Thursday, 6 September 2007

Mystic Ashdown!

Do you believe in ley lines and earth energy lines?

It has been revealed that Ashdown House lies directly on the "Michael Line," one of the major lines of earth energy on the planet. The Michael and Mary lines are two negative and positive, male and female energy lines that run from Cornwall to Norfolk, flowing through the centre of Avebury and other ancient sites. Earth energy currents are often misnamed ley lines. A ley line is a straight line that can be drawn on a map that connects four or more ancient sites, such as churches, stone circles, barrows etc. In contrast, earth energy currents are vibrant flows of detectable energy that weave their way through the ground. These currents meander like rivers and do invariably run through ancient sacred sites. The book 'The Sun and The Serpent' by Hamish Miller and Paul Broadhurst explains how earth energy currents work.

With so many ancient sites such as Avebury, Uffington Hill Fort and Wayland's Smithy in its vicinity it is perhaps no surprise to find Ashdown House linked to this phenomenon. The church in Ashbury is St Mary's Church and it is said that there was once a stone circle in the field behind the church. Ashdown estate belonged to the Abbey of Glastonbury until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. The fields between Ashdown and the Ridgeway frequently have exquisite crop circles in them.

Intriguingly, the grounds at Ashdown were set out on a "masculine" plan as this was felt to be appropriate for a hunting lodge. It also fits perfectly with the idea of the male energy line. Come to Ashdown and explore this ancient landscape and feel the energy flow!

Friday, 8 June 2007

William, Earl of Craven - The Last Cavalier

It was William Craven, Baron of Hamstead Marshall, Viscount Uffington and Earl of Craven, who had the present day hunting lodge built at Ashdown in 1661 - 1662.

Craven was a fascinating character largely overlooked by history. Born in 1608, William Craven was the son of a self-made man from Yorkshire who had been apprenticed in the cloth trade, made a fortune and became a money lender to the crown, married well and was Lord Mayor of London. When William Craven inherited his father's fortune and estates he was one of the nine richest men in Stuart England. He was also one of the most ardent royalists devoted to the Stuart cause.

Still in his teens, William Craven left England to serve in the army of Maurice of Orange and over many years he gained great distinction as a soldier. He fought alongside Frederick of Bohemia and his sons in their attempts to regain the ancestral palatine lands they had lost in the Thirty Years War and he supported Elizabeth, the Winter Queen, in her exile in the United Provinces.

All William Craven's estates, with the exception of Combe Abbey, were sequestrated during the Commonwealth and he was able to return to England only on the restoration of King Charles II. He started building on both his estates at Hamstead Marshall and Ashdown on his return.
Lord Craven lived until the age of 87. He was a friend and comrade in arms of Prince Rupert of the Rhine, and was the executor of Rupert's will and guardian of his daughter Ruperta. He remained a loyal servant of the Stuarts throughout his life.

Who lived in a house like this?

Ashdown House is sometimes called "the house built for the love of a woman who never lived to see it." The lady in question was Elizabeth of Bohemia, the Winter Queen, daughter of King James I of England and sister of Charles I.

Elizabeth was born in 1596 in Scotland, before her father succeeded Queen Elizabeth I to the throne of England. She spent much of her childhood in the care of the Harington family at Coombe Abbey in Warwickshire. It was from there that the gunpowder plotters planned to seize Elizabeth and put her on the throne as a puppet queen after blowing up her father and brother in the Houses of Parliament. Elizabeth's response to the failed plan was that she would rather have died alongside her father than been Queen of England.

She married at the age of 16 to Frederick, the Elector Palatine, a political Protestant match that nevertheless turned out to be very happy. Elizabeth and Frederick lived in Heidelberg in present day Germany before Frederick was offered the throne of the Kingdom of Bohemia in 1619. He ruled for one year only before being defeated at The Battle of the White Mountain by the forces of the Holy Roman Emperor. It is from this time that it is said Elizabeth and Frederick gained their titles of The Snow King and The Winter Queen because they melted away before the spring came. Forced into exile, they lived in the Netherlands and raised their growing family there. Frederick campaigned unsuccessfully for the return of the Palatine lands and died in 1632.

It was during her exile in The Hague that Elizabeth met William Craven, who was to become one of her most ardent supporters. It was Craven who offered Elizabeth the use of his house in Drury Lane, London, when she first returned to England after the Restoration of her nephew, King Charles II in 1660. It is also said that Craven conceived the idea of building a hunting lodge for Elizabeth on one of his Berkshire estates. Work started on Ashdown House in 1661 but sadly Elizabeth did not live to see the finished house. She died in London in February 1662.

More about Elizabeth anon. But if she didn't live in a house like this - who did?

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Invitation to Afternoon Tea

Okay, the introductions are over and soon I'll start posting some snippets of history about Ashdown House, but first I wanted to issue an invitation to afternoon tea!

At the moment the Friends of Ashdown are busy planning tea on the lawn for next season but here at virtual Ashdown we are already up and running with our refreshments so sit back, relax and enjoy the atmosphere. Tea is served in the South Lodge, one of the two lodge buildings that you can see in the photographs. Originally the South Lodge was the kitchen, bakery and brewery for the main house and the original fireplace and bread ovens are still there. Whilst we're sitting here chatting, please do tell me your own favourite historic places to visit so we can all go on a tour!

Anyone for a pot of tea with scones, jam and cream?

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Ashdown in Beautiful Britain Magazine!

Ashdown House is featured in the Summer 2007 edition of Beautiful Britain Magazine!

The magazine, which is for everyone who loves Britain, calls the house "An Oxfordshire Gem."

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Welcome to the Ashdown House Blog Site!

Welcome to the site that celebrates the wonderful seventeenth century hunting lodge Ashdown House in Oxfordshire, UK. The Friends of Ashdown, a group of people who love historic houses, like Ashdown so much that they want to share it with everyone! On this site we will post information about Ashdown, its history, events taking place at the house and some stunning photographs. If you have any connection with Ashdown or the Craven family, or if you are interested in the history of the house and have research enquiries or if you love historic houses please post your comments or questions and we will do our best to answer them.

If you are visiting Oxfordshire on holiday in the UK or from overseas, the house is open on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons with guided tours at 2.15pm, 3.15pm and 4.15pm. We hope you will come and visit us for a warm welcome and a fascinating tour of one of the UK's most atmospheric and beautiful historic houses.