During the many years I lived in Northampton, I knew of Delapre Abbey but I was unable to visit these historic buildings until very recently in 2018. The 900 year old Delapre Abbey had come very close to being demolished on a number of occasions, most notably in 1954 when a plan to pull down the buildings was narrowly defeated and it became the home of the Northamptonshire Record Office in 1959, giving the Abbey and estate a new lease of life for the next forty years.
A £3.65 million Heritage Lottery funded restoration programme, a passionate band of volunteers and Northampton Borough Council have all contributed to restoring the Abbey, outbuilding, parkland and estate, to help create a new community venue and visitor attraction.
With modern interactive hands-on displays, visitors are now able to discover the history of the Abbey, enjoy the peace and quiet of the gardens or grab a bite to eat in the Orangery café and Billiard Room, which has pleasant views across 500 acres of park land and a golf course. I was educated about the importance of the Battle of Northampton, which was fought within the grounds of the Abbey, during the Wars of the Roses and found the several unrestored rooms on the first floor of the Abbey, particularly interesting. The Nine seemingly unrelated objects helped me focus on nine particularly significantly different events in the 900 year old history of the Abbey.
The gardens are superb, there was a large walled garden and the hidden remains of a water garden. The open spaces of the lawn, the fabulous trees of the small arboretum and the trails through a coppice of trees are ideal spaces for children to run, play and explore.
There is so much to see from the colourful flowers, the ancient trees and mature shrubs. You can also book a garden tour with one of the knowledgeable guides to enhance your visit even further.
The formal walled garden offers visitors the chance to relax and enjoy a real blast of colour during the summer. The garden is filled with reminders of the Abbey’s long and varied history from the small herb garden and the modern sculptures produced by nationally celebrated artists.
The allotment beds and greenhouses provide organically grown produce for use in the Orangery café and you may also find some of the plants for sale in the shop, at times throughout the year. Beyond the Abbey buildings you can explore over 500 acres of parkland with a mix of woodland and open grasslands, crossed by several paths. The parkland also includes an equestrian centre, angling club and a public golf course, providing a range of sporting activities for visitors.
A path alongside the London Road will take you to the Eleanor Cross, one of twelve memorial crosses built by King Edward I to commemorate the resting places of his wife, Queen Eleanors funeral cortege in 1291. Recent conservation work on the cross has made it well worth the time to visit. Delapré Lake is also a sanctuary for both wildlife and numerous leisure activities including water skiing and angling. It is a real delight for anglers, as the lake contains Carp, as well as plenty of Bream and Tench. Don’t forget to call into the Abbey shop which has a wonderful selection of souvenirs inspired by the history of the Abbey and its grounds. If you are looking for a local day out, I would fully recommend a visit to Delapre Abbey, whatever the season.