Apologies for my delay in getting the New Year started, but finding my way through the muddy byways of Unmitigated England has been particularly difficult since Christmas. But be of good cheer, because Saturday found me almost on my knees in front of this extraordinary monument. Warkton in Northamptonshire is part of the estate of Boughton House, which explains the delightfully unspoilt nature of the village, although it is but a marble's throw from the urban sprawl of Kettering. Both churchwarden and verger were so kind in letting me in, and I'm eternally grateful to their guided tour given just for us. Not just because the monuments in this light and airy mausoleum had hitherto been plates in the Shell Guide to Northamptonshire and corresponding Pevsner, but also because they will now be closed from view for essential repairs lasting the rest of this year.
Facing each other are four set piece monuments commemorating the Dukes and Duchesses from the big house, two by that masterful sculptor Roubiliac (remember him at Southwick?), one by Thomas Campbell and this, a real showstopper, by Dutchman P.M.van Gelder. Robert Adam may or may not have designed the background apse, but no matter, this is sculpture to make you gasp, as we did. A full-on 1775 drama gathered around the essential urn with its beautifully incised verse to Mary Duchess of Montagu. This was a very special moment, the sun coming out and the sight out through the clear glass of the big churchyard trees moving in the wind.
I am a designer, writer and photographer who spends all his time looking at England, particularly buildings and the countryside. But I have a leaning towards the slightly odd and neglected, the unsung elements that make England such an interesting place to live in. I am the author and photographer of over 25 books, in particular Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2006), More from Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2007), Cross Country (Wiley 2011), The Cigarette Papers (Frances Lincoln 2012), Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012) and English Allsorts (Adelphi 2015)
"Open this book with reverence. It is a hymn to England". Clive Aslet
"Enchanting...delightful". The Bookseller "Cheekily named" We Love This Book
The Cigarette Papers
"Unexpectedly pleasing and engrossing...beautifully illustrated". The Bookseller
"Until the happy advent of Peter Ashley's Cross Country it has, ironically, been foreigners who have been best at celebrating Englishness". Christina Hardyment / The Independent
More from Unmitigated England
"Give this book to someone you know- if not everyone you know." Simon Heffer, Country Life. "When it comes to spotting the small but telling details of Englishness, Peter Ashley has no equal." Michael Prodger, Sunday Telegraph