The Tower, Canons Ashby



This is an apartment at the top of the 16th-century tower belonging to an important country house, which is now in the care of the National Trust.

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Beds 1 Double

4 nights from
£288 equivalent to £36.00 per person, per night

Part of a 16th-century house hardly touched since 1710

There can be few houses in which every detail, inside and out, is so lovely to look at, but Canons Ashby is one of them. The last time it was altered in any major way was in 1710. After that its intelligent and sensitive owners, the Drydens, matched their tastes and needs to those of their house. Early decoration lives happily with later furniture, all of the greatest charm and interest. In 1980 the house was transferred to the National Trust after a public appeal. We contributed to the restoration fund and offered to pay for the creation and repair of one flat which Landmark guests can enjoy today.

A quiet building has come back to life

We were given the top of the 16th-century tower, where there were formerly two bedrooms reached by a newel stair with solid oak treads. We tidied up these light and pretty rooms, which look down the axis of the beautifully restored gardens, and put a bathroom and kitchen in two adjoining attics. A new dormer window was made to light the kitchen, which is invisible from below but provides an agreeable roofscape to look at from the sink. Meanwhile, the quiet building below has come back to life and is opened to the public by the National Trust, normally from February to October, and to you free of charge, during opening times when you stay here. On the top of the tower you have your own hidden refuge and at the end of the day, when the last visitor has gone, you can enjoy the privilege of an owner and walk in the garden undisturbed.

Floor Plan


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Map & local info

The Tower, with wonderful views over the parkland and countryside beyond, stands in the picturesque formal gardens of the National Trust’s Canons Ashby which you can enjoy undisturbed once the last visitor has left.

There is a wealth of things to do and places to see during your stay at the Tower. 

Silverstone is within driving distance of Canon's Ashby, look out for live music events throughout the year, in addition to track days and bigger events such as the Grand Prix. 

Follow in the footsteps of 18th century tourists and immerse yourself in the stunning landscape at Stowe. With over 40 historical monuments and temples to explore, the sheer scale of the gardens at Stowe offer a wonderful day out whatever the weather. 

Canons Ashby is located close to the Grand Union Canal, and there is plenty to see and do in the local area. 

See items collected on the Grand Tour at Farnborough Hall, along with elegant lakes and landscape gardens surrounding the house itself. 

Shambala Festival is a family friendly festival in the heart of Northamptonshire, with live music performances, art installations, theatre and cabaret and workshops to get involved in. 

Take a look at our Pinterest Map for more information and ideas of things to do during your stay at The Tower. 

Please Note: The Landmark Trust does not take any responsibility and makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about the content of any website accessed by hypertext link. Links should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind. The Landmark Trust has no control over the availability of the linked pages.

Clear directions
Essential info
What you need to know about this building
  • No.
  • Via a driveway from the main road.
  • Banbury – 12 miles.
  • There is parking for one car in the designated parking area in the National Trust car park. It is approximately 250m walk from the car park to the entrance to the property. There are many sets of steps to negotiate between the parking and the house.
  • There are Rointe heaters.
  • To check up-to-date mobile network coverage in the area, visit* Due to the location and structure of many of our buildings, signal strength may differ to those indicated.
    * Links to other sites are provided for information purposes only.  We do not endorse any such websites and we are not responsible for the information, material, products or services contained on or accessible through those websites.  Your access and use of such websites remains solely at your own risk.  For further information, visit our website terms of use.
  • The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc. There is also an electric cooker and a microwave.
  • There is one bathroom with a bath.
  • The stairs are steep, spiral and narrow.
  • There is a roof terrace. You are allowed to use the gardens belonging to Canons Ashby house. Please note the gardens and the house are open to the public all year round.
  • Yes,  but we would ask that care is taken in inclement weather and that children are supervised when on the roof.
Booking and Payment
  • If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will be able to tell you whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to prepare it then we consider that it is open and available for guests. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, depending on what we have available. It may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking. If the building is accessible but the customer cannot travel due to poor weather in his/her local area then please be aware that Landmark will not provide a refund. However the customer may be able to claim on his/her own travel insurance. We recommend that all guests take out travel insurance when they first secure a booking.
  • We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • The key arrangements will be included in the Further Infomation document which will be sent to you prior to your stay.
  • If your stay starts more than two months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy and The Bunk House at Llwyn Celyn must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • Our housekeeper will leave the key in a suitable place, the details of which will be sent to you prior to your stay.
  • It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!
Staying at a Landmark
  • Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries on 01628 825925 if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.  Further information on access when visiting Lundy can also be found here.
  • Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control. A charge of £20 per stay is made for each dog. Please contact booking enquiries if a registered assistance dog is supporting one of the guests, for which there is no charge.
  • Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • Arrival is from 4pm and departure is by 10am.
  • We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s). If you are visiting one of our European properties we have standard European electricity sockets. If you are visiting from the UK, you will need to bring your own adapter plug (s).
  • Landmark’s electrical systems have not been designed to provide continuous power from one socket over several hours.  If an ordinary socket is used to charge an electric vehicle, there is significant risk of an electrical fire and consequent danger to life.  Therefore, we are unable to allow electric vehicle charging from most of our Landmarks at present.

