Ashley is on the northern edge of Northamptonshire, adjoining Leicestershire with the county of Rutland very close by. The village is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Ascele, meaning “a clearing in the woods” as it was a hamlet comprising 320 people and 73 houses within the large hunting grounds of Rockingham Forest.
Men from Ashley were liable for military service under the Lord of Rockingham.
The possibility of much earlier settlement was suggested by the discovery of Roman relics not far from the village, during the construction of the railway line in the 19th century. Archaelogical digs in 1960 and 1970 discovered the remains of Roman dwellings near Medbourne.
It is believed that the house known as Yeomans in Green Lane may have been built on the site of a previous Saxon Manor house. The present cottage contains distinct traces of 13th century building and includes the oldest dwelling in Ashley, which was constructed with cruck beams.
Another reference to Ashley is included in a volume entitled 'A History of Earthquakes', published in 1748. Along with details of major seismographic events, such as the eruption of Mount Etna and Vesuvius, is the story of a seven minute hurricane, which struck the village of Ashley in 1669. The hurricane was reported to have started at Westhorpe on October 30th between 5pm and 6pm and created havoc in all directions, including "the removal of a large part of the roof of the Parsonage House". No loss of life was recorded.
Thanks to considerable re-building of the village during Victorian times, much of Ashley’s beauty lies in the lovely rich local ironstone which graces the centre of the village around the impressive Grade 1 listed church of St Mary the Virgin.
A number of thatched cottages can also be seen around the village. The street plan is a figure of eight and the housing pattern is linear with the Church occupying the highest ground.
Ashley is regarded as a 'remodelled village' because of the extensive demolition and re-building which took place between 1854 and 1888 when the wealthy rector, the Rev. R.T. Pulteney, commissioned the architect, Sir George Gilbert Scott to create a new plan for Ashley. Consequently, the village has a notable Gothic Revival heritage, as well as many older houses of architectural interest. Part of the village is a designated conservation area with 31 listed buildings and monuments.
In common with most towns and villages, change is constant and Ashley is no exception. Since the end of WW2, the number of houses in Ashley has almost doubled, the village school, shop, post office, railway and independent chapel have all closed but the Church, Public House 'The George', new Farm Shop and an active, modern Village Hall have thrived.
Farming and its related services are no longer the main source of occupation in this rural community. Only two farmers remain resident and active in the village. Today, home workers in the IT and other support services account for nearly 30% of home dwellers.