The village of Ashton as we see it today was superimposed on a more ancient village that dates back 700 years. A survey made in 1321 shows that “ in Ashton there were a messuage and two water mills ”. The Ashton chapel and schoolhouse that still stand today were erected in 1706. The history of nearby town of Oundle dates back a further 700 years and was begun with St. Wilfrid, who established a monastery there where he died in 709.
The building of Ashton as we know it today commenced in 1885 under the instruction of the mercantile Rothchild family as a model village. Designed by the fashionable Victorian architect, William Huckvale and overseen by Walter Charles Rothchild, the village was created as a community facility for the tied Ashton Estate workers. The pub and cottages surrounding the village green were built from limestone quarried from the estate, all with thatched roofs.
The pub served as a shop and post office until the end of the war and was in fact called The Three Horseshoes until the 1960s, when Dame Miriam Rothchild renamed it The Chequered Skipper after a rare butterfly. Dame Miriam was born in Ashton Wold (the mock-Elizabethan manor) in 1908 and lived there for most of her life. She was a world renown zoologist, naturalist, academic and eccentric, often seen about the village in her mauve outfits and white wellingtons. Other notable people to have lived in Ashton or frequented the Chequered Skipper have been: Clark Gable who was stationed at the nearby Polebrook USAF Airfield during WW2, Ginger Baker the drummer from Cream who trained polo ponies locally and most recently Chas & Dave who were semi-regular faces at the bar in the 1980’s.
In 1996 disaster struck the Chequered Skipper when a fire gutted the pub when the thatch caught alight. Completely rebuilt according to the specifications of renowned heritage architect John Robbins, the building was carefully restored to its original exterior, the interior was lightened and modernised. Tenant Landlords Ian and Colin Campbell reopened the pub and restaurant in 1997.
Caroline Seebohm of The New York Times wrote after the reopening:
The village of Ashton and the estate is now a conservation area and comprises of Grade II listed tenanted only estate cottages.