Althorp is a Grade I listed stately home in Northamptonshire – the home of the Spencer family since the early 16th century and the final resting place of Diana, Princess of Wales, following her untimely death in 1997. Located in the Daventry estate and civil parish, Althorp estate was purchased by English nobleman John Spencer in 1508.
The Spencers were wealthy as a result of their sheep-breeding business. John Spencer’s uncle – also called John – had been feudal lord of Wormleighton in Warwickshire since 1469 and sheep from his pastures were bought for breeding by other landowners. This made the Spencer family very wealthy – their success as farmers was almost unparalleled in the 15th and 16th centuries.
As one of the most prominent stately homes of England, Althorp has been home to 19 generations of the Spencer family. The acclaimed art collection in the 18th century made the house a major cultural hub, where regular parties attracting prominent members of Great Britain’s upper classes were held.
Diana was the fourth child of Viscount Althorp John Spencer and Frances Roche. Born in July 1961, she became Lady Diana in 1975 when her father inherited the title, Earl Spencer. The family then moved to Althorp from their home at Park House on the Sandringham estate. Diana was home-schooled there for a period, later attending the Institut Alpin Videmanette finishing school in Rougemont, Switzerland.
Today, 20 years after her tragic death in an horrific car accident on 31st August 1997, Diana’s final resting place is a small island on the ornamental Round Oval lake at Althorp. Her family agreed its beautiful, tranquil location made it the best place for Diana to be at peace.
The family’s decision to create a memorial to Diana, opening the house and estate to the public, led to garden designer Dan Pearson updating the gardens and park to make them accessible for visitors. A row of 36 oak trees – one for each year of Diana’s life – was planted along the access road.
Thousands of flowers and plants, including 1,000 white water lilies and 100 white rambling roses, were planted on and around the island. Visitors can lay floral tributes to Diana in a temple located across from the lake, where a white marble statue of the princess provides a fitting memorial.
Set in 550 acres of beautiful parkland, Althorp is one of England’s most popular visitor attractions today. You can explore the park, stroll through the lush gardens and enjoy a peaceful moment by the Round Oval lake. You can also visit the historic stables block, dating from 1732, taking refreshments in the Stables Café.
The Spencer exhibition is a fascinating insight into the family’s long residence at Althorp and their amazing treasures. The stately home contains a large private collection of art, ceramics and furniture, including many paintings by Van Dyck Rubens, Stubbs, Reynolds and Gainsborough. Guided tours of the house are available for visitors to see the magnificent interior décor.
The estate hosts two annual events, the Althorp Literary Festival – which will take place this year from 5th to 8th October – and the Althorp Food and Drink Festival, which takes place in May each year in celebration of the high-quality culinary suppliers and producers in Northamptonshire and the surrounding areas. Fundraising events are also held for The Diana Award – a charity set up in the princess’s memory to help young people.
A visit to Althorp is a must. Not only will you be wowed by a treasure chest of priceless antiquities within the house itself, you will also be able to meander the oak lined drive to pay your respects to “The People’s Princess”.
A minibus from H&H Van Hire is an ideal way for groups to travel, enabling everyone to arrive together. Dividing the hire fee between the party members also makes it a cost-effective and convenient solution. Please contact us for further details of our comfortable nine, 14 and 17-seater minibuses.