Drummond Ash was Cocking’s parish priest from 1860 to 1888, during a time of considerable change. He was the first occupant of the new vicarage in Bell Lane, and oversaw the expansion of the church and the building of the first village school. He also saw the coming of the railway to Cocking in 1881 and was the priest when his role was changed from Vicar to Rector.
He came from a family of clergy: his father was the parish priest at Lodsworth and all three of his brothers were also priests. His mother’s father was Chaplain to the Prince of Wales, while her maternal grandfather was George Horne, who was Bishop of Norwich from 1790 until his death two years later.
He made such an impression on his parishioners that, following his death eight years after leaving the parish, the only piece of stained glass in the church was installed in his memory.
Richard Robert Drummond Ash was born on 22 March 1829 at Catsfield, 7 mile north-west of Hastings, where his father John George Ash (1801–c.1850) was curate at St Laurence’s Church. He was baptised at the church on 22 April 1829.
Drummond’s mother, Caroline Selby-Hele (1796–1865) was the daughter of Robert Selby-Hele (1765–1839) who was appointed Chaplain in Ordinary to the Prince of Wales in 1789, before going on to become rector of Colmworth in Bedfordshire and Brede in Sussex. On her mother’s side, Caroline was the granddaughter of George Horne (1730–1792) who was Dean of Canterbury Cathedral from 1781 to 1790, before becoming Bishop of Norwich from June 1790 to his death in January 1792.
John and Caroline Ash had three daughters and four sons. Drummond Ash’s three brothers were all priests: John George Hele Ash (1827–1890) was the vicar of Rumburgh in Suffolk, Selby Attree Horne Ash (1838–1870) was curate at Hadleigh in Suffolk until his premature death, and Robert Halcott Paul Ash (1839–1915) was vicar at Emery Down in the New Forest from 1875 to 1880 and later at Appleton Thorn near Warrington, Cheshire.
By 1840, the family were living at Lodsworth where John George Ash had been appointed perpetual curate, a post he held until 1846. John is believed to have died at Lodsworth between 1846 and 1850.
In 1846, Drummond and his brothers, John and Selby, were admitted to Tonbridge School, where Drummond studied for two years before matriculating in 1848. During his time at the school, he was a member of the school’s cricket XI.
Drummond was admitted to Jesus College as a “pensioner” in March 1848, graduating as Bachelor of Arts in 1852, and being awarded his Master of Arts in March 1856.
At the 1851 national census, Caroline was living at London Road, Tonbridge. Described as a clergyman’s widow, she was living with her three younger sons (including Drummond, a 22-year old “undergraduate at Cambridge University”) and a daughter and three servants.
On 18 December 1853, Drummond was ordained as a deacon at Peterborough Cathedral by the Bishop of Peterborough, George Davys, following which he was appointed to the curacy at St Mary’s Church, at Benefield near Oundle in Northamptonshire. A year later, on 3 December 1854, he was ordained as a priest before transferring to St Andrew & All Saints at Barnwell, six miles south-east of Benefield, where he was a curate with an absentee rector, Revd. Richard Moore Boultbee. He also became a curate at St Peter’s Church, Oundle. Boultbee was Private Chaplain to the Duke of Buccleuch, who was the patron of Barnwell rectory.
On 10 January 1855, Drummond Ash married Revd. Boultbee’s 24-year old daughter, Georgiana Catherine, at St Peter’s Church in Boultbee’s home village, Iver, in Buckinghamshire. The marriage ceremony was conducted by Revd. Francis Alfred Bowles of Singleton, a friend of the groom’s late father. Georgiana’s mother, Mary, was the only daughter of Sir Christopher Pegge, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford.
The couple had nine children (five sons and four daughters), the first three of whom were born at Barnwell, and were baptised at St Andrew & All Saints’ Church as follows:
Cyril Alfred Drummond 24 June 1856
Herbert Richard Francis 10 January 1858
Edith Isabel Katharine 8 May 1859
In May 1860, Stuart Majendie, the vicar at Cocking, replaced Boultbee as rector at Barnwell, with Drummond Ash replacing Majendie at Cocking. The living at Cocking then had an annual value of £250; his patron was the Bishop of Oxford.
Drummond and Georgiana’s next child, Georgiana Caroline Charlotte was born at Cocking and baptised there on 22 July 1860.
Shortly after Drummond’s arrival at Cocking, the new vicarage built in Bell Lane, to replace that close to the brook at the bottom of the churchyard, was complete and the family were able to take up residence. At the census in April 1861, Drummond and Georgiana were living at the vicarage with their four children, all under five years old, together with two nurses and a housemaid.
Over the next eleven years, five further children were born at Cocking and baptised as follows:
Selby Horne Boultbee 1 September 1861
Harold Edward Haydon 2 October 1864
Caroline 5 November 1865
Percy Walter Hele 2 February 1868
Irene Felicia 19 March 1872
Sadly, Irene died at less than two weeks old, and was buried in the Cocking churchyard on 26 March 1872. The cause of death was recorded as “convulsions”.
In September 1862, there was a major fire at the vicarage, which started in the stables. According to press reports:
The great esteem in which the worthy Vicar, the Rev. Drummond Ash, is