Introduction: Henry’s fascinating manuscript scribbling diary for the year 1864 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 marvelous 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, Romford and Chadwell. 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. Some business was also carried out 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 and engaging in singing, gossiping, scandalising, playing croquet, billiards, enjoying 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 occasionally then walked to St. Margaret's, Barking in the evening! Henry must have been a marvelous 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.
Family Details: Henry was born on 21st April 1842, in Great Ilford, the son of builder William Ashmole (1811-1879) and Charlotte Hunsdon (1814-1880). His paternal grandparents were Samuel Ashmole (1778-1818) and Sarah Darby. Henry had one younger brother William (Willie) Ashmole (1850-1924) who later became an Auctioneer, Valuer and Estate Agent. Henry, aged 26 married Sarah Ann Mackey (1846-1917) at St. John the Evangelist East Dulwich on 14th May 1868. His bride was a 23 year old spinster and the daughter of George Mackey a wine merchant. They had three children; George William Ashmole 1869-1871; Sidney Ashmole 1870-1923 and Ernest Ashmole 1873-1916. Henry died on 17th February 1879, aged 36, at Back Street, Ilford of pleurisy, which he had endured for six days. He was still a builder. His will dated 28th October 1874 was proved by his brother William Ashmole, Ilford Auctioneer & Surveyor on 5th March 1879. His effects were resworn in July 1880 at under £4,000.
Henry’s widow Sarah Ann Ashmole of Thorold Road, Ilford died on 20th February 1917 with effects valued at £218.75. Administration of her will was granted on 17th March 1917 to Sidney Ashmole a cabinet maker.
Henry had many paternal and maternal uncles and aunts and numerous cousins. His uncle, Henry Jubilee Ashmole (1813-1886), was landlord of the Angel Hotel, Ilford. His wife was Maria Oldaker. They and their 7 children are frequently mentioned in Henry's diary.
The diarist’s mother’s family, the Hunsdon’s, came from Little Ilford and farmed at the manor house. Henry’s nephew, the eminent classical scholar and Oxford Professor Bernard Ashmole (1894-1988), Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the British Museum, gives a brief account of the Ashmole family in his autobiography. One illustrious 17th century Royalist ancestor was Elias Ashmole (1617-1692). The flourishing Oxford Ashmolean Museum which Elias founded in 1683, has claim to be the first public museum in Europe.
The flimsy paperback diary is written in a very clear hand in a T.J. & Smith’s Commercial Scribbling Diary No. 7 for 1864 which was published at one shilling [5p]. The earlier entries are quite sparse but he soon fills the space for each day.The following notes have been compiled from Henry’s script.
Henry’s diary shows that most of his working time was spent on building projects in the Ilford area. These were often small repairs to cottages or public buildings. Sometimes he was building cottages either for the Ashmole’s to rent out or for other landlords to let. He and his father bought land at local auctions to develop or resell.In February 1864 he was repairing five houses between the White Horse and Angel Inns for Mr. Moore as well as building a 252 feet long 1ft barrel drain with a fall of 2ft 9” at Chadwell. While in March he began cottages at Chadwell for Mr. Higgs. In June Henry was setting out a house at the Cauliflower, levelling ground and putting up a fence at Chadwell Heath. He records paying his workmen on Saturday evening and the many vicissitudes in collecting payment for his work. Henry mentions the movement of timber, bricks, slates, guttering, scaffolding and other materials necessary for his building works.
Henry also acted as an undertaker. He did much work at Great Ilford churchyard at St. Mary’s and also the City of London Cemetery at Manor Park, Little Ilford. In February he arranged the funeral of Mr. Charrington’s child at Barkingside. The Charrington Family lived at Great Gearies. In June Henry arranged the funeral of Mrs. Davis of Cranbrook Hall and recorded soldering down the lead coffin. He noted on Tuesday 28th June 1864 "Funeral of Mrs. Davis took place at Ilford Church at 3 o’clock, went off very satisfactorily; had a dinner at the Angel afterwards. 17 mourners followed in mourning Coaches & their own carriages" Less than 2 months later Henry arranged the funeral of Mr. Davis. He noted on Thursday 18th August 1864; "Mr. Davis’s Funeral. Go & see the Lieutenant Colonel at 10 o’clock AM. The Funeral went off very well. There was the Hearse & 5 Morning Coaches & Vans & 4 Private Carriages"
Henry Ashmole also undertook work at Ilford Gaol which was located near the present site of the Three Rabbits public house on the Romford Road at Manor Park. In June he went to London to inquire about a galvanised iron tub for the goal. He obtained the pipes from London and started the water job at the gaol on Wednesday 20th July. He presented his bill to the gaol in September.
