DELAPRÉ ABBEY – CLASSICS ON THE LAWN SUNDAY 1ST SEPTEMBER 2019

This is the second year that Delapré have held a Classics on the Lawn event and very well attended it was too. A wide selection of over 150 cars with no less than 17 Fiat 500s lined up in a commanding row at the top of the show on what was to turn out to be a lovely sunny day.

The Abbey only opened to the public last year. The site was originally a small Cluniac Nunnery 900 years ago but the Nuns found themselves in the spotlight when the body of Queen Eleanor was laid in the Abbey’s church on the journey back to Westminster Abbey, an event marked by the building of one of the famous “Eleanor crosses”.

Nearly 200 years later, a more violent event would disturb the nunnery’s quiet life – the Battle of Northampton. In July 1460, the armies of York and Lancaster met across the fields near the Abbey in what was to be one of the turning points in the Wars of the Roses.

On December 16th 1538, nearly 400 years of quiet devotion at Delapré Abbey came to an end as Henry VIII laid waste to the churches and monasteries of Britain, evicting nuns and monks, taking their goods and possessions for himself and selling their lands to merchants and gentlemen.

The generations of two families then occupied the Abbey up until the 1940s at which point it fell into the hands of the local authority who decided that they wanted to demolish it to build a housing estate. However, they hadn’t reckoned on some formidable objections from locals and in the end, they agreed to use the Abbey for the county records office so at least the public could enjoy the parkland. When, in the late 1990s’ the records office was re-located, the Abbey was again threatened with destruction.

Once again it was the determination of the local people that would help save the Abbey this time, campaigning to restore the building to create a venue that could be enjoyed by all. The Delapré Abbey Preservation Trust was formed and working together with Northampton Borough Council, plans were made and with the Heritage Lottery Fund’s help, a major restoration project began that would see the house transformed and brought back to life.

In 2018, after extensive restoration works costing over £5 million, this much-loved building was finally opened for everyone to enjoy. As exhibitors, we were given a free Abbey tour and there were pleasant walks through the garden and woodland. The café ensured that we were well fed and watered!

It was great to see such a strong club turnout with some new faces and lots of youngsters which seems to be more of a regular feature these days. As ever, we were the stars of the show, due in great part, to the artistic flair of Amy who once again made sure we were perfectly colour coded!

A nice way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon and let’s hope it becomes a regular feature of our calendar.

Mandy Edmonds