Henry Ashmole’s Diary
Henry’s fascinating manuscript scribbling diary for the year 1864 recently appeared, about 2012, for sale on the Vialibri bookselling website. The diary was described in some detail, although it was misattributed to Henry’s cousin, another Henry!
The diary, written when Henry was aged 21 and 22, allows a marvellous insight into the social and business life of an Ilford builder. Henry was a busy young man who thoroughly enjoyed his hectic life. The diary reveals an incredibly wide extended family network. Business and pleasure are inextricably intertwined.
Although Henry describes himself as a builder he had fingers in many pies. He spent much time, mainly Mondays, on horseback or on foot collecting rents from family properties at Greenhill Grove, Little Ilford. He was also an undertaker and undertook much business at St. Mary’s Ilford Churchyard. In 1864 he was responsible for the funerals of Mr. John & Mrs. Elizabeth Davis of Cranbrook Hall and also, Harriet Marie Pouline Charrington, a young daughter of Francis Charrington of Great Gearies. The diary often mentions the deaths of local inhabitants, the welding of lead coffins and engraving plates. Much business was also undertaken at Ilford Gaol, Little Ilford. Land was bought and sold, cottages built and properties repaired.
Henry’s life was certainly a hectic whirl. He was forever going to dinners, suppers, balls, dances, the theatre, opera, races, debates, readings, singing, gossip, scandal, playing croquet, billiards, picnics, cards, cricket and walking. He obviously enjoyed travelling and the diary notes a family holiday to Puttendon Manor near Tunbridge Wells. Vicious murders, disasters and national events are mentioned in passing as is the staple of any English conservation, the weather. On Sundays he normally went to church two or even three times, often St. Mary's Ilford, in the morning, the Hospital Chapel in the afternoon and then walked to St. Margaret's, Barking in the the evening! Henry must have been a marvellous friend and companion. He was a kind, thoughtful, romantic and energetic young man, with a gentle sense of humour and competitive streak, who enjoyed life to the full. The diary records his encounters and liaisons with the very pretty Miss Mackey, whom he married four years later in 1868.
The following extracts have been compiled from Henry’s diary and grouped into several main headings and numerous subsections. The diary is written in a very clear hand.