Monday was rent collecting day for Henry. He invariably went, by foot or horse, to Romford and then to Greenhill Grove, Little Ilford to collect the rents. He also collected rent on behalf of other landlords including a maternal aunt Mrs Elizabeth Eustace Hunsdon. The diary contains a detailed account of a family feud about the rent from a trust. Fortunately this was eventually settled amicably. Henry and his father bought and sold land and cottages. They often went viewing together and bought land in Chigwell, Romford etc.
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of Henry’s diary is the entertainment that was on offer to a young man in Ilford in the mid-1860s. He certainly lived life to the full. Balls, card games, chess, concerts, cricket, croquet, dances, debates, penny readings, picnics, the theatre are all recorded.
In January Henry attended a very pleasant ball at Morgan’s in Barking and a first rate ball at Willett’s Barking where “a Mr. Newman drank too much champagne at Supper which made him, as he thought, wonderfully strong – so much so that he knocked a hole throughthe wall with his fist". He stayed overnight at Mr. Vacher’s Teddington Manor ball where he danced and the party “drank about 5½ dozen of wine”. The Rifle Ball in Ilford Reading Rooms was tolerable and cost him 13/6d [67p]. In February he went to a ball in Bedford Square and “had a very nice pleasant & jolly evening”.
Henry loved playing cards, especially Cribbage, Loo and Whist. He was a very competitive played and often mentions if he won or lost. Henry also enjoyed playing chess. On 16th December he amusingly noted “I went to Mr. Willett’s to spend the evening. I taught Mr. W the moves at Chess; but it seems to perplex him considerably".
On Friday 8th April 1864 Henry noted "Went to a capital Concert at the Reading Rooms. The Misses Oldaker’s,Dr. Ingleby, the Misses Graves, Mr. Law, C.T. Holcombe Esq & 3 other gentleman from Leslie’s Choir; altogether it passed off excellently& was a decided success. The room was crowded".
Henry enjoyed watching and playing cricket. On Tuesday 19th July 1864 he recorded "…played Cricket with Willie &c in Uncle Henry’s field” while in August “all went to the Uphall field to play Cricket, ride the pony &c: came home to supper”. Croquet and quoits were often played; occasionally archery was arranged. Henry often went to Brandon Villa, Ilford to play croquet on Mr. Willett’s lawn. On Monday 1st August 1864 he observed "Henry, William & I went to Brandon Villa, found no one at home & had six games at Croquet; I supped at the Angel".
Dancing was very popular with Henry, his family and friends. They decided in September to arrange a monthly subscription dance at the Angel, Ilford. 40 attended the first dance held on Thursday 27th October. Henry also enjoyed a good debate and recorded them in his diary. For example he noted on Wednesday 2nd March 1864; "Debate at the Infant Schools; about Ottoman Empire: lost by 1 vote". Other debates covered topics such as opening museums on Sundays, the franchise, capital punishment and purchasing army commissions.
Henry enjoyed socialising. He scribbled in his diary for Friday 6th August 1864; "Frank Ashmole & I went after [tea] to Mr. Fardell’s at Castle Rising Farm. We had a very jolly evening, they are such jolly people, & we all enjoyed ourselves amazingly, we danced, sang, smoked &c &c: got home by midnight". However he did not tolerate excess and observed on Tuesday 11th October 1864; "J. Oldaker as ‘drunk’ as possible, kicked up an awful row at the Angel the nasty disgusting individual". Amusingly his mother was an Oldaker.
The Ashmole family enjoyed attending exhibitions in London. In October they attended the Cattle Show at the Agricultural Hall, Islington “to see the Collection of interesting subjects made by working men in their own time &c &c”. Sometimes they went on excursions to Brighton, Southend and Sheerness. Fishing was popular among the menfolk. For example on Saturday 9th July 1864; "Father, Harry, Mr. Willett & Hedger went for a day’s fishing to Wanstead & had middling sport" while he recorded that on Saturday 30th July 1864; "Father, HW, J. Hedger & a little Boy, Maria & Annie & Mr. Willett all went fishing to Wanstead & between the lot of them didn’t catch more than 10 or 11 little sprats. Jenny & Bessy returned from Brighton where they enjoyed themselves amazingly; I walked home with E. Willett in the evening & spent about ½ hour or more there & smoked a cigar".
