A brief history of the Ashridge Estate

Ivinghoe Beacon with a view through the hills Ashridge Estate

From Iron Age farms, Roman settlements and a royal park, to Capability Brown and two World Wars the Ashridge Estate, on the Hertfordshire-Buckinghamshire border, is brimming with history.

Ancient sites

The Ashridge Estate is littered with ancient monuments, the most prominent of which is the hill fort at Ivinghoe Beacon, which once guarded the area against attack.
Bonfires are still lit on the beacon for special celebrations such as the Millennium and Royal Jubilees.

Monastic Foundations

Ashridge began life as a monastery founded by Edmund of Cornwall, nephew of Henry III, in 1283 to house a holy relic. The monks were known as Bonhommes or blue friars because of the colour of their robes.

During the 13th century a deer park was established with the ancestors of the Fallow deer that still roam the estate today.

Royalty at Ashridge

Ashridge House was popular with Royalty from 1290 when Edward I held a parliament in the monastery. After the dissolution of the monasteries Ashridge became the property of Henry VIII and his children.

The Egertons

Thomas Egerton, chancellor to Elizabeth I, bought the estate in 1604. He added domestic wings to the ancient monastic buildings.

The Capability Brown connection

The Ashridge Estate has been adapted by its many owners over its history. Around 1760 Capability Brown, a famous landscape architect, worked on Ashridge's parkland creating the Golden Valley. His work was continued 50 years later during another phase of redevelopment by one of his students, Humphrey Repton.

The Canal Duke

The third duke established the name in connection with waterways establishing the first canal in Britain to serve his industrial interests in the Mancester area. He became known as the 'Canal Duke' and the Bridgewater Monument was built in his memory.

The Brownlows

The Ashridge Estate passed sideways though inheritance to the Brownlow family in the 19th century. Under the third Earl Brownlow the estate developed and many famous people stayed at Ashridge House.

Ashridge in wartime

During both World Wars the house was used to train and billet troops. In the Second World War it became a convalescent home for St Albans Hospital.