Friday, 24 June 2011

Canons Ashby House, Daventry - Posting 3 - Books, Textiles, Graffiti and Poaching Guns.

Canons Ashby isn't the most exciting or interesting of the National Properties I've seen lately, but it has a warmth to it. It's not dripping in expensive pictures or porcelain, but it has an interesting history and pleasant gardens.  The restaurant is also good, being cheap compared to other NT properties in the area, and much nicer. Two courses for £7.50 (chicken pie and veg, fruit crumble and cream)

The Book Room.  This room was constructed in about 1590 by Erasmus Dryden. It wasn't always used as a book room, being a parlour and a billiard room in the past.

Henry Dryden had the oak bookcases made in the 1840's.  Most of the important books from the Book Room were sold early in the 20th century, including a celebrated copy of the First Folio of Shakespeare, which was recently re-sold in New York for £4.2 million.

The room guide told us that the NT have started to collect appropriate books again, including some of the works of John Dryden, the poet laureate, who was related to this family of Drydens. He visited apparently but never lived here.
 Not amongst the most spectacular of my "bed collection" but a pretty one nonetheless.
 Close up of the embroidered bed spread, above.
The plaster ceiling in this room has a small painted panel. There is no evidence that the rest of the ceiling was painted anything other than white.

You can see that the fireplace above, has 2 iron rods in it. This is to support the weight of the the fireplace above it and also a bit of the ceiling.

The whole room was apparently moving into the garden and the external walls were in the lead on the journey, being 18 inches out of true, before the NT stepped in to rescue it. The ceiling has a wooden frame underneath, from which the plaster work hangs. They've had to build internal scaffolding behind the walls and above the ceiling. You can't see any of it of course, and it seems to have done the trick.
 Close up of the painting on the fireplace. At one point the entire thing was painted white, which suited the room to be honest, but it has been stripped back very carefully to reveal the original colours.
 Another, not too grand, bed for the collection.
 Opposite the above bed, the NT have done work to recover the original medieval paintwork.

The top pictures are scenes from the bible, but with clothing and landscapes from the area at the time of painting.

The biblical scenes are done in grey, and where you can see a white outline, this was originally thick black lines. The paint has fallen off to reveal the plasterwork.

I thought the donkeys ears were a little large, but what do I know??!

Not medieval graffiti, but definitely graffiti probably left by builders just a little later. When this door way was plastered over and a new one put in, someone couldn't resist leaving their mark.
 The tapestry behind the bed. I took this photo as I was interested in the colours of the tapestry which remain quite vibrant compared to others in the house, and I also liked the way the leaves had been done.  I can see this being inspiration for some future trees!
Finally, a poaching gun.The spike on the bottom was where the gun was fixed to a fence post.  It allowed it to rotate freely. Trip wires were fixed around it, so that when an unsuspecting poacher tripped over the wire, the gun swung towards him and fired.

Nothing was said about how successful it was.


  1. Hello, Just discovered your blog a couple of days ago and love that you have chosen to create a blog based on your visits to historic houses/places within the U.K. I do hope you will continue to share your travels on this blog. I really love getting a close up and eclectic , personal view and commentary of these fascinating places. Some I have visited myself (years ago now) but so enjoy re-visiting and seeing them through another persons eyes as well as discovering new places. Will continue to stop by to see where your latest explorations have taken you. Thank you again for sharing these lovely old places.

  2. Nice to hear from you Valkrye, and thanks for your encouraging comment. Lots more to come I hope.

  3. Me too! Will stop by to see your latest posts. Happy and Inspirational Exploring!