The family went on a week’s holiday to Tunbridge in August where they danced and watched and played cricket. Henry mentioned that on Wednesday 24th August 1864; "We went to a Cricket match at Ightham; I got a nasty Crack with the ball. …We spent the evening at Mr. Loves afterwards; went round his garden, & played Croquet on his magnificent lawn. (N.B. This is the best croquet lawn I have ever seen) Had tea out of doors. I got home about ½ past 11 thoroughly tired & ready to go to bed" while on Thursday 25th August 1864 he noted "We were all going to see the Great Eastern now lying at Sheerness being loaded with the Atlantic Cable; but we could not see our way clearly so did not go; instead of which we had a picnic at Rowhay, & a dance at the Manor afterwards; which was a jolly …improvement according to my fancy on the G.E".Horse racing is recorded several times in Henry’s diary.
On Wednesday 14th April 1864 he recalled “Steeple Chases at Brentwood, a splendid day for do, although there was plenty of dust. Spent the evening at home: Harry went to the DramaticEntertainment at Romford. Father went to London". The family also gambled as on Wednesday 25th May 1864 Henry noted "Derby Day; Blair Athol won the race: he belonged to Mr. J. Anson was ridden by Snowden: Mother was Blink Bonny; Father was Stockwell". Shortly afterwards he added on Friday 27th May 1864; "Fille l’air won the Oaks. Played Billiards".
Penny Readings were popular with Henry and he recorded them in his diary. He frequently attended the Ilford Reading Rooms. On Thursday 10th March 1864 he wrote "Went to an excellent Penny Reading at the Rooms. Mr. Holloway & J. Graves read &c. Mr. Plater a friend of the Haslehurst’s sung some excellent songs" while on Friday 1st April 1864 he added "Went to the Penny Readings at Reading Rooms. E. Griffin Senior, E. Tozer & Reverend Benyon read the 6th & last reading for the present season”. The Penny Readings resumed in the autumn as on Thursday 10th November 1864 he recorded "Penny Reading at the Reading Room. Six of us viz. – Mary & Kate Low, Jenny, H.W.A, J.H.B. & self all went to the ‘Penny Readings'. Messrs. Griffin junr & Clutterbuck read, Mr. Law performed on the Piano; & a Mr. Sharp sang. Reverend Benyon did nothing, but just opened & closed the Entertainment by a brief speech; all passed off very well. Lotty returned from Russia after an absence of 15 months; I don’t see much alteration in her". He caustically remarked on Thursday 1st December 1864 "Went to Penny Readings in the evening: Miss M was not there. Young Graves & Mr. Staines read; the former was a failure, the latter read very well. A Mr.Lowndes sang (very well as he thought) but the judges in the audience did not think much of it". Finally he observed on Thursday 15th December 1864; "A lot of us went to hear Mr. Reeve at the Penny Read; he read a ‘Cozy Couple’ & ‘Boots at the Swan’ it passed off excellently".
Picnics were arranged, but were subject to the vagaries of the English climate. For example on Friday 2nd September 1864 he noted "Had a famous picnic on the Flats at Wanstead; but unfortunately it turned out a showery day; and consequently put a damper on the afternoon's enjoyments; but we made the best of it, also made up for it by dancing it out at the Angel in the evening. We went & returned in Uncle Henry’s van & the cart went with the grub, musicians, & servants &c: I was almost knocked up with 2 nights of this species of frolicking fun. Aunt Bessy still very queer".
Home entertainment was very popular both in the home and in more formal surroundings.Henry observed on Sunday 31st July 1864; " Went to Ilford Church in the morning; spent the whole day at the Angel & Maria, Kate, Harry, Miss Mackey, Jenny, Bessy, Father & Aunt Bessy &self all took Barking Church by storm; I have no doubt quite frightened poor old Mr. Moore. Self, Maria, Miss M. & Kate stayed to the singing after the service & had a very nice walk home”. Little over a week later he recorded onMonday 8th August1864; "Mrs & Miss Fardell came to tea & Mr. & Tom Fardell came afterto spend the evening, we had singing &c. a very pleasant evening. Tom had to walk home for the 4 wheeler as they all forgot to order it". Singing was popular in the long autumn evenings. For example on Monday 7th November 1864 Henry recorded "Mrs. Fardell & Annie came to tea & Mr. Tom came afterwards& spent the Evening. We amused ourselves by singing, playing etc”, while on Friday 25th November 1864 he noted "Bessy spent the day here, Jenny came directly after tea & H.W.A., J.H.B & Mr. O’Kelly came in the evening we had a little singing; talking etc.Lost our new puppy ‘Watch’ but found him again on Saturday morning. Barnes brought him back".
