The Elizabethan house, Canons Ashby, was the seat of the Dryden family, including the first Poet Laureate John Dryden (1631–1700), from 1551. The brothers, Peter, John and Douglas Dryden, residents of Rhodesia, finally gave it, with its estate, gardens and church, to the National Trust in 1981. It was acquired by a huge public appeal, a generous and unprecedented £1 million grant from the recently formed National Heritage Memorial Fund, and the munificence of Simon Sainsbury, who saved the contents at auction. The fine group family portrait by Jonathan Richardson was bought back with the help of the Art Fund in 1987. The remainder of the paintings are gratefully on loan from the Dryden Discretionary Settlement.