An 1829 engraving of the east facade from "Neale's Views of Seats"
An 1829 engraving of the north facade from "Neale's Views of Seats"
An 1829 engraving of the south facade from "Neale's Views of Seats"
The north facade from a circa 1911 postcard
The clock tower and chapel from a circa 1912 postcard
The house today
An 1829 engraving of the grand staircase from "Neale's Views of Seats"
The garden today
Earlier Houses: Ashridge Priory, founded in 1276 by the Earl of Cornwall (and incorporating a college of Bonhommes), was originally on the site on the current house. The abbey became a royal residence in 1539 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries and was largely pulled down in 1802 by the 7th Earl of Bridgewater when he built the current house (which very likely incorporates 13th century fragments).
Built / Designed For: 7th Earl of Bridgewater
House & Family History: As a princess, Queen Elizabeth I was left the Ashridge Estate in the will of her father, Henry VIII. She was later arrested here on the order of her sister, Mary I, and taken from Ashridge to imprisonment in the Tower of London. In 1575, as queen, Elizabeth sold Ashridge; it became the seat of the Egerton family in 1604. The current ashlar house, complete with a castellated parapet, was designed by James Wyatt for the 7th Earl of Bridgewater, who had the earlier house mostly demolished. Wyatt was commissioned by the earl in 1803, produced his first designs in 1807, and worked on the house until his death in 1813. Ashridge is Wyatt's largest extant Gothic Revival style house, with almost a quarter mile of spires and towers. After the death of Wyatt, his nephew, Jeffry Wyatt (later Wyatville), completed the work at Ashridge, adding the entrance porch, the tall entrance hall windows, the square staircase tower, and the east wing. In 1921 the estate was split-up, with the vast majority of the land passing into the ownership of the National Trust; in 1929 the house and garden became Bonar Law College. The college was founded by the Conservative Party to develop its intellectual forces in struggles with left wing organizations like the Fabian Society. During World War II Ashridge was used as a secondary site for Charing Cross Hospital; after the war the college was briefly re-launched, then a finishing school for girls was added, and finally, in 1959, Ashridge was completely reconstituted as Ashridge Management College, then Ashridge Business School; today it serves as Hult Ashridge Executive Education, part of Boston-based Hult International Business School. The staircase tower is noted for its statues by Sir Richard Westmacott.
Collections: The Christopher Tower Collection is today at Ashridge (it was formerly at Weald Hall, Middlesex). The collection includes portraits of eight generations of the Tower family, from circa 1700 to 1950, with works by Dahl, Vanderbank, Verelst, Beechey, Holl, Shannon, and Gunn. In addition, there are also paintings by Domenico Pellegrini, Cosway, and Reynolds's "A Child Asleep," the latter from the collection of Sir Abraham Hume, Bt. There is also a fine collection of miniatures, with pieces by Crosse, Zincke, and Cosway at Ashridge.
Comments: "A pleasanter place than Ashridge is hard where to find." -John Skelton, court poet to Henry VIII
Garden & Outbuildings: The house is set in 150 acres and surrounded by National Trust woodland (much of the former estate belongs to the trust and comprises 20 square kilometers [5,000 acres] of woodlands, commons, and chalk downland).
Chapel & Church: The 1817 chapel has very fine 14th century carved wooden doors in the lobby. The chapel was noted for its 16th century stained glass windows from Stainfeld, Germany (today in the collection the Victoria & Albert Museum).
Architect: Lancelot BrownDate: Circa 1777
Architect: Matthew Digby WyattDate: 1855-63
Architect: Jeffry Wyatville (Wyattville) (Wyatt)Date: 1814-17
John Bernard (J.B.) Burke, published under the title of A Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, among other titles: Vol. I, p. 145, 1852.
John Preston (J.P.) Neale, published under the title of Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, among other titles: 2.S. Vol. V, 1829.
Country Life: L, 160, 192, 1921.
Title: Great Drawings from the Collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects
Author: Harris, John; Lever, Jill; Richardson, Margaret
Year Published: NA
Reference: pg. 73
Publisher: London: Trefoil Books
Book Type: Hardback
Title: British Art Journal, The
Year Published: NA
Reference: Vol. IV, No. 3, pg. 107
Publisher: London: The British Art Journal
Book Type: Magazine
Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
Author: Colvin, Howard
Year Published: 1995
Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
Book Type: Softback
Title: William Beckford: Composing for Mozart
Author: Mowl, Timothy
Year Published: 1998
Publisher: London: John Murray
Book Type: Hardback
House Listed: Grade I
Park Listed: Grade II*
Past Seat / Home of: SEATED AT EARLIER HOUSE; Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I), 16th century. SEATED AT CURRENT HOUSE: John William Egerton, 7th Earl of Bridgewater, 1812-23; Charlotte Catherine Anne Egerton, Countess of Bridgewater, 1823-49; Egerton family (dukes and earls of Bridgewater), here from 1604 until 1849. Lady Marion Alford, 19th century. Adelbert Wellington Brownlow Home-Cust, 3rd Earl Brownlow, 20th century.
Current Ownership Type: School
Primary Current Ownership Use: School
Ownership Details: Today Hult Ashridge Executive Education; most of the estate is owned by the National Trust.
House Open to Public: By Appointment
Historic Houses Member: Yes