Henry Ashmole and his male family, friends and business associates enjoyed playing billiards and pool, usually as his uncle’s inn, The Angel. He often combined playing with lunch, dinner or supper. His diary for Thursday 11th August 1864 recorded "Mr. Chambers came for an order & payments of account, after which we went & had 4 games of Billiards & then he drove off to South Ockendon". He was quite competitive and recorded on Saturday 24th September 1864; "Alfred Low came down; we played Billiards & Pool. I beat him 2 at Billiards & 1 I halved at Pool. We came home about 9 o’clock & had supper & played Loo afterwards. I was lucky at that. Alfred Low joined our Monthly Dance. We did not get to bed till 12 o’clock". Again, on Monday 12th December 1864 he scribbled "Played Billiards in the evening & H.W.A thrashed me 2 games (100 up) most unmercifully. I said I wouldn’t play with him again for some time to come. Had supper at the Angel & J.H.B also".
Young Henry enjoyed theatricals, both performing and watching. His diary opened on Friday 1st January 1864 with the following account of his appearance on stage "Had an ‘Amateur Theatrical Entertainment at the Angel, we played a Charade called ‘United’ & a Farce entitled ‘Ici on Parle Francais’. The characters were sustained by Emma Willett, Jenny & Bessy Bartlett & Maria Ashmole; Henry W. & Frank & Henry & Willie Ashmole. Mr.Wood was extremely kind on the occasion; he was prompter, painted us up & lent us lots of things:we got our wigs &c from ‘Clarkson’s Wellington Street, Strand; altogether it was a ‘decided success’. We performed before about 80 or 90 altogether". A few days later on Monday 4th January 1864 he rather brutally noted "The bandsmen of the 2nd Essex Rifle Volunteers had an amateur theatrical Entertainment at the Reading Room, Ilford, they performed the ‘Man with the Carpet Bag’ & ‘Doing the Hansom’. They made a very bungling mess of it, in fact it was a complete failure, but considering the ‘Education’ & abilitiesof the parties concerned in it, it was passable …the room was crowded". Towards the end of January he recorded "Harry went to the Romford Ball, an annual affair in honour of the Prince of Wales’s marriage (a very good one). I went in the evening to hear the singing &c: after the Club dinner at the Angel Inn. The band of the 2nd Essex performed their theatricals in the National School Rooms at Barking for the benefit of the Widows & Orphans whose husbands & fathers perished in the late frightful gales" Visits to London were frequent. On Saturday 2nd April 1864 he wrote "Mother, H.W., Mr. Willett & I all went to see ‘Leah’ at the Adelphi Theatre; Miss Bateman is a first rate actress ... We all enjoyed it immensely". Henry took an interest in other peoples’ theatre visits and humorously noted on Saturday 9th April 1864 "Frank, Maria & Bessie all went with Mr Dawson to see Henry IV at Drury Lane Theatre. I played 4 games of Billiards in the evening; 2 with Father & 2 with W. Mead & I won all of them. They all enjoyed themselves very much at the theatre; Frank fainted away in the battle scene but was soon brought to". Local shows were attended. For example on Monday 23rd May 1864 he recorded "in the evening 4 of us went to the Theatrical Performance at Romford: it passed off exceedingly well, I was much surprised we did not get home till one o ‘clock is past". Ilford was able to stage entertainment. Henry noted, in some detail, one such event held on Thursday 8th December 1864 as follows "An Amateur Theatrical Entertainment at Reading Room. Went to the Entertainment in the evening, it past off far better than the last one that took placeon Monday 4th January last, in fact I may say, it was a ‘decided success’ . The room was very much crowded; a gentleman (from London) showed us the ‘rope trick' as performed by the Davenport brothers, it was very good, another London gentleman recited a piece very well. Several songs were sung by a Mr. Rowe who well merited the applause of the audience. The pieces that they performed were "Taming a Tiger", & "No. 1 Round the Corner". I saw Miss Mackey home". Towards the end of 1864 Henry records another London visit to see a Shakespeare playas follows Wednesday 14th December 1864 "…in the afternoon viz 4PM I went to Angel had tea & then Aunt & young Maria H.W.A & I all rode up to see Shakespeare’s play of Macbethat Drury Lane; the last week of it. Mr. Dawson Organist at Barking gave Aunt M 4 tickets for the Dress Circle; we got home at one o’clock in the morning".
