Friday, August 21, 2015

The Cotswolds - Asthall

Cotswolds village of Astall nestled in the Oxfordshire countryside by Martyn Ferry Photography

For a small village, Asthall is rich in history: a former Roman settlement on Akeman Street, which linked Cirencester with St Albans; the village church, dating back to the 12th century, possibly earlier; and the Elizabethan manor house, home to the Mitford sisters - it was here that Nancy Mitford penned much of ‘Love in a Cold Climate’. She is buried in the churchyard at nearby Swinbrook.

Lane through the Cotswold village of Astall by Martyn Ferry Photography
The lane through the village.

The course of Akeman Street Roman Road that linked Watling Street with Fosse Way passes through the parish just south of the village and through the middle of Windrush Farm. The road crossed the Windrush about half a mile east of the village. Traces of a Roman settlement have been found on both sides of the course of the road on low-lying land between Windrush Farm and the site of the Roman river crossing. It was occupied from the middle of the first century AD to the latter part of the fourth century.

Three quarters of a mile south of the village, is an early 7th century Saxon barrow that contained the cremated remains of a man. Objects from the barrow are now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Asthall Manor and church on the Cotswold countryside by Martyn Ferry Photography
Asthall Manor and village church nestled in the Cotswold countryside.

In the summer of 2007 a hoard of 110 gold angel and half-angel coins was found during building work at Asthall. The coins were minted at dates from 1470 to 1526, most of them in the reign of Richard III. The hoard is believed to have been buried in the latter half of the reign of Henry VIII.

In April 2010 a coroner found the hoard to be treasure and it was valued it at £280,000. The Ashmolean Museum acquired the hoard and now has it on display.

Cotswold pub the Maytime Inn in the village of Asthall by Martyn Ferry Photography
The Maytime Inn dates back to the 17th Century and in times gone by was a coaching inn with its own Smithy.
Saint Nicholas church under blue sky at Asthall by Martyn Ferry Photography
Saint Nicholas church.

The Church of England parish church of Saint Nicholas was enlarged in about 1160, when the north aisle and north transept were added to an earlier church. The west tower was built in the 15th century. The church was restored in 1885, and the chancel arch was probably rebuilt at this time. The church is a Grade II* listed building.

The interior of the church at Asthall village in the Cotswolds by Martyn Ferry Photography
A view down the simple but elegant church interior with old wooden pews.
Church in the Oxfordshire village of Asthall by Martyn Ferry Photography
The church has a very rare small 14th century altar with a built-in piscina.

Asthall Manor is a gabled Jacobean Cotswold manor house. It was built in about 1620 and altered and enlarged in about 1916.

The house is a vernacular two-storey house built of local Cotswold limestone on an irregular H-plan with a stone-slated roof typical of the area. There are records of a house on the site since 1272 when Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall, owned a house on the site worth 12d.

The magnificent Asthall Manor in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds by Martyn Ferry Photography
A view to the back of the Manor House, which is worth quite a bit more today.

David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale, father of the Mitford sisters, inherited Asthall Manor on the death of his father in 1916 and in 1919 moved his family there from Batsford Park. The youngest of the Mitford sisters Deborah, later Duchess of Devonshire, was born at Asthall in 1920. Her sister Diana had an appendectomy on the spare-bedroom table! You can find a potted history of Batsford and the Mitford family here.

Looking across the Cotswolds countryside to Asthall Manor by Martyn Ferry Photography
Looking across to Asthall Manor surrounded by Oxfordshire countryside.

From a sleepy little hamlet we next move up the road to a somewhat livelier place, that perennial gateway to the Cotswolds and the tourists favourite, Burford.

You can see more images from the beautiful Cotswolds countryside on my website.

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