Books on Hertfordshire

A Prospect of Ashridge

by Douglas Coult

Phillimore, 1989

EVEN CENTURIES of continuous occupation may not be suggested by the first sight of James Wyatt's mansion at Ashridge. Nor is there much sign among the peaceful college buildings of today of the varied and eventful occupancies that have added human interest and sometimes brought the main stream of national history to this delightful site on the edge of the Hertfordshire Chilterns. founded as the College of Bonhommes, an order of Augustinian canons, in 1283, Ashridge is again a College today, housing the world-renowned Management College, so that after 700 years the wheel has turned full circle.

1 A Modern College - 1
2 The College of Bonhommes: A New Order is Born 21
3 The Foundation of a College - 35
4 The Cloistered Life 42
5 Change and Achievement 48
6 Decline and Fall 58
7 The Young Tudors and Ashridge - 74
8 The Lord Chancellor 102
9 The Earls of Bridgewater (1617-1701) - 113
10 The Dukes of Bridgewater (1701-1748)- 132
11 The Canal Duke 139
12 Brotherly Discord - 162
13 Grace Abounding - 194
14 Change of Guardianship 212
15 The Mansion and Gardens 219
Appendices: - 236
             Election of a Rector, 1529  
             The Owners of Ashridge, 1604-1921  
             A Note on Crests  
  Notes and References 242
  Index 255

After the monastic period, Henry III used Ashridge as an occasional residence for his children, when it provided a backcloth to the uncertainties of their upbringing. The property passed to the Princess Elizabeth at her father's death and during Mary's reign must have been the scene of both drama and danger. After its period as a royal residence the Egerton family (Earls and Dukes of Bridgewater) lived at Ashridge for several generations, among them Sir Thomas, Lord Chancellor to James I, the 3rd Duke, known as 'the Canal Duke', and the 7th Earl, who replaced the crumbling monastic buildings with the present fabric. The latter's controversial will led to the estate passing to the earls Brownlow. Later, under the 3rd Earl and his beautiful Countess, Adelaide, Ashridge achieved an elegance of great distinction. After more than three centuries as a home, the estate was sold in the 1920s and became an educational foundation, first as Bonar Law College and then as the present Man­ agement College.

This vivid and readable account is the first full-length study of the estate for over 150 years; and through his extensive use of contemporary records and some new archival material the author's prospect of Ashridge has become more than purely local history. Personalities are brought to life against the background of the building in a way that will appeal to a wide circle of readers. A piece of Chiltern history that often touches on national affairs, this work will be welcomed by many who know and use the Ashridge of today. [From the dust cover]

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