Report on Canons Ashby visit

12 September 2015

SIG: Archaeology and Heritage

Canons Ashby in Northamptonshire is essentially a country house, a church and a farm. The former village was severely depopulated during the Black Death in the 14th century, and eventually disappeared under the sheep pastures of the nearby Priory. Following the dissolution of the monasteries, the country house was built in the 16th century using stone from the priory, and part of the priory church became a parish church. And so it has remained.

Group members at work in The Bookroom by Dave Miller

 

The manor house slowly developed under generations of the Dryden family, but since the early 18th century has remained largely unaltered. Its Victorian owner looked after it but protected it from change. By the late 20th century the ravages of time threatened the very structure, and eventually the National Trust took it under their wing. With the emphasis on stabilising the structure and preserving largely as found, it has an almost timeless atmosphere.

House from Garden by Mike Sasse

 

Around 11 participants enjoyed a fascinating morning of photography. The house was closed to the public on this day, and members were free to photograph with minimal restrictions under the helpful eye of our two expert National Trust guides. Entrance to the house was through a courtyard, and the aspect was very much that of a mediaeval house. Once inside, the party was split into two, and each group spent around two hours moving round all the rooms. Grandeur came in the form of the Drawing Room with its elaborate late 16th century chimneypiece and Jacobean plaster ceiling, the Tapestry Room and the Dining Room. Our guides were helpful to the photographers, who in turn ensured that some images of particular interest to the National Trust were obtained, so hopefully everyone benefitted.

Four Posters by Dave Miller

The Library by Dave Miller

 

Elsewhere it was the less grand rooms, and the pervading sense of antiquity which drew photographers. The kitchen, with the range and stone floors, was a popular subject, and the servant’s hall, with its late 16th century walnut panelling and display of pewter, was a particularly good example of the authentic ‘lived-in’ feel of this house. A replica 19th century darkroom reminded us that the daughter of the Victorian owner was an accomplished photographer, and we were able to see some of her images of the house.

House from Courtyard by Mike Sasse

Kitchen by Mike Sasse

 

The grounds being open to the public, the party was able to meet up for food and refreshment outside the cafeteria, where there was much discussion of the morning’s photography and about photography in general. After lunch the party was free to roam the restored 18th century gardens with their herbaceous borders, topiary, and views of the house, and to visit the nearby church. Formed from just the western portion of the priory church’s nave, there were several monuments to the Dryden family who live in part of the house to the present day.

Main Bedroom by Dave Miller

Servants Bedroom by Dave Miller

Sitting Room by Dave Miller

 

It was a real pleasure to meet and photograph with a range of members in such an atmospheric house, and the encouraging support for this foray into the Midland counties augurs well for future ventures.

 

Article by Mike Sasse, photos by Mike Sasse and Dave Miller as indicated.

You can visit more galleries with photos from Canons Ashby House: Dave Miller here and Keith Evans FRPS here