    We are working to provide Type 2 Electric Vehicle charge points at our properties where there is private parking.  Where this is available, please request this facility when booking the property to ensure the outlet is enabled on your arrival.  There is a small charge to cover the cost of electricity provided.  Please book this facility in advance.
  • No, we do not allow smoking in any Landmark.
  • Sometimes our kitchens and bathrooms have to be imaginatively fitted into the available space in buildings where before there were none, but they are all planned and equipped to a high and modern standard.
  • Yes, Landmarks are fully equipped with sheets and towels. All the beds are fully made up for your arrival. Except for the Llwyn Celyn Bunkhouse.
  • Yes, our kitchens are well equipped with cookers and fridges. There are freezers and dishwashers (in larger buildings) and, where space allows, microwaves as well as a wide and standard range of utensils. A full equipment list is available at time of booking.
  • Logs are provided at many of our Landmarks for an additional cost.
  • Mobile coverage varies. Some Landmarks have an excellent signal, but others have none at all. If you are concerned, you can check with the housekeeper before your arrival.
  • No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being.
    Except at Llwyn Celyn Bunk House where a password is available in the property when you arrive.
  • A welcome tray with tea and sugar awaits your arrival and you will find a pint of milk in the fridge. We also provide toilet rolls and a bar of soap per basin, but no other toiletries. Hairdryers are provided.

Do you have other questions?

Our Booking Enquiries team can help with information about each building.

Booking Enquiries
01628 825925
[email protected]

Opening hours
Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm


Elizabethan origins

The tower at Canons Ashby has stood for five centuries. From its Elizabethan origins (c. 1560) to 1981 the tower was in the custody of generations of the Dryden family, many of whom were content to preserve its way of life without disturbing its origins, and others who repaired its structure or remodelled certain aspects. Charles Latham writing for Country Life in the 1900s described Canons Ashby as ‘unmodernised and unsmartened… breath[ing] the spirit of antiquity’.

Thirty years later the Northamptonshire architect and historian John Gotch noted how time seemed to stand still at Canons Ashby; on entering its portals one was immediately transported back two hundred years. The nature of this time-capsule was to prove Canons Ashby’s greatest asset and ironically too its greatest burden. By 1937 the current generation of Drydens were living in Zimbabwe; the house was rented out and rapidly descending into an irreparable state of decay. For many years the National Trust and others had been acutely aware of its dilemma. When the family advertised for a new tenant Gervase Jackson-Stops, the Architectural Advisor to the National Trust, knew the time had come to make a bid to save this unique piece of Elizabethan history, poetically described by Gotch as ‘less than a palace…and more than a manor-house’.

