An achievement in conservation

The Funerary Achievement getting wrapped in tissue paper

In 2016 we embarked on a project to conserve the fragile funerary achievement displayed in the Priory Church.

For over thirty years these unusual ceremonial garments have hung in the Priory Church, as a testament to the noble gesture of gratitude from Edward to Sir Robert. They are an extraordinarily rare survival and one of very few complete sets, including a flag, pennants, helmet, tabard, sword, spurs, gauntlets and shield.

What are they?

The tale of the funerary achievement begins in 1708, when the trendy Edward Dryden unexpectedly inherited the Canons Ashby estate from his uncle, Sir Robert Dryden, who passed away without a direct heir.

Edward was so honoured by this gift, that he gave Sir Robert an enormous funeral full of pomp and circumstance. The bier (also known as catafalque) used to carry Sir Robert’s coffin was so large that stones had to be removed from the church door in order to get it inside.

The funerary achievement is an extremely rare survival
The funerary achievement in the Priory Church
The funerary achievement is an extremely rare survival

Unusually Edward also created a funerary achievement for Robert, comprising of the gear a knight would have needed in battle. These items were purely for show, and we have no record of Sir Robert ever engaging in battle during his life. Even at the time of the funeral, the inclusion of the achievement would have been considered an archaic and old-fashioned practice.

Over the last 300 years the textile parts of the achievement have become extremely fragile and in need of intense conservation. Follow our progress as we reach each milestone, and find out how you can make a difference.

Latest updates

06 Jul 16

Hanging the replicas

To produce the replicas we partnered with a local specialist, who printed high quality photographs on heavy-duty cotton, which was then in turn given a silken sheen to mimic the originals. The replicas will stay in place while we fundraise for fully embroidered facsimiles.

The replica textiles being hung

08 Mar 16

Moving the funerary achievement

The 2015 survey revealed that the textile hangings have sadly deteriorated to the point that they can no longer be safely displayed. As they are such a prominent feature within the Church and Canons Ashby's history, the decision was made to produce faithful replicas of the textile components to hang in the place of the originals. This meant that the textiles needed to be carefully lowered from their hanging place in the Church, in order to be taken to the main house for remedial conservation work.

28 Feb 15

First steps: the initial survey

An initial survey is carried out to assess the condition of the textile elements of the funerary achievement and decide on what conservation needs to be done.

A textile conservators surveys the funerary achievement