A matter of family

Family History Team Volunteer, Canons Ashby

Nick Hall - Family History Team Volunteer

Volunteering at Canons Ashby is a family matter for Nick Hall.

A mid 20th century family photo

I remember Canons Ashby before it became a National Trust property. It appeared to be sleeping away the decades in the remote fields and lanes of south Northamptonshire, lost in its own past. It was always tantalising to come across the house, an intact Elizabethan leftover, turned in on itself at a bend on the back road from Banbury to Northampton. What was it? Did anyone still live there? What would happen to it?

" Our heritage is about all of us, and being inspired by the stories and lives of those who created Canons Ashby is a great moment to begin looking at ourselves."
- Nick Hall - Family History Team Volunteer

When the Trust opened the house in 1983, my parents were among the first volunteers, and there was the excitement of being part of those early days. No shop, no tearoom, just a field for a car park and a pioneering spirit – the house renewed and open for the first time for many years.

So, thirty years (and much else) later, when I saw an appeal for new volunteers it was obvious what to do! In particular they were looking for Family History Assistants. That sounded unusual and different, and like something I could enjoy contributing to.

I have spent unconscionable amounts of time researching my own family history, and helping other people get started on theirs would be a great way of spending some afternoons (to say nothing of having an excuse to spend more time steeped in Canons Ashby itself!).

" Engaging with visitors makes it more personal and broadens the focus of what we do, to stimulate a wider interest and participation in history for our visitors."
- Nick Hall - Family History Volunteer

Like most other National Trust properties, Canons Ashby has strong family connections, in this case with the Drydens, who have been here since the 16th century. But we all have families and family histories, equally as interesting and diverse as those that happen to be associated with historic houses.

We offer visitors the opportunity to begin looking at their own ancestry, right there and then as they finish their tour of the house. It is endlessly fascinating to discover the sheer variety of backgrounds, origins and history represented in those who visit us.

- Nick Hall, Family History Team Volunteer