Occasionally in life a synergy of forces comes together fortuitous to a certain situation. So it was at Canons Ashby; when approached by the National Trust the Dryden family generously donated the house, lands and church to the Trust in 1980. The Trust was of course delighted, but similarly aware that without the necessary funds for repairs and endowment they would be unable to accept the gift. The newly established National Heritage Memorial Fund was persuaded to give half its allocation for the entire year (£1.5 million) to this relatively unknown property as the basis of a restoration package. The building rapidly became a cause célèbre amongst country houses. Other donors stepped in: the Landmark Trust, the Department of the Environment and the Historic Buildings Trust. For Landmark this was a new partnership, a joint venture drawn up in 1983 with the National Trust which resulted in Landmark being granted a lease for the tower to use and maintain as a holiday let. John Cornforth writing in Country Life (1981) magnanimously suggested that the £100,000 offered to the National Trust by the Manifold Trust was ‘an act of great generosity as well as a psychological value, because it meant that the Trust would not be approaching other bodies and individuals with a completely empty bowl’.

The task however was immense. The estate was a wilderness of dead trees; the house was riddled with death-watch beetle, unsound roofs, bowing walls and a deeply unstable tower. The southern elevation, divided by the tower, was a particularly serious problem. Rodney Melville of the John Osborne Partnership of Leamington Spa was the appointed architect to the project, with the Linford Building Group, specialists in historic restoration, carrying out the delicate renovation work. Scaffolding had to be erected with incredible care; so fragile was the south wall that the slightest pressure could have brought it down. Later when a chute for the ancient garderobe (a medieval latrine) in the tower was discovered, the intended system of lightweight concrete beams, designed to hold up the tower, had to be radically revised to protect the chute. At peak times a team of over thirty Linford craftsmen worked on the restoration, some completing their apprenticeships within the building period. Canons Ashby opened to the public in April 1984 and was hailed as a restoration triumph setting an important precedent for generations of country houses to come. It was described at the time as ’arguably the most encouraging individual preservation package to have been worked out for a number of years’.

As an object of architectural history the tower holds the secrets of Elizabethan construction techniques and design influences; the first two floors of the tower are timber-framed and predate the upper floors, which are constructed of local stone and brick. The nature of window design during the period can also be seen in the tower. The arched Tudor window lights, with hood mouldings, which were common at the time of Henry VIII (1509-47) and earlier are the predominant window style. The tower also has examples of mullion windows with flat headers, without such arches, which became more popular as the century progressed. Both were commonly used throughout the period. The architectural historian Mark Girouard suggests it is a mistake to suggest the arched lights are earlier and the square heads later as many examples of both exist throughout the century. The one definitive change in style is the classical door-case to the tower, part of the programme of ‘modernisation’ (1708-10) of Edward Dryden (d.1717) which shows the definite shift in taste to the classicism of the early eighteenth century. Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century inventories and the detailed drawings of the nineteenth-century antiquary Sir Henry Dryden (1818-99) considerably enhance the tower’s history. Henry Dryden’s highly accomplished architectural drawings are held by the Northamptonshire Record Office and were used extensively in the restoration of the house. Until the nineteenth century it appears the tower at Canons Ashby was used for sleeping accommodation – a piece of eighteenth-century children’s drawing is still preserved on its walls. Both local and national architectural history are therefore embedded within its walls.

The tower also can be read as history of the Dryden family itself. Its early origins connect to the history of the sixteenth-century Dryden family who inherited a farmhouse on the site, which was subsequently remodelled. It is highly unusual for a Northamptonshire house of this period to have a tower placed within an elevation; more normally in Elizabethan architecture a tower would be incorporated into an entrance gate or corner addition. Gotch recounts how in the sixteenth century John Dryden (d. 1584) came from Cumberland to marry a daughter of Sir John Cope who, shortly after the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536, became possessed of the lands at Canons Ashby formerly belonging to the Black Canons of the order of St Augustine. John Dryden inherited through his wife an L shaped farmhouse (the present entrance range) which he gradually extended in a clockwise direction adding the staircase tower and south-west block. Architectural historians have suggested that it is this Cumbrian connection of the Drydens which is responsible for the nature of the tower. Its design is remarkably similar to the ‘pele’ towers, built on the Cumbrian and Scottish borders to repel invaders. Such towers were originally freestanding and were often later enlarged to incorporate wings and extensions.

