A family home for 400 years

South front of Canons Ashby House

In the 16th century, Cumbrian John Dryden was given the estate by his father-in-law. Using masonry from the fallen priory buildings, he first built a Tower House - something rarely found in this part of the country.

His son Erasmus subsequently extended to join with Wylkyn’s farmhouse, an existing timber framed building, to create an H-shaped mansion house with the Pebble Court in the centre. Erasmus also commissioned the spectacular murals hidden for centuries until the National Trust restoration in the 1980s.

A painted mural depicting a scene from the story of Jeroboam in the First Book of Kings. Painted for Sir Erasmus Dryden between 1585 and 1632
A grey faded and damaged wall painting depicting a rider on a horse or mule, a rider on the floor beside a horse or mule and a lion. The details are hard to see.
A painted mural depicting a scene from the story of Jeroboam in the First Book of Kings. Painted for Sir Erasmus Dryden between 1585 and 1632



In the 18th century Edward Dryden made significant changes to the south façade by facing it with dressed stone and replacing the stone mullioned bay windows with fashionable sash.

Inside, Edward modernised the interior to create a Palladian ideal. He commissioned his cousin, Elizabeth Creed, to produce the decoration scheme in the Painted Parlour.

Edward’s uncle was the most famous member of the family. John Dryden (1631-1700) was the first Poet Laureate in 1668. His immense creative output included political satire and some of the finest classic translations.

Sir Henry Dryden inherited Canons Ashby in 1837 at 19 years old. Known as ‘the Antiquary’, he was passionately interested in architecture and history, especially that of his own family and estate, recording everything he could. He cared for Canons Ashby for most of the Victorian era. His daughter Alice took plenty of pictures at the turn of the century, so we have fantastic evidence of what the site was like over 100 years ago.

Alice Dryden and her parents, Sir Henry Dryden and Frances Dryden, under the cedar tree
Three people in turn of the 19th-20th century dress, posing for a photo on a bench in the garden
Alice Dryden and her parents, Sir Henry Dryden and Frances Dryden, under the cedar tree



Canons Ashby declined through the 20th Century and was let to various different tenants. One, Louis Osman, created the Prince of Wales’ investiture coronet, as well as many other beautiful items at Canons Ashby.

The estate was given to the National Trust in 1981, when there was extensive work to rescue parts of the building which were close to collapse, and to stabilise it for the future. With your support, we are continuing to care for it so it can be enjoyed by many future explorers.