Henry enjoyed walking. His diary includes several entries. For example on Sunday 12th June 1864 he observed "… & Chapel in the Evening & went for a walk on to the Mound at Uphall after evening service". He visited Uphall again on the afternoon of Sunday 20th November while the following Sunday he recorded on 27th November 1864; "Went to Ilford Church in the morning; & spent remainder of the day at the Angel, went for a stroll in the afternoon", while on Sunday 4th December 1864 he wrote "Mr. Hogarth came to dine & spend the day at No. 4. H.W.A dined here & we went for a short walk afterwards".
Henry was very much a family man and was always in the midst of family activities. His diary inevitably makes frequent reference to members of his very extended family. He was especially close and very respectful of his parents. He recorded on Friday 29th July 1864 "went to meet Mother by the ½ past 10 train. We found on Saturday morning that she had been clever enough to lose her purse with about £5 in it, we think in all probability a woman who alighted at Forest Gate relieved her of the same". His aunt Bessie came to live with Henry in August and kept house for him. Aunt Bessie had several teeth extracted in 1864 while on Friday 12th August 1864 he carefully recorded “Father was suffering from an attack of Diarrhoea; & he went directly to bed directly he got home". Three day later on Monday 15th August 1864 he wrote "H.W.A. attains his majority. I gave him a box of tools…Father had his nasty side ache". His father was again ill on Friday 4th November 1864 when Henry scribbled “Father taken ill with aches in the kidney & adjoining parts”. Sadly his father continued to suffer on Tuesday 8th November 1864 when "Father had a very bad night". Thankfully his father started to get better from 10th November but on Thursday 17th November 1864 Henry noted; "Father in bed all day as he had the blister on from 3 o’clock this morning till 3 in the afternoon". This seemed to have worked because the next day Henry added “Father is decidedly better, the blister did him good".
Uncles, aunts, cousins and friends were constantly arriving and departing at the Ashmole residences in Ilford. Henry recorded one such episode on Monday 12th September 1864 as follows "Aunt Mary & Uncle Woolmer came down to spend the day…Aunt Mary & Uncle Woolmer started with the intention of going up by the 9 Train. When they got to the Station the train had just gone & some vulgar individual screamed out that they ‘could hang on behind’ however they did not, but went to the Post Office & up by the last train at 9.50". Henry recorded on Wednesday 8th June 1864 "Dined at the Angel & in the evening about 35 of us went to Miss Miller’s Uphall to a dance in the Barn, we had a very jolly evening indeed, & Miss Green sang splendidly so did her sister, we did not get home till ½ past 12 or thereabouts". He noted the coming and going away of his brother and cousins to school. OnFriday 2nd December 1864 Henry wrote "…had tea at No. 4 Adelaide Terrace & spent the evening there. Mr. Hogarth came down to bring Father’s hat that he had taken away by mistake on Tuesday last. Mr. Wright wrote Aunt Jane about a damned bitch ‘stealing his watch & Chain’ & wanting to know if she could lend him £20 to buy another; he said he would not have lost them for £40; all I have to say is that it serveshim right for having got into bad Company".
Henry recorded national and local news in his journal. He was interested in disasters. He wrote on Friday 11th March 1864 "An awful catastrophe took place at Sheffield by the breaking of a dam between the mountains by which about 300 lives were lost herds of cattle, trees property of all kinds took place at about 11 or 12 o’clock at night".While on Saturday 1st October 1864 he recorded "An explosion at Woolwich Arsenal at 6.42AM; a severe shock or earthquake experienced here at Ilford. NB The above was an explosion of a Gunpowder Magazine at first supposed to be at Creek’s Mouth, but in reality was at Hall’s Powder Mills at Erith, 30,000 barrels of powder exploded, & supposed to be between 40 & 50 lives lost in the debris". His diary details the famous Franz Miller murder of Mr. Briggs on a train and the theft of his hat. While on Saturday 24th September 1864 he mentions "A frightful murder took place at Chadwell Heath. The street lamps were alight for the first time this evening". He added on Wednesday 28th September 1864; "I, father & Harry all went to hear the inquest on the body of the woman murdered at Chadwell; it took more than 4 hours & the verdict was of course ‘Unlawfull Murder’. We did not get home from Gaol till nearly ½ past 8". Henry was not adverse to gossip and scandal. For example on Saturday 12th November 1864 he wrote "Heard about Mr. Nicholson & Mrs. Dawson eloping…Went to the gaol in the morning to hear Ferdinand Edward Karl Kopl examination on suspicion for murder at Plaistow, he was remanded. Old Mr. Barker died" while 2 days later on Monday 14th November 1864 he recorded "Muller the murderer of Mr. Briggs underwent the extreme penalty of the law outside Newgate at 8AM. I spent the evening at home playing whist, reading Muller's confession &c". Some incidents were of a more local manner. On Friday 21st October 1864 for example he noted "A robbery at Mr. Willett’s during this night at Barking". Henry rather gruesomely chronicled on Wednesday 23rd November 1864 "The inquest on the body of that was found decapitated in Plaistow Marshes resumed & concluded at the Gaol a verdict of "Wilfull Murder" returned against Ferdinand Karl Kohl".
