Start your EF Gap Year in splendor—at Ashridge House.
Ashridge House is a lavish former English country estate that has been home to Ashridge Business School since 1959, and Hult International Business School since 2015. Since its beginning in 1283, however, Ashridge has worn many hats; it was home to King Henry VIII, a hospital during the First and Second World Wars, a charm school for high society young women, and more.
When your EF Gap Year or Gap Semester flight touches down in England, you’ll head straight to the Ashridge campus for a two day orientation. You’ll meet your travel companions, attend seminars and workshops to get you ready for the experience ahead, and you’ll also have some down time to tour the castle, explore its 190 acres of garden and take advantage of the onsite gym and Olympic pool. In addition to this initial stay, you’ll return for a week long Leadership Academy at the end of your gap year, so let’s get to know a bit of the history of Ashridge House!
Ashridge over the centuries
Since its beginning in the thirteenth century, Ashridge House has housed many different institutions, many of which are tied to some pretty prominent moments in history.
- Pious start: Ashridge was founded as a monastic order by Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, in 1283. It was called the College of Bonhommes and served as a venue of learning and debate for a small group of priests.
- Royal drama: With the dissolution of monasteries in 1539, Ashridge fell under the ownership of King Henry VIII. Henry called the castle home for eleven years before passing it along to his infant daughter Elizabeth, who would go on to become Queen of England from 1558 until her death in 1603. Elizabeth was a product of Henry’s short marriage to Anne Boleyn, whom he accused of high treason and had beheaded so that he could marry Jane Seymour in the hopes that she would give him a son. It was also at Ashridge that Princess Elizabeth was famously accused of treason by her sister Mary in 1554. And you thought your family history was complicated!
- Estate-sweet-estate: When Princess Elizabeth died in 1603, Lord Chancellor Thomas Egerton purchased both the estate and an earldom, becoming the Earl of Bridgewater. Ashridge then remained in the Bridgewater family for over two hundred years, at which point it was owned by a man known as ‘Scroop,’ the fourth Earl who later became the first Duke of Bridgewater.
- WWI hospital: Ashridge remained under the ownership of the Bridgewater family during the First World War, when it transformed into a rehabilitation center for St. Albans Hospital.
- Party central: Between World Wars, Ashridge served as a training center for Conservative Party workers. It was purchased by Urban Hanlon Broughton in honor of then Prime Minister, Andrew Bonar Law. Not a bad way to commemorate someone!
- WWII hospital: With the start of World War II, the castle became a hospital once again, this time as an extension of the emergency wing of the Charing Cross Road Hospital. Starting in 1940, the hospital treated over 20,000 patients and saw the birth of 2,700 babies in it’s maternity ward.
- Manners manor: In 1949, Ashridge was converted into a finishing school for ladies called the House of Citizenship. For almost a decade, the school offered four term courses to young women where they learned proper social etiquette and the ins and outs of upper class culture.
- Executive Ed: From 1959 on, Ashridge has been home to Ashridge Executive Education, ranked as one of the best business schools in the world.
- Global business school: In 2015, Ashridge Executive Education became part of the Hult International Business School. It is here where gap year and semester orientation will take place, and later where you’ll end your journey at EF Leadership Academy.
How will you make your mark?
From accusations of treason, to housing convalescents, to teaching the next generation of leaders, Ashridge has seen it all. Now, when you sit down for dinner in the campus dining hall, you’ll know that it was once the manor banquet hall, not unlike Hogwarts’ Great Hall—for all of you Harry Potter fans out there. When you explore the gardens, you’ll know that you’re walking the same ground as kings and queens, medical professionals and recovering soldiers, educated young ladies and Conservative Party members-in-training. The elaborate castle and perfectly groomed grounds speak for themselves, but now you’ll understand the history behind them as well when you arrive for your EF Gap Year or Gap Semester orientation. It’s up to you to decide how you’ll leave your own mark on this historic campus!