First open day in six years for Ashburnham Place

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THIS May Bank Holiday the 220 acre grounds and gardens of Ashburnham Place will be opened up to the public in what will be the first open day for six years.

These gardens, along with the house itself, have a fascinating history which has been preserved and enriched by the Ashburnham Christian Trust which has managed the estate for the past 52 years.

First recorded in Domesday Book, the estate grew from strength to strength under the stewardship of the Ashburnham family, who rose to the rank of Earl in 1730.

However in 1953, with the death of Lady Catherine Ashburnham, the family line came to an end and the estate passed to a young theology student, John Bickersteth.

Seven years later the Revd John Bickersteth, gave the house and 220 acres of the surrounding grounds and gardens to the newly-formed Ashburnham Christian Trust.

The purpose of the new Trust was to promote the study of the Bible and the training of lay people in the principles of the Christian faith.

The grounds and gardens owe much to the 2nd Earl of Ashburnham, who in 1767 commissioned the world-famous landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to redesign the park and gardens. Much of Brown’s work survives today, including the chain of three lakes, walled kitchen garden, orangery and the planting structure.

The Ashburnham Park is registered Grade II on the Register of Parks & Gardens of Special Historic Interest and a considerable area of the lakes and woodland has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest by English Nature.

The open day will give the public a chance to experience for themselves the beauty of these grounds and gardens.

Rhod Jones, grounds manager, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming many visitors on Bank Holiday Monday. Despite the weather, we have been blessed with beautiful late spring flower displays. We are hoping to open up the grounds on a more regular basis in the future, alongside opening a tearoom in the orangery and increasing production from the walled kitchen garden.”

The trust recently entered a new chapter in it’s history under the leadership of Andy Proudfoot and Paul Wenham who came to the Trust as joint general directors last year.

Andy previously worked as a director of a social enterprise and Paul was CEO of a successful homeless charity.

Paul and Andy said: “We feel privileged and a sense of faith-filled responsibility to steward Ashburnham Place excellently.

“This has been a significant place of rest and refreshment for people from all walks of life for many years, we are determined that this continues and indeed increases for many years to come.”

The open day is on May 6, 1-5pm. Admission £3, children free. Cream teas will be available and there will be a plant sale. Wheelchair friendly, no dogs allowed.