Thursday, February 13, 2014
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
By virtue of its connection to Elizabeth of Bohemia, Ashdown House has a link to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and the 5th November Guy Fawkes’ celebrations. Coombe Abbey, the main family seat of the Cravens, has a far greater connection, being the house in which Elizabeth was living at the time of the Gunpowder Plot.
It was the intention of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 conspirators to kill King James I and his eldest son and heir, Prince Henry, plus all the nobility sitting in the House of Lords and all the members of parliament sitting in the House of Commons. They wanted to put a Catholic monarch on the throne. The plot was thwarted when Henry Parker, 4th Lord Monteagle, received an anonymous letter warning him not to attend parliament:
“My lord out of the love i beare to some of youere frends i have a caer of youer preseruacion therfor i would advyse yowe as yowe tender youer lyf to devys some excuse to shift of youer attendance at this parleament for god and man hath concurred to punishe the wickednes of this tyme… for thowghe theare be no appearance of anni stir yet i saye they shall receyve a terrible blowe this parleament and yet they shall not seie who hurts them…”
Monteagle was married to the sister of one of the Gunpowder Plotters, Thomas Tresham. Monteagle took the letter to Robert Cecil, who informed the King. The king ordered a search of the cellars at the Palace of Westminster. The plot was discovered and Monteagle became the hero who saved Parliament. He was rewarded to the sum of £700 a year - £500 in cash and £200 in the value of land donated to him. He invested the money in business ventures in Virginia.
One of the lesser-known aspects of the Gunpowder Plot is what the plotters intended to happen if they had
In late October 1605 strange rumours of a plot to overthrow the monarchy were circulating in Warwickshire, which was a stronghold of Catholicism. Lord Harington was warned of a threat to the princess and Elizabeth was taken for her own safety to the city of Coventry, for it was suspected that she might be seized should a rebellion take place. She was lodged in the city with an armed guard. Later, after the gunpowder plotters had been arrested and tortured, it emerged that it had been their intention to kidnap "the person of the Lady Elizabeth, the king's daughter, in Warwickshire, and presently proclaim her queen." The plan had been to seize her from Coombe Abbey and carry her off to Ashby St Legers, a Catholic safe house and the home of Lady Catesby, mother of one of the conspirators.
It is said that when Elizabeth heard of the plot she said: “What a Queen I should have been by this means! I had rather been with my royal father in the Parliament House than wear his crown on such condition.”
For the blog post about other houses connected to the Gunpowder Plot, click here:
Friday, November 1, 2013
During the Victorian and Edwardian period, Ashdown House had its own chapel and private choir (which is another, fascinating story). The chapel was located in Ashdown village and was dedicated to St Hubert as the most appropriate saint for a hunting lodge. Choosing St Hubert as Ashdown's patron saint also underlined the importance that the 3rd Earl of Craven and his Countess placed on hunting, which was one of their great passions. They lived permanently at Ashdown and kept a pack of hounds in the kennels there.
The chapel was demolished in the early 20th century and rather curiously was divided into two parts which became the church halls in two local villages. Half of the chapel is pictured to the right!
Next week here on the blog we are also celebrating Guy Fawkes Night via The Winter Queen and her links to the gunpowder plot. Check back on the 5th for the whole story!
Thursday, October 24, 2013
The letter P, in the A - Z of Ashdown, stands for the parterre. The current Ashdown House parterre of box and gravel, laid out in S scrolls in the 17th century style, was created in the 1950s when the house came into the care of the NT. The previous elaborate Victorian parterre had been destroyed during the war and the rationale for choosing a 17th century parterre design was that since the 19th century additions to the house had been demolished and it had been taken back to its original 17th century style, it made sense to match this with a 17th century garden.
When the house was built it had gardens on the north and south side rather than to the west, as can be seen in the engraving by Kip from the early 18th century. Whilst it's not possible to see the detail of these they were very plain. The hunting lodge was considered in the 17th century to be a masculine style of building and a plain box and gravel parterre was a masculine style of garden to match. So the parterre we have today, whilst not identical to the original, is in keeping with the 17th century style of the house and contemporary garden design.
In the mid-Victorian period the Cravens did much work to their
Friday, October 4, 2013
“O” is for the octagonal cupola on Ashdown’s roof. A cupola is defined as “a small, often dome-like structure on top of a building.” As at Ashdown, it usually crowns a larger roof and in Ashdown’s case is built as a “lantern” of timber and glass. This style is a classic of Restoration architecture and can be seen elsewhere, at Belton House in Lincolnshire and at Kingston Lacy in Dorset. This photograph shows the Ashdown cupola as it was before last year’s restoration project.
The Kyp drawing of Ashdown that dates from the early 18th century suggests that the original octagonal cupola featured wooden panels in the lantern as well as panes of glass. Certainly we know that the style of the cupola has changed over the 350 years of its existence; successive renovations at times reduced it to four panels, increased it again to eight, displayed trompe l’oeil panels and sometimes replaced the plain glass with coloured panes. This photograph, taken from one of the interpretation panels in the Information Centre, dates from the early 20th century and shows restoration work taking place on the cupola and roof.
The lantern style of the cupola, with so much glass, allows lots of light into the stairway below. In the 19th century there was a lamp lit in the cupola at night, giving Ashdown its name of “the lighthouse of the Downs.” More than one traveller of the track from Lambourn across the top of the Downs used it to navigate by.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Thursday, July 25, 2013
We've reached M in the A - Z of Ashdown. M is for the medieval hunting lodge that stood on the site long before the current house was built.
The pre-Restoration history of Ashdown Park is fascinating. The name Ashdown is an ancient one. It is first mentioned in a chronicle of 777AD when King Offa of Mercia advanced as far west as the nearby village of Ashbury in his battles against the West Saxons. It is, as previously mentioned, also a strong contender for the site of King Alfred’s Battle of Ashdown of 871AD when he defeated the Vikings.
In 953AD the manor of Ashbury including the lands that were then known as Aysshen Park came into the possession of Glastonbury Abbey. They remained part of the Abbey’s lands until the Dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1539. We know that there was a house built for the Abbot in Ashbury as early as the 13th century and that Ashbury Manor was built in 1488 as a guesthouse for travellers and pilgrims from Glastonbury to Canterbury. At the same time, Ashdown Park was being developed as a hunting ground for the abbey. The King granted the abbot a licence of free warren at Ashbury in 1330 and also a licence to hunt which meant that he could both breed and hunt game on the site.
Documentary evidence tells us that by 1204, Ashdown Upper Wood was surrounded by a park pale, a high ditch and bank to keep the deer inside. You can still see the remains of the park pale in the fields to this day. Inside medieval deer parks there were areas of woodland, spinneys and lawns or grassy clearings, very similar in fact to the way that Upper Wood still looks today.
defensible. It would also have provided accommodation for the abbot’s gamekeeper and also possibly for hunting parties.
One final question remains. Where was the Ashdown hunting lodge located? Hunting lodges were often on the highest part of the hunting ground, which would have put it at the top of Upper Wood. However, English Heritage records suggest that there was an earlier building on the site of the current Ashdown House, which is another alternative. The farmhouse in Ashdown village, which dates from 1617, also incorporates a medieval core so that is a third possibility. It is another Ashdown mystery.