Tribute to Henry Ashby
The Friends of Windmill Gardens are saddened to report the death of Anthony Henry Ashby.
Henry first made contact with the Friends in 2011, when he read a newspaper report about a major restoration of the windmill. He immediately telephoned us and opened up a very important connection with the Ashby family and its long milling history.
Henry introduced himself as the great-great-great-grandson of John Ashby, who leased Brixton Windmill in 1816 and began a family flour milling business on Brixton Hill that lasted 118 years until Ashby & Sons finally closed in 1934.
Over the winter of 2010-11 the windmill had undergone a major restoration funded by a generous Heritage Lottery Fund grant, and money from Lambeth Council and the Friends. Brixton Windmill had been on English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk register since 2002, and the restoration was undertaken to bring it back into use and to secure its long-term future.
The Friends were honoured when Henry agreed to cut the ribbon to officially open the fully restored windmill on 2 May 2011. After that Henry arranged for other members of his family to support and join the Friends, bringing many of them to visit Brixton Windmill. These Ashby visitors even included representatives of the branch of the family that had settled in the USA. Henry’s sister Viv and his daughter Pru remain very active members of the Friends.
We are grateful that Henry was willing to share all he knew about his family, their history at the Lower Mill Brixton (known locally as Ashby’s Mill), and his extended family’s 200-year association with flour milling and in particular Brixton Windmill.
Both he and his wife Diana were generous with their hospitality, welcoming us into their home when we interviewed Henry about this history early in 2012. That was when he shared the detailed family tree that his father had researched and also some historic family photographs. Some of this history is contained in our book Mill Memories: recollections of Ashby’s Mill, Brixton, published in May 2014.
Whenever the Friends made an appeal for funds, whether it was to improve the experience of visitors to the windmill or to get the 1902 millstones grinding flour once again, Henry generously contributed, always encouraging other family members to do the same.
In 2014 we were particularly pleased when he organised the donation of the Ashby family park bench in Windmill Gardens. This sits opposite the front door of the windmill and is extremely well-used by visitors to the windmill and the park. It ensures that they will always be aware of the connection between the Ashby family and Brixton Windmill.
Henry’s death is a very sad loss to his many friends in Brixton. but he leaves us a strong legacy – his love for the windmill. He ensured that the Ashby family connection is firmly in place and will be shared in the future with everyone who visits and learns about this unique building.
We send our sincere condolences to his wife Diana, his son Charles and daughter Pru, and to all their family.
Anthony Henry Ashby 19 January 1932 – 1 February 2020