Ashridge

From Academic Kids

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View from the top of the monument to the house

Ashridge is an estate and house in Hertfordshire, England; part of the land stretches into Buckinghamshire and it is close to the Bedfordshire border. It is situated in the Chiltern Hills, an area of natural beauty, about two miles north of Berkhamsted and twenty miles north west of London. Surrounding villages include Aldbury, Pitstone, Ivinghoe, Little Gaddesden, Nettleden, and Potten End.

From mediaeval times it was the location of an abbey founded in 1283 by the Earl of Cornwall, who had a palace here. The order was known as the Bonhommes, or 'bluefriars' on account of the colour of their robes.

At the foundation of the abbey the Earl of Cornwall donated, among other things, a phiall of Christ's blood, in honour of which the convent adjacent to the abbey was founded. This deposit proved fruitful for the abbey and convent, as pilgrims from all over Europe flocked to worship the phiall of blood. The abbey grew quite wealthy as a result.

One such visitor was King Edward I. In 1290 he held parliament at the abbey while he spent Christmas in Pitstone. However in 1538 the 'blood' was publicly proven to be nothing more than honey with colouring added. The building ceased to be used as an abbey shortly afterwards.

The abbey then became the private residence of Princess Elizabeth, younger daughter of King Henry VIII. It was here that she was arrested in 1552, under suspicion of treason.

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The momument

From 1604 to 1848 the estate was the property of the Dukes and Earls of Bridgewater (the Egerton family). The Bridgewater Monument was built in memory of the 3rd Duke, Francis Egerton, the "father of inland navigation" with a view to the Grand Union Canal. The momument contains a narrow spiral staircase of 170 steps and is open to the public.

The abbey, which was of grand proportions and richly decorated, was pulled down in 1802 by the 7th Earl of Bridgewater, and was replaced by a large neo-Gothic house designed by James Wyatt and now a Grade 1 listed building. The then boundary between Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire passed through the dining room, though the house is now entirely in Hertfordshire. The estate then passed to the Earls Brownlow, and then in 1921 was split, with the land passing to the National Trust, while the house became the Ashridge (Bonar Law) College.

Ashridge College was opened in 1929 to help the Conservative Party develop its intellectual forces in struggles with left-wing organisations such as the Fabian Society. It became a cross between a think-tank and a training centre. However, formal links with the Conservatives weakened, and in 1954 it was relaunced to provide management training, and is now Ashridge Business School.

Ashridge Common has featured many times in film and television series due to its distinction as an area of natural beauty. It was the location very recently for the film Danny the Champion of the World based on the book by Roald Dahl.

Part of the estate became Ashridge Golf Club in 1932, and had Henry Cotton as its resident Club Professional in the late 1930s, including his most successful year 1937.

It should not be confused with Asheridge, which is a hamlet about 5 miles south-west, the other side of Berkhamsted.

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