Canons Ashby House

We have joined The National Trust...very grown up, I know. I've never been so excited about a car sticker. We didn't waste any time getting our money's worth and visited Canons Ashby in Northamptonshire. 

Image from The National Trust
The manor house originates from the time of Elizabeth I, but it was really Sir Henry Dryden who devoted his life to the upkeep of the property, when he inherited it in 1837, aged just 19. The National Trust have restored the house and gardens to reflect it as it would have been when Sir Henry Dryden (and later, his wife and daughter) occupied it. What I like most is the feeling that you are walking through someone's home with their personal belongings and minutiae of everyday life. 

The staircase of the first floor

Sir Henry Dryden had a Book Room, which was not to be called a "library" as this implied the lending out of, rather than the reading of your own books. As a keen historian, gardener and draughtsman, this room is filled with books arranged alphabetically and a special drawer in his bookcase for gardening tools. As he sat at his desk in the middle of the room, he would have looked out onto his gardens and, with his papers, spectacles and hand-written documents arranged on his desk, it feels as if he has just left the room momentarily.

I'm always drawn to the details in these places...the chipped paintwork, the light switches, the years of wear and tear. In the Museum room, the walls are painted with an early paint effect of faux-marble pillars:

I also liked this dark teal colour on the walls, with the brass-patina candle holder and foxed mirror (I do love a foxed mirror!):

The Tapestry Room would have been the master bedroom and is a beautiful arrangement of tapestry-covered walls and furniture in a rich blues and greens.

Again, it is the details I love...the cold cream pots on the dressing table, the ebony hand mirror and this tiny jacket draped on a chair to reveal delicate stitches where a repair had once been made:

In the Spenser Room, one wall reveals an Elizabethan mural...which had been hidden for years under plaster. Despite Sir Henry Dryden being a keen historian (he became known as "The Antiquary") and being passionate about the history and future of Canons Ashby, he never knew that this existed during his sixty year residence. 

Alice was the daughter of Sir Henry Dryden and his wife Frances Tredcroft. I love her little room - obviously from when she was a young woman. It has a tiny-waisted dress spread out on the bed and a camera and collection of photographs that she would have taken. She was a keen photographer and as passionate about Canons Ashby as her father, she set to photograph it and its surrounding community.

The walls are covered in William Morris "Willow" wallpaper...still available today!

The Winter Parlour
I could go on about every single detail in this house...the glorious, functional kitchen and painted, possibly masonic, walls of the Winter Parlour (also the servants dining room), the cellars, the converted darkroom for Alice (takes me back to my darkroom days in my parents cellar!) and of course the beautiful gardens that seem frozen in time.

Hesper smelling the flowers...

...she loved "playing" croquet

It is definitely worth a visit... not a huge stately home, but intriguing and intimate. For more information visit The National Trust here.

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