Henry was well acquainted with the Ilford Brick Pits and recorded the finding of fossils. On Saturday 24th September 1864 he noted "An extinct animals tusk was found in Hill’s brickfield it measured 12 ft. long: also a pair of horns but not supposed to belong to the same animal". He returned the next day Sunday 25th September 1864 when he wrote "Went to Ilford Church in the morning; to see the large tusk in the Brickfields in the afternoon". He even took an uncle to see the remains on Tuesday 27th September 1864 when he scribbled "Uncle Woolmer came down in the afternoon & we went to see this wonderful Pre-Adamite in the Brickfield again".
St. Mary’s Church, Great Ilford is continually mentioned in Henry’s journal. Towards the end of the year great changes were being made to the building. He mentions these in some detail. For example on Thursday 25th August 1864 he observed "Had a meeting at the Reading Room to determine what to do with regard to the Enlargement & decorating & improvement of Great Ilford Church. A new tower is to be erected at the sole expense of the relations of the late J. Davis Esq. as a lasting memorial of the kindness & liberality of the ‘departed one’ to this parish". Again on Sunday 11th September 1864 he noted "A meeting was held yesterday at the Reading Rooms respecting the pulling down & rebuilding the Church Spire & making a tower". When work commenced Henry recorded on Tuesday 15th November 1864 "They took the weathercock off the Church Spire. I saw them do it". A few days later he added on Saturday 19th November 1864 "Took the bell down at Church" and then on Thursday 24th November 1864; "called at Church; the tower of which they are demolishing rapidly". A few days later on Sunday 4th December 1864 Henry observed "Went to Ilford Church in the morning, they have got the brickwork of new tower just out of ground". A week later on Sunday 11th December 1864 he was able to report "Went to Ilford Church in the morning (they have built the tower about 10 feet at present. Got the entrance well made)". Finally on Sunday 1st January 1865 he mentioned "I went to Ilford Church in the morning; they have built the tower higher than the main roof of the Church. I should fancy this sharp weather will affect the work considerably".
Henry’s notes contain much personal detail of his appearance, health and romance! For example on Thursday 11th February 1864 he informs us "Took 2 prs of boots to Spall’s to be soled, heeled & rep’d"; while on Wednesday 14th September 1864 he was "Measured for a new pair of boots at Spall’s & sent 2 pairs to be soled & heeled".On Thursday 29th September 1864 he "Went to London for sundry things. Called on Lewis, Soper & J.Brown. Had my likeness taken. Bought a meerschaum pipe". A few days later however on Thursday 6th October 1864 he "Wrote to London Photographic School to say that my likeness did not give satisfaction & would go up & have a fresh sitting in about a week or a fortnight's time". This he did on Tuesday 11th October 1864 when he wrote "Go to have my likeness taken afresh". Just over a week later on Wednesday 19th October 1864 he added "I was walking about London all the morning went to have my likeness taken again but it was too late in the day to succeed with it". Having his photograph taken caused further problems as on Wednesday 26th October 1864 he noted "Go to London about Likeness … & could not have my likeness taken because of the dullness of the Day, returned by 5 train". Finally on Wednesday 30th November 1864 Henry "Went to London on business, had my likeness taken again" ad on Friday 9th December 1864 he thankfully recorded "My likenesses came from Pantheon for approval, we like them very well". What a contrast to todays ‘selfies’!
