Ashdown Park was the residence of the Earls of Craven. It is said that, in 1662, the first Earl of Craven was fleeing the plague in London on a lone stallion, when he arrived, exhausted, at his little used Berkshire estates. It was on this beautiful spot on the Berkshire Downs that his weary steed halted and here the Earl decided to build himself a house for his love, the Queen of Bohemia, as a country refuge from the plague which was on the increase in London. Construction began, probably by William Winde, soon afterward but, unfortunately, the lady died that same same year. The house is a very tall town-house-like structure built in the new style of Sir Roger Pratt with large windows, dormers, roof balustrade and cupola. The two low pavilions behind it are not attached. Pratt had designed the magnificent Coleshill House, not far away (but unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1952).
Ashdown became a hunting lodge in a large deer park, conveniently near the childless Earl's main country residence at Hamstead Marshall Park. It was inherited by his cousin's family who became Barons Craven, but has changed little over the centuries. They allowed Viscount Bolingbroke to live there after his disgrace and it was partly at Ashdown that he intrigued with the Jacobites in his attempt to prevent the succession of the House of Hanover to the English Throne. Later, the 6th Baron's widow, the notorious Margravine of Anspach and her new husband lived there upon their initial return to England in the 1790s. She wrote several plays and operas in the house. The Cravens were rarely in residence during the Victorian era, although the 4th Earl did die in the house in 1883. They added a new entrance hall, but this only lasted about a hundred years.
The place was used by the army during Second World War and was then left derelict until 1956 when it was given to the National Trust. It is rented out to tenants but the grounds are open to the public and there are tours of the staircase - hung with the Craven portraits from their Midlands home, Coombe Abbey - and up to the roof.
Ashdown Park is owned by the National Trust and is open to the public on specific days during the Summer months.
|© Nash Ford Publishing 2002. All Rights Reserved. The location of this country house is now administered by Oxfordshire County Council.|