National Trust Heritage Records Online


Canons Ashby House

Record ID:  60600 / MNA113347
Record type:  Building
Protected Status: Scheduled Monument, Listed Building: Grade I, Registered Park or Garden
NT Property:  Canons Ashby; Midlands
Civil Parish:  Canons Ashby; Daventry; Northamptonshire
Grid Reference:  SP 5772 5064
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Canons Ashby House originated as a pre mid-16th century farmhouse which was expanded and modernised by John Dryden in the period 1551-1584, resulting in an H-plan house with tower. This formed the basis for later developments which expanded the structure into a courtyard plan form.

Identification Images (0)

Monument Types

  • COUNTRY HOUSE (Early 16th C to Early 18th C - 1501 AD to 1732 AD)


(1) Country house of mid-16th century date, with earlier origins. Extended c.1590, and embellished c.1632. The south front was remodelled and other alterations made 1708-10. Constructed of coursed ironstone rubble, ironstone ashlar, brick, limestone dressings, tile roofs, stacks mostly brick, some stone. H-plan, extended to courtyard plan. Inside there is spectacular Jacobean plasterwork and overmantel in Drawing Room, former 'Great Chamber'. C16 painted decoration in studio and Spencer Room, early C18 Painted Parlour. Evidence of open roof to hall in rooms to side of Brown Gallery and possible Long Gallery in top storey of north range. The house has been the Seat of the Drydens since the mid-16th century and was given to the National Trust in 1981 (listing description, last amended in 1987).

(2) Large scale restoration undertaken between 1980 and 1983 after the Trust had been given the house and garden and the nearby church. A number of architectural fragments from the old priory (of which the church is the only standing remains) were incorporated in the mansion house built by the Drydens on the site of earlier buildings. These include a late C15 doorcase and the curious oeil-de-boenf immediately to the left of it. Other early features include the gatehouse range formed by adapting an existing outbuilding on the site which still incorporates an early cruck beam (At one time there was an opening from the kitchen into the curious double arched recess which can be seen from the roadside on the north front of the house where food was apparently left for passing wayfarers. During the restoration work on the tower a C16 gardrobe and flue were discovered (National Trust 1984 - SZE944).

(3) The Dryden family acquired property in Ashby sometime in the mid C16th, and in the 1573 deed Dryden’s House is described as “the late mansion house… commonly called “Wylkyns Farme”. If this does indeed relate to the present house, then it lies on the site of merely one of a number of farms which existed in the village at dissolution, for in 1536 Robert Wilkyns was merely one of a number of tenants in the village holding property from the prior. Hence the present hall would seem to have relatively humble origins. The Drydens leased much of the manor from the Copes during the C16th, and in 1573 held freely a certain property including barns and yard which lay between the priory and Wilkyns’ house, as well as a strip of land 30yds wide taken out of Shrubby Close and lying against the Schego Close, which may perhaps represent the lower part of the terraced garden extending south west from the house. (Typescript Report Foard G.D - SZE6443)

A continuation or revival of the monastic tradition of hospitality, the house lies close to the old Oxford road, now Oxford Lane (pers comm Beamish, H. 1987 - SZE2998).

(4) Sir John Cope’s daughter Elizabeth married John Dryden in 1551, and the newlyweds leased land from Cope over the road at ‘Wylkyns Farme’, the site of the current house. The early development of Canons Ashby house is not fully understood, but it is thought that following Cope’s death in 1557, the Drydens inherited land at Canons Ashby and set about enlarging and embellishing the house at Wylkyns Farme to become their new home. It seems they gradually extended the L-shaped farmhouse (the present entrance range) in a clockwise direction, first adding the staircase tower and the south-west block (now containing the Dining and Tapestry Rooms), and then the Hall and Kitchen in around 1580, to make a typical H-plan Elizabethan house. John Dryden died in 1584 and his son, Sir Erasmus Dryden, built the final north range to enclose the Pebble Court in the 1590s (SNA66791).

(5) During October and December 2017 the Northampton office of the Museum of London Archaeology Service (MOLA) undertook a comprehensive historic building survey of Canons Ashby House. This revealed a multiphased and complicated sequence of development and alteration from the mid 16th to the 19th century. The house originated as a pre mid-16th century farmhouse which was expanded and modernised by John Dryden in the period 1551-1584, resulting in an H-plan house with tower. This formed the basis for later developments which expanded the structure into a courtyard plan form. Later developments, particularly in c.1710, altered floor levels, room layout and access, fenestration, and overall aesthetics and decoration. For further detail please see the final report (ENA9195 / SNA67792).


  • SNA66791 - Report: Cookson & Tickner. 2013. Canons Ashby Parkland Plan. p.7.

  • SNA67332 - Document: David Adams. 1997. Canons Ashby House: The home of the Drydens..

  • SNA67792 - Report: MOLA. 2018. Historic Building Recording at Canons Ashby House.

  • SNA68747 - National Trust Report: Rachael Hall. 2020. Archaeological monitoring of work associated with the repair of a leaking water pipe, Canons Ashby.

  • SZE291 - Article in serial: J Bain. Original Documents relative to Canons Ashby. 36.

  • SZE2998 - Unpublished document: National Trust, Harry Beamish. 1987. Archaeological Survey: Canons Ashby. 1 of 1.

  • SZE3254 - Article in serial: Anon. 1981. Country Life 169, April 9th.

  • SZE3519 - Monograph: Nikolaus Pevsner. 1973. Northamptonshire.

  • SZE4915 - Article in serial: Anon. 1981. Country Life 169, April 16.

  • SZE5446 - Unpublished document: R S Melville, J F Bucknall. 1980. Canons Ashby (Architects Report).

  • SZE6443 - Unpublished document: G R Foard. 1982. Canons Ashby, Type script Report for the NT by Northamptonshire.

  • SZE697 - Article in serial: Anon. 1904. Article in Country Life 16.

  • SZE8242 - Article in serial: Anon. 1921. Country Life 49.

  • SZE944 - Monograph: National Trust. 1984. National Trust Guidebook Canons Ashby.


Other Statuses and References

  • Conservation Area
  • HER/SMR Reference (External): 023/0
  • HER/SMR Reference (External): 600/5-MNN8433
  • National Monuments Record Reference: SP55SE1

Associated Events

  • ENA4154 - Archaeological Intervention, Watching Brief at Canons Ashby House, Canons Ashby
  • ENA7795 - Field Survey, Archaeological Walk Over Survey Canons Ashby 1987
  • ENA8291 - Heritage Assessment, Parkland Plan of Canons Ashby
  • ENA9195 - Field Survey, Historic Building Recording at Canons Ashby House, Northamptonshire
  • ENA9779 - Non Archaeological Intervention, Archaeological monitoring of work to repair a leaking pipe adjacent to Canons Ashby House

Associated Finds

None Recorded

Related Records

None Recorded