Henry recorded on Wednesday 25th May 1864; "I had one of my double teeth out, very much decayed, drawn by Mr. O’Kelly Dr. Sullivan’s Assistant". However his eyes were rather troublesome in June and July 1864.He suffered the usual colds and noted on Saturday 3rd September 1864: "I have got a jolly cold & it affects my throat considerably & I am as hoarse as a ‘raven’” while on Friday 17th November 1864 "I have caught a very disagreeable cold somewhere". Occasionally he was rather bilious and Henry recorded on Tuesday 15th November 1864; "I was precious sick in the Garden, just after Supper, but from what cause I know not". On Thursday 1st December 1864 he rather graphically noted "Took medicine last night & consequently stayed at home all the forenoon… The Black draught & pill purged me ‘with a vengeance’ went no less than 4 times".
During the course of 1864 Henry started to develop a romantic attachment to Miss Mackey. On Thursday 25th February 1864 he noted "Walked down to Reading Room, & accompanied Miss Mackey home" while on Sunday 10th April 1864 he mysteriously wrote "Miss M—very pretty". This attachment developed and on Wednesday 1st June 1864 he recorded in some detail "Nothing particular going on during the day. Met Miss Mackey & Miss Wray at the Angel. The 1sttime that I have had the pleasure of meeting Miss M. – in a private room, I like her much; quite an unexpected treat; I walked to the Cemetery in the afternoon; & escorted Misses M & W to Parsonage House in the evening". Henry missed Miss Mackey went she went home for 5 weeks in June and July. He excitedly noted on Friday 12th August 1864; "Miss Mackey supped at Angel & I had the extreme felicity of walking home with her at 10.o’clock". On Sunday 25th September 1864 Henry went "to Chapel in the evening, the two Miss Willets were there & Miss Mackey whom I had the pleasure of escorting home". The next day he wrote on Monday 26th September 1864; "Had a very jolly chat with Miss M.". Three days later on Thursday 29th September 1864 Henry observed “Had the pleasure (casually of course) of going to London with Miss M – she took a 1st Class ticket but preferring Company; went in the 2nd with me. I put her into an Omnibus … & she went direct home". Henry often escorted Miss Mackey home from church. Sometimes this was prearranged. On Friday 18th November 1864 he recorded "Wrote Miss M about going to Barking Church on Sunday evening" and then on Sunday 20th November 1864 “ We all went to Barking Church & I had pleasure of walking home with Miss M – who was also there accidently of course". A few days later on Thursday 24th November 1864 Henry recorded "The Day of our next Merry Meeting… We had a very jolly 4 hours dance…I danced 4 times with Miss M (but not consecutively)".Matters progressed and on Monday 28th November 1864 he noted "Miss Mackey & Miss Perry came to tea & spend the evening; we played ‘Loo’ &c … in the evening I had a bilious attack come on. Had a very jolly evening with Miss M – the first time she has been here. I have not heard how Father& Mother like her, but I feel confident they do so". On Saturday 10th December 1864 Henry was pleased when "Miss Mackey & Miss Perry came to tea… Jenny also (who has a bad hoarseness) also came to tea. We played ‘Loo’ & Vingt et un in the evening & had a little music & singing &c Miss M plays well. A. Low came down by 8 train of course we saw them safely home".Miss Mackey’s stay in Ilford at the Misses Burmester’sAcademy was coming to an end in December and on Sunday 31st December 1864 Henry noted "I fetched Miss Mackey from the Angel & 8 of us went to Barking Church. Miss M came here to supper & I saw her safely back to the Angel at 10PM". As we know Henry and Miss Mackey married in 1868.
