Delapré Abbey, Northampton
A stately, honey-hued landmark at the heart of the county town, Delapré Abbey is a secret treasure trove of art, history, intrigue and scandal with 500 acres of parkland and gardens to explore.
If you think you know everything there is to know about Northampton (I did), think again. I was well and truly dazzled on a recent day out at Delapré Abbey. Until its £8m refurbishment and subsequently opening to the public in 2018, Delapré has always just been there: A golf course, council admin building, somewhere to sneak into as a student to have a secret picnic (who, moi?) but, just like one of its former Cluniac (that’s an order of nuns, btw) residents, Delapré has shed her modest habit and is rocking a sumptuous new velvet gown.
There are loads of fascinating stories and scandals contained in Delapré’s ancient walls -the Restoration playwright Sheridan is said to have been inspired to pen his famous The School for Scandal by the salacious goings on here – but the most inspiring element to the house tour from the Mudlets’ perspective is unquestionably the Stable Yard, which houses the brilliantly engaging, Battlefield Rooms where visitors are immersed in a compelling, interactive experience that tells the story, not just of the downfall of the King, but the experiences of the women and children living through it.
Art geeks like me will pore over the beautiful portrait of former lady of the manor, Harriet Bouverie, by Joshua Reynolds (shh, it’s a copy) and, outside in the Walled Garden, Frank Dobson’s sculpture Woman with a Fish. The gardens are pretty splendid, we found them exploding with bright begonias and dahlias on our visit, and spent ages exploring the grounds, which are entirely free for anyone to visit and within walking distance of the town centre (worth noting that it’s free to park here too). With a lazy lunch or an indulgent afternoon tea at the bright and airy Orangery Cafe thrown in for good measure, Delapré is an incredible family day out.
Delapré Abbey, London Road, Northampton, NN4 8AW. Tel: 01604 760817