Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Creation of the Ashdown Estate

Ashdown makes its first appearance in written history in a charter of 947AD. This document, held in the records of Glastonbury Abbey, shows a grant of land by King Eadred of the West Saxons in "Ayssehudun" to one of his thanes, Edric.

How good is your Anglo-Saxon? I must admit I struggled a bit with this having not studied the language since I was at university, but it makes fascinating reading and when you read it in conjunction with an Ordnance Survey map you can still recognise - or hazard an informed guess - as to where some of these places are (Although I imagine such poetic descriptions as "Bucca's Pool and Lippa's tree stump are, sadly, lost forever). So here is the Anglo Saxon description of the boundaries of the 947AD estate of "Ashdown":

"Erest of Buckansticke (tree trunk) west on Buckanmer’ (Bucca’s pool-possibly on Frognam Down, Lambourn Corner) to þan Ruancrundele (Rough chalkpit) þanon mide ward Burnestowe (?bathing place) to þan stone þanen west endlangsmalweyes (along the narrow way) on þare crundel (chalkpit) bi est þa Ertheburgh’ (east of the earthwork - though this may be an error for ‘west’) and so north on rizt to Hordenstone, þane to elden berwe (old barrow)and so endlangdiches (along the ditch) north to þan Whytestone, þan to Stanberwe (stone barrow) þare, þanen to þe litel berwe (little tumulus) þanen endelangmeres (along the boundary) to Middildych (middleditch) þanen north to rizt weye on þan ston on midderiztweyes (north to the Ridge way to the stone in the middle of the Ridge way) an so to Loppancomb’ (the upper part of Loppa’s valley) þar, forth endlangfurth (furrow) on rizt to Merewelle (boundary stream-just north of Icknield way) endlangstremes to Folanruwers (uncertain) over þan ridde (possibly ‘clearing’) to þan stone whytoute þar Irwelond’ (stone outside the ploughed land) þar forth to þan beche (stream valley) þan to Piwanmer’ (uncertain) of Piwanmer on Lippanstubbe (Lippa’s tree stump) þar on Kinggesdych (King’s Ditch) endlangdych to Melanbrok’ (mill stream-probably the mylen broc flowing through Shrivenham) of Melanbrok’ on Lortanbrock (Lorta’s brook, probably connected with Lertwell) þanen on Lortanberwe (Lorta’s hill or tumulus), so up endlangfurtz (along the furrow) to Mereberwe (boundary hill or tumulus), þanen out to þan wydem yate (wide gate) of þan zate to þan horestonford (boundary stone ) to Rammesbury (raven’s camp-likely to be on Weathercock Hill) yate, of Rammesbury so forth endlangweyes to Buckanstick’.

(This is adapted from Margaret Gelling’s description in The Place Names of Berkshire.)

My interpretation of  the estate is that it starts near Lambourn Corner, south of Ashdown House, on the Ashbury to Lambourn B road. I visualise it running along the footpath that heads west towards Botley Copse before turning north and running up to the Ridgeway passing Alfred's Castle on the right. Crossing the Ridgeway it comes down to the Roman road, crosses that too and turns east at Lertwell, where there is the "pest house." It skirts the northern edge of the village of Ashbury, running along the King's Ditch which I think is the point where the modern road turns sharp right as you drive north out of Ashbury towards Shrivenham. By the mill on the Melanbrook in what is now Kingston Winslow it turns south again and heads  back up to the Ridgeway, continuing south along the top of Weathercock Hill and back to the tree trunk at Lambourn Corner. I'd be thrilled to hear from anyone local who has their own interpretation of where the boundary might run.

This description places "Rammesbury" the "Raven's Fort" where King Alfred's Battle of Ashdown was said to have taken place in 871AD at Weathercock Hill, where there are still ravens to this day.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Open for Visitors!

Today I had the thrilling experience of taking the scaffolding tour to see the conservation work that is taking place on Ashdown House. I urge everyone (assuming that you are not on another continent or afraid of heights!) to come to Ashdown and take this tour while you can because it is an amazing experience! The tour first ascends three flights to look at the replacement of the chalk stone blocks on the walls. Visitors are then taken up to the viewing platform above the roof. At this stage you are four storeys up and on a level with Ashdown's flat roof and cupola, the top of which is currently suspended to allow work on it to take place. This part of the tour has a lot of "wow" factor! From here you can see the replacement of the Cotswold slate roof, the work that is taking place on the flat roof and the cupola, and the massive leaning chimneys of Ashdown. You can also look out through specially appointed "windows" to view the surrounding countryside.

The house itself is also open, albeit without our fine portrait collection whilst the conservation work is ongoing. Tours of the house and gardens will be taking place as well as the scaffolding tour, and the Information Centre has a new display.

Practical arrangements: Ashdown House is open on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons from 2pm to 5pm. First opening day is Wednesday 4th April. The woodlands are open every day except Fridays. Scaffolding tours take place on Wednesdays only, the first tour starting at 2.15pm. Places are limited, so please be prompt. For safety reasons no under 18s can take the scaffolding tour and no people in inappropriate footwear. Sensible shoes and boots, please!

We hope that you enjoy visiting the house and seeing it not only in its 350th anniversary year but at a time in its history when so much exciting work is taking place.