Rural Heritage Society


Ashridge College has a history of more than 700 years and has been the setting for a variety of events. As the home of a religious order for 250 years, then briefly as a royal residence and later the mansion of dukes and earls.

The house that you can see today was built between 1808 and 1814 to a design by James Wyatt in the gothic style. The only remains of the original monastery are the undercroft and the well. Parts of Monks Barn date from c1580.

Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, founded a small monastery in 1530 but with the dissolution of the monasteries, Ashridge became the property of Henry VIII and was one of the residences to which his three young children were sent at various times. Mary, Elizabeth and Edward were here together in 1543. Most of Elizabeths childhood years were spent hereand at Hatfield. In 1554 when Queen Mary was on the throne, Elizabeth was removed from Ashridge and taken to London, suspected of being involved in the conspiracy of Sir Thomas Wyatt against the Queen. There was insufficient evidence to sustain the case and she was released but never returned to Ashridge.

Two years before she became queen, Elizabeth leased the house and lands to Richard Coombs, a gentleman farmer from Hemel Hempstead at an annual rent of 6.0s.10d. In 1604 the property was bought by Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper of the Seal to the Queen. He was created Baron Ellesmere and made Lord Cancellor by James I. His descendents became the Earls and Dukes of Bridgewater. The most famous Bridgewater was Francis, the 3rd Duke who pioneered the building of the canals. The monument that can be seen from the front of the house was constructed in his honour. The Bridgewaters owned the house until 1849 when, as there was no heir, it passed to one of their cousins, Viscount Alford, son of the 1st Earl Brownlow. It remained in their family until the death of the 3rd Earl in 1921 after which the house was sold as instructed in his will, to maintain their other estates.

Urban Hanlon Broughton bought the house in 1921 as a gift for the Conservative party in memory of his friend Andrew Bonar Law (the prime minister between 1921 and 1922). He established the Ashridge (Bonar Law Memorial) Trust that Ashridge is presently under. The house became a training college for Conservative party agents and workers.

During WWII the house was commandeered as a branch of Charing Cross Hospital. Wards in tents were constructed at the front of the house on the site of the present main car park. From 1959, the college became non-political and specialised in the field of executive education and became known as Ashridge Management College.

Today, Ashridge is one of the worlds leading business schools. It is an independent, not for profit organisation, working with individuals and organisations in personal and corporate development (open and tailored programmes, on-line learning, MBA, MSc and Diploma qualifications).

Executive development is one of three activities undertaken by the Ashridge (Bonar Law Memorial) Trust. The other two being organisational consulting, through Ashridge Consulting, and management research. Research is carried out by the Ashridge Centre for Business and Society and the Ashridge Strategic Management Centre, the latter based in London.

Click on to visit the Asridge website

Kindly provided by Toby Roe, PR Manager, Ashridge


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