"THIS IS ASHRIDGE"

by

CAPTAIN HENRY GORDON

Foreword (by Lieut. Col. Alfred Burne); This is Ashridge - Introduction; The Monastery; The Royal Residence; The Manor House and The Mansion; The College; The Hospital; The College after the War

AFTER THE WAR

 

The end of the war brought changes: the first Chairman, Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, retired on account of increasing infirmity, in favour of his friend Viscount Davidson, whose faith in the future of Ashridge has been a constant factor since its first days. General Sir Bernard Paget became Principal in December, 1946. In inviting him to accept the appointment the Governing Body had in mind not only his distinguished service as Commander-in-Chief Home Forces, the training of 21st Army Group for their hazardous adventure, and as Commander-in-Chief Middle East, but also his interest in Army Education.

In the first full post-war year 3,744 students passed through the College, and in 1948 the total was 5,418, but Ashridge could not claim immunity from the many difficulties besetting the world. By 1949 it was evident that with the decrease in interest on Trust Funds and the ever-increasing rise in overheads, some drastic action was necessary if the College was to survive. The mere raising of fees was not a final or satisfactory solution and to meet the situation the Governing Body decided to inaugurate the House of Citizenship as a department of the College. The new department brought between fifty and sixty girls of 17 years of age upwards doing a four-term course. The idea proved popular and all vacancies were taken up without, as had been suggested, the shorter course students being materially inconvenienced. History must record the clash of views which prevailed on this policy, a clash which resulted in General Paget leaving in November, 1949, and the resignation of Arthur Bryant.

At the beginning of 1950 Admiral Sir Denis Boyd was appointed Principal. The Admiral's career had been one which fitted him to take charge of Ashridge at this critical juncture - submarines in World War I and Naval aircraft in World War II. At the outbreak of war he was in command of HMS Vernon, and prior to this he had been Captain of a destroyer flotilla at Malta and saw service on the coast of Spain during the Spanish Civil War.

He took over the aircraft carrier 'Illustrious' in 1940, and was in command when this historic ship struck its staggering blow at the Italian Fleet in Taranto. He became Rear Admiral Commanding Mediterranean Aircraft Carriers in 1941, and took part in many Malta convoys. Fifth Sea Lord, and Chief of Naval Air Equipment 1943-45, he became Commander-in-Chief Far East Station in 1946 and retired in 1949.

On June 4th, 1954, the Royal Assent was given to an Act of Parliament which had received the support of members of all parties. This revoked the Foundation Deed of 1929, and incorporated the Ashridge (Bonar Law Memorial) Trust as an educational charity. The Act defined the first object of the Corporation as follows:-

"...to carry on at Ashridge a college for the education of persons in economics, political and social science, political history, with special reference to the development of the British constitution and the growth and expansion of the Commonwealth and Empire, and in such other subjects as the governors may from time to time determine, calculated generally to enable students to become useful, intelligent and active members of the Nation and Commonwealth."

The Act also provides that: "in education given at the College teaching calculated to support policies of any particular political party shall be excluded, and the general aim of the Corporation shall be to provide at the College education which both by teaching and discussion shall be free from bias relating to party politics."

Ashridge seeks to pass on its simple philosophy and its ideals to an ever widening circle. The Navy, Army and Air Force, the Civil Service and many of the leading industrial and commercial concerns send personnel as students, and there is an increasing flow from the Commonwealth and overseas. In addition the College makes a special appeal to the ordinary citizen - the man in the street and his wife.

This is a crucial time in the development of a new concept in industrial relations, and Ashridge, through its industrial courses, seeks to play its part by extending this side of its work - a new era in the history of the great house is unfolding.

The pioneer work of the College as the first adult education centre of its kind has resulted in the growth of similar institutions and county colleges elsewhere.

No government grant is received, and Ashridge cannot escape from the ever increasing rise in overheads due to causes outside its control. This is a source of some anxiety, but a comparison of the 1,752 enrolments in 1930 with 5,560 in 1954 is encouraging, and Ashridge goes forward resolutely.

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Captain Gordon concluded his history of Ashridge with a reference to the motto on the Arms granted to Ashridge: "This Sceptred Isle".

The motto, he wrote at the end of his book, recalls John of Gaunt's Speech in Shakespeare's "Richard II". It may have originated from this source:

"This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,

This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,

The other Eden, demi-paradise,

This fortress built by Nature for herself

Against infection and the hand of war,

This happy breed of men, this little world,

This precious stone set in the silver sea,

Which serves it in the office of a wall

Or as a moat defensive to a house,

Against the envy of less happier lands,

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England."

 

 

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