The Elizabethan period was an important time architecturally for Northamptonshire. Mansions and manor houses of an astounding variety were built during this period, from the grand and opulent Kirby Hall (c1556) commissioned by Sir William Cecil (later Lord Burghley), Sir Thomas Tresham’s triangular Ruston Lodge (1593-7) illustrating the Elizabethan passion for symbolism, to the Elizabethan vernacular of Canons Ashby with its rich tapestry of style and additions. The exterior of the tower at Canons Ashby shows no traces of the newly fashionable Renaissance classicism; instead it follows the Tudor Gothic typical of the majority of English buildings during the sixteenth century.

Using the pattern books of the Italian architect and theorist Sebastian Serlio (1475-1554), and the ‘paynter and archytecte’ John Shute’s treatise on architecture, the first to be published in English, Elizabethan builders learnt the new way to dress a building using the classical orders. Symbolism was an important ingredient of Elizabethan architecture which used images to convey messages of status, value and history. The Elizabethans viewed their world in a way which was measured by their concept of creation and knowledge of the universe. It was a unique order formulated with the influence of Plato and the Bible, and one which affected every aspect of their lives including their architecture.

A tower believed to be built just before Elizabeth came to the throne, influenced by a family unconnected to Northamptonshire, but destined to become pivotal to the evolution of this important Elizabethan courtyard house, is a particularly special piece of architectural history. Its fortune has waxed and waned during the centuries; by the 1880s a tree was recorded as growing out of its structure.

In the twenty-first century visitors to the tower have the rather special experience of staying in a Landmark property which is part of a National Trust house and seeing for themselves the architectural, dynastic and social history of this unique building, described by Lawrence Rich, the National Trust’s Appeals Secretary as ‘one of the most romantic places in a county renowned for splendid houses’.

A short history of The Tower

The full history album for The Tower


Remarkably well preserved

Bearing in mind the local nature of construction in sixteenth-century Northamptonshire Canons Ashby remains a remarkably preserved time-warp of its Tudor inhabitants and their lives. Relatively little damage to the fabric of the building over the centuries is apparent in an early photograph.

However, the  task facing the National Trust in the 1980s was Herculean. The following account of the restoration process shows the extent of devastation to which the building had succumbed.

 ‘On a winter’s day when the wind howls around Canons Ashby it is hard to believe that the windows will hold and that a heavy fall of snow will not bring down the bowing walls of the Great Chamber,’ wrote John Cornforth in 1981. Gervase Jackson-Stop’s lecture to the Northamptonshire Record Society (1994) told how the great tower had a tree growing out of it in the 1880s. Before its restoration Canons Ashby was understandably described as a cold forbidding place.

As the centuries progressed very little had been done to save the fabric of the building. After 1937 the Dryden family ceased to use Canons Ashby as a home, spending most of their time in Zimbabwe. The National Trust and the Historical Buildings Council were both deeply concerned for its future. In the summer of 1980 the three Dryden brothers advertised for a new tenant. This was to prove the catalyst for the National Trust to instigate a restoration plan. Essentially this was made possible by the Dryden family offering the house, church and land to the Trust as a gift.  The National Trust would not have been able to accept the Dryden gift without the guarantee of a fund for repair and endowment. The newly established National Heritage Memorial Fund was also to play a vital role in the restoration package.

In 1981 the magazine Building Design described how ‘one little-known country house in Northamptonshire is to benefit from half [£1.5 million] of the entire National Heritage Memorial Fund allocation for next year.’ £500,000 was given for ‘immediate works, with the rest used to guarantee the future of the house’. Other donors included the Department of Environment, the Historic Buildings Council and the Manifold Trust. The article cited the architectural value and historical importance of the house. Canons Ashby became a cause célèbre amongst country houses as the first country house to benefit from the National Heritage Fund. Untouched since its major remodelling in 1710 by Edward Dryden, the Elizabethan manor house with an unusual square tower boasted a virtually intact but decaying interior, with good quality panelling, a magnificent plaster ceiling in the Great Chamber, alongside the rare distinction of a privately owned place of worship, and a garden planned in the eighteenth century. It was an historian’s dream, an untouched time-warp spanning many centuries, but with the added accompaniments of death-watch beetle, bowing walls, and a deeply unstable tower. ‘

Rodney Melville MCs, DipArch ARIBA of the John Osborne Partnership of Leamington Spa was appointed principal architect for the project, with the Linford Building Group, based in Cannock, Staffordshire, specialists in historic restoration, as the main contractor. Linford’s description of property in 1982 makes solemn reading: ‘the remaining seventy acres of the estate were ‘’a wilderness of dead elms, docks and thistles; the garden was a jungle….the house riddled with dry rot….roofs were unsound…the garden front bowing outwards and threatening, among other things, to bring down the marvellous plasterwork ceiling of the Great Chamber’.

