"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

INTRODUCTION

 

 

There is a widespread belief that any old house of importance to be respectable must be haunted. Many visitors to Ashridge enquire if there is a ghost, and seem disappointed to learn that the house is not haunted in the accepted sense of the word. Clearly they expect a ghost and almost show a sense of frustration on being assured, in a half-apologetic manner, that they will not hear rattling chains or see headless spectres in the corridors at night - but if phantom figures do not appear, Ashridge is haunted by other things. The ghosts of today are the collective influences for good left by the monks, the noblemen, the squires and the multitude of admirable men and women who have lived in and loved Ashridge for nearly seven centuries.

Founded as a monastery where God-fearing men devoted their lives to worship, to learning and to the service of their fellows, the house was seized by the Crown at the Reformation and became a royal residence. Deflected from its original purpose, Ashridge became in turn the home of the noble and the squire. Each successive ownership contributed something to the traditions and influence of the great house, until finally by some incredible chance it returned, with the foundation of the Bonar Law College, to one of its original functions as a place of learning. At that time no-one could have guessed that within a few years a great hospital would grow around the main building, and that some of the monastic precepts would be practised again by a vast community.

My original intention was to write only of Ashridge and its war-time activities, but the picture is incomplete without the background of its early years. The seeds of war-time achievement came from the flowers of college days. These flowers sprang from the sturdy stems of the Tudors, the Stuarts and the Georges, and the stems in turn grew on the roots of the monastic foundation. The history of nearly 700 years developed into a bulky volume, and I am conscious of many omissions in fitting the story into the compass of this little book.

This inspiration from the past, which we call the Spirit of Ashridge, is very real to many. Today the world is floundering in a morass of misunderstanding and the solution of all difficulties is proclaimed by different schools of thought in their own high-sounding names. The resulting confusion has led first to doubt, then to disbelief, and finally to fear. It has been said that "when men believe in nothing they rot and the world has its greatest moments at the time of its greatest faith." The Spirit of Ashridge is simple and direct - it seeks to inspire faith through understanding.

 

 

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