Religion played an important part in Henry Ashmole’s life. The foolscap sized scribbling diary gives a week to a page and does not include a space for Sundays. Henry started to use about half the space allocated for Saturday to include Sundays from 14th February 1864. His routine was often to go to St. Mary’s church on Sunday morning, the Hospital chapel in the afternoon and occasionally to St. Margaret’s, Barking in the evening. On Sunday 27th March 1864 he piously noted "Took the Sacrament at St. Mary’s Gt. Ilford in the morning & went to Chapel in the evening. Easter Sunday". While on Sunday 8th May 1864 he "Went to Church in the morning, Cemetery in the afternoon & Chapel in the Evening. NB A collection in the morning for the Barking Church Union". He recorded on Sunday 24th July 1864; "Went to Ilford Church in the morning…& went to hear a Charity Sermon preached by Mr. Liddell for National & Infant Schools in the Evening at Barking.Not much of a Sermon". Sometimes a party of Henry’s family and friends went to church together. For example onSunday 31st July 1864 he noted "Went to Ilford Church in the morning…& Maria, Kate, Harry, Miss Mackey, Jenny, Bessy, Father & Aunt Bessy & self all took Barking Church by storm; Ihave no doubt quite brightened old Mr. Moore. Self, Maria & Kate stayed to the singing after the service & had a very nice walk home". On16th October 1864 Henry "Went to Ilford Church in the morning took the Sacrament there; & a walk over ‘Butt fields’ in afternoon & to Chapel in the evening & A. Willett& I went to meet them coming from Barking Church". He painted a fascinating word picture in his diary on Tuesday 18th October 1864 when he wrote "…St. Luke’s Day. Went to Chapel in the Evening, it was crowded; thanksgiving for a bountiful Harvest. There were Choristers, 4 Parsons, intoning, Chapel decorated, candles burning, quotations from Scripture stuck about in various parts, but the best part of all Mr. Proctor gave us a very nice discourse". The following Sunday on 23rd October 1864 he inscribed in his journal "Every appearance of rain in the morning prevented a great number from attending Divine Service…Went to Ilford Church in the morning…I wentto Chapel in evening & saw Miss Burmester home, had a chat with Miss M. Miss Perry & brother went to Barking Church in the Evening". At Christmas he observed on Sunday 25th December 1864: "Xmas Day. Spent a quiet day at home went to Church in the morning & Chapel in the evening…Father & Bessy went to Barking Church in the evening.The Church & Chapel are both nicely decorated". Finally on Sunday 1st January 1865 he recorded "It snowed in the morning…went to Ilford Church in the morning…8 of us went to Barking Church".
Henry was a voracious traveler. He was often taking the train to London, or riding or walking for pleasure or business. He noted on Monday 20th June 1864 "My horse ‘Lion’ went to London & on coming home was taken with a sudden attach of gripes or something of the kind quite off feed". The next day he wrote "Lion is better 6AM" while on Wednesday 22nd June 1864 he rejoiced that he "Went to Romford in the morning…Lion on feed again." Henry was dependent on his horse and cart for his building business and noted on Tuesday 26th July 1864 "Had my Cart thoroughly repaired".
Henry mentioned the weather throughout his diary.He notes the cold, the snow and general unpleasantness of the winter. Henry noted on Wednesday 9th March 1864 "The most miserable day during the whole winter, sleet snow, very cold wind & such like sufficient to give any one the miserables" while on Easter Monday 28th March 1864 it "turned out a very rough night snow, sleet & wind". On Friday 16th December 1864 he complained that "It has been a bitter cold day a piercing wind from the N enough to cut one almost in two". Finally on Sunday 1st January 1865 he reported "It snowed in the morning, thawed during the day & then froze sharp at night which made it very dangerous travelling".
Rain, the staple ingredient of any discussion was frequently recorded. On Monday 29th February 1864 it was "an extremely wet day" while on Tuesday 31st May 1864 he experienced "A beautiful rain for 4 or 5 hours". This contrasted with "A very rough day, storm in the afternoon" on Wednesday 15th June 1864.
Good weather was recorded. For example on Monday 11th April 1864 "Has been a most delightful day" or "Another magnificent day” on Tuesday 12th April 1864. On Friday 9th December 1864 he noted "It has been a very mild week more like spring; but not seasonable" and on Monday 26th December 1864 "A fine day".
Drought was recorded in July 1864. On Tuesday 19th July 1864 he noted "Went to London in the morning, a tremendous hot day". This continued on Wednesday 20th July 1864 which was"Another tremendous Hot day" and on Thursday 21st July 1864"Another tremendous hot day scorching everything up. – Had a shower in the evening but nothing to speak of". Eventually this dry spell led to the following entry on Saturday 30th July 1864; "Exceedingly dry weather; prayed for rain in St. Mary’s". The prayers were not speedily answered for on Friday 5th August 1864 Henry opined "Extremely dry weather, no rain to speak of for weeks; & no signs of it now, as fine as ever, the glass as high. I am afraid it will prove serious". False hope followed on Saturday 6th August 1864 when he noted "Another very dry day, looks a little like rain 10AM. We did not get any rain all day" and on Monday 8th August 1864 "Another very dry day; threatened a good deal for rain the first thing & went off again, turned out a fine day". Eventually the drought broke and it rained!
Extreme foggy weather was mentioned. For example on Friday 4th November 1864 he wrote "The day was fine although a little foggy all day, but in the evening we had November ‘with a vengeance’ it was tremendously foggy. I don’t ever remember seeing it more so". Again on Monday 21st November 1864 it was "A very foggy disagreeable day…turned out a fine afternoon" and finally on Friday 2nd December 1864 he recalled"Has been very foggy all night & do all day, but fortunately cleared up in the evening".