can go to the Servants' Hall where amazing symbolic artwork can be seen as well as the original table. The kitchen still has all the bells connected to the 'upstairs' rooms and you can exit via an incredibly well-stocked wine cellar.

The tea room is delightful (and very busy). It was a treat to be offered a cheese scone with a bowl of soup or a bread roll. If you do visit and stay for a cuppa, make sure you take two small milk jugs as there isn't enough milk in one!

Since visiting Canons Ashby I have written a poem in Alice's voice after spending time in her Room:


           Looking through the lens


Looking through the lens
To a time remembered here
Centuries passed
Since once I sat
Waiting

Looking through the lens
From my window, I saw him
Passioned with purpose
My love, astride his horse
Arriving

Looking through the lens
I could not bear to linger
Anxiously hoping
Father would offer:
Blessing

Looking through the lens
Along the Gallery, I ran
Destiny sealed
They’re in the garden 
Talking

Looking through the lens
We stood amongst the trees
Captured memories
A blessing he gave
Consenting

Looking through the lens
Our lives to be as one
Plated images
John and Alice Marcon
Uniting

Looking through the lens
To a lifetime of imagery
Country crafts
Houses and gardens
Everlasting

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