The south wall proved the biggest problem and was tackled first. In 1980 the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings had carefully documented the distortion of the south wall, from which information the structural engineers had prepared a contour map. ‘Lengthways [the wall] is split into two parts by the tower, and each of these had bulged outwards by about 100mm at the top midway along its length. When panelling and other finishes were taken off it was found that the construction was a thin ashlar [blocks of cut dressed stone] skin about 100mm thick externally, stone facings about 250mm thick internally and a soft loose rubble core to make up a total thickness of 900mm’.

Large timbers built into the inner faces of the walls were found to be decayed. ‘Above ground floor level there was no bond at all between the outer wall and cross-walls’, the rotted timbers having ceased to act as ties. It was described as ‘very unsafe…even scaffolding and shoring, which ran the length of the wall, had to be erected very carefully indeed’. The decaying timbers were cut out, and lightweight ‘reinforced concrete binding beams’ were carefully inserted. ‘In some places the exterior walls are built on soil higher than the cellar floors’, which necessitated underpinning. ‘The wall was so fragile that no pressure could be applied’. So delicate was the state of the building that Linford had to limit the number of men working on it.

 ‘An unexpected problem arose when an ancient garderobe chute was discovered at one corner of the structurally weak tower’; this meant that the intended system of vertical columns tied with horizontal beams, in lightweight Lytag concrete to support the tower had to be revised. Once this revision was in place Linford were able to remove the parapet walls for rebuilding and rendering. ‘Hard cementitious rendering applied by past owners [c. 1930s] had resulted in widespread frost damage in the Tudor brickwork, in both walls and tower’. These were all removed and replaced with a ‘weak lime-based render, prepared from ‘Derbyshire lump lime slaked on site’, (a process of heating limestone) with great attention being made to colour matching described as ‘mellow buff’. Jackson Stops recalls one rather nasty addition to the cement rendering at the top of the tower – ‘a cigarette packet dated 1936’.

Linford Building also had to tackle another problem; it was discovered that the west wall to the tower’s ‘main timber supporting beam had failed at its bearing end and also that the masonry to this tower wall was only supported on 75-100mm studding’. This necessitated more underpinning and steel strapping to the main beam, which was a delicate process. Linford had an ongoing apprenticeship scheme during the restoration training young people in various crafts. Some of their apprentices who started at the beginning of the Canons Ashby project had in fact completed their training by the end of the project. In the main house panelling and windows went through painstaking restoration processes. The original sycamore floors were replaced or repaired. Linford described how ‘six year old timber is to be rough cut and laid in the rooms for some months – to match the moisture content of the building – before it is finally planed and machined’. Internal plasterwork – using hair plaster where necessary – was restored, along with the ornate weather-vane which was reinstated on the tower. Jackson Stops recounted how Sir Henry Dryden’s detailed drawing of the weathervane was vital to this restoration process.

More specifically in the tower Charlotte Haslam, the then Historian of the Landmark Trust, described how ‘The top tower room needed a new floor; the lower room also had a new floor, but this time of elm boards, not softwood as elsewhere’. This is indicated in the restoration plans overleaf, as are the new partitions. ‘The doors were repaired and re-hung, with new latches copying the originals, which no longer worked. The windows on the south side needed some repairs; they are all made of clunch, the name given to chalk used for building.’ This is an unusual stone to use for external architectural detail because of its softness. It probably came from Buckinghamshire or Bedfordshire, and is one of the four different stones used in the building of Canons Ashby.

Availability & booking

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What's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?Explain MoreQuestion

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.