Asthall Manor and Gardens
Asthall Manor, overlooking the swans and stumpy willows of the Windrush Valley, dates from the early seventeenth century, but probably occupies a medieval site. Lady Joan Cornwall and her son Sir Edmund Cornwall are believed to have lived in it during the fourteenth century.
The present house – or an earlier version of it – was probably built for the Jones family, who occupied it until the 1670s or 1680s, followed by the Peacock family, and then, from then mid-eighteenth century and for much of the nineteenth, by the Bateman family.
The Manor was a convalescent home during the first world war, and in 1919 it was bought by Lord Redesdale, father of Nancy and the other Mitfords. It was on Asthall Manor, as well as the Redesdales’ other houses, that Nancy’s fictional Alconleigh is based. In 1926, the Manor was sold to the Hardcastle family, who retained it until 1997.
The present symmetrical appearance of the house has resulted from alterations made for the Batemans in the nineteenth century, and for Lord Redesdale in the 1920s. Lord Redesdale also converted the barn into a ballroom/library, with its huge bay window and Jacobean-style ceiling, and built the cloisters to connect this new ballroom and the rooms above it to the main house. The house was slightly reduced in size by the present owner in 1998-9.
A more extensive history of Asthall, written by R.B. Peberdy for the Victoria County History series, can be found at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=117000
The gardens were designed by I & J Bannerman in 1998. Their aim was to allow the garden to flow into the Windrush Valley landscape beyond it. The gardens blend form and freedom, open views and secret spaces. Long tranquil walks bordered with sharp wedges of yew, vast beeches enclosing a hidden lake, orchards sloping down to the mill stream, stone tubs overgrown with roses and a formal box-bordered parterre provide a quintessentially English setting for fine art. Asthall Manor’s entrance is notable for the sculptures by Anthony Turner which adorn its gateposts.