Delapre Abbey – An oasis of relaxation and history
Hidden away in the centre of Northampton is the oasis that is Delapre Abbey.
Dating back to 1145 the Abbey and its grounds offer relaxation and history in equal measure.
The Grade II listed building may not be in the highest state of repair, but its gardens and surrounding landscape have certainly been the subject of some hard work and loving care.
Much of this comes from the volunteers who work its fabulous tea room and the Friends of Delapre Abbey, which formed as recently as 2001 to save the building and grounds from council plans to sell up to a private developer.
The orderly grounds are perfect for a picnic, a family day out or as a picturesque exercise yard for cyclists, joggers and walkers alike.
Originally a nunnery, the Abbey is based on land at Hardingstone – De la Pre – granted to then Earl of Northampton, Simon de Senlis II, in 1145.
Its grounds are home to 18th century stables built by Admiral Charles Hardy, a library created by Edward Bouverie – a member of the last family to occupy the Abbey before it was sold to Northampton Development Corporation in 1946 – a late 19th century pet cemetery and the trees of Charter Wood, planted to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the charter granted to Northampton by King Richard I permitting the town to hold a market.
Between 1957 and 1990 the Abbey served as Northamptonshire Record Office, after record office founder Joan Wake raised £15,000 to save it from demolition, and remnants of that era can be found on inscriptions still in place on the buildings doors.
That was not the only time Delapre Abbey has been subject to battle.
In July 1460, the Yorkists beat the Lancastrians at the Battle of Northampton – fought within the Abbey’s grounds.
Of course, that victory did not help the House of York retain the throne and it was Henry Tudor’s eventual success that would mark the beginning of the end for the Abbey in its original form.
Tudor’s son, King Henry VIII, dissolved the monasteries following his fall out with the Catholic church – and in 1538 the Abbey became a private home.
Those battles are now a distant memory in this peaceful haven, particularly within its pretty tea rooms and surrounding gardens.
There is nothing more English than sitting in a country garden, eating cream cakes with jam swilled down with tea.
Delapre Abbey is an ideal escape from the hubbub of modern life, but it also has so much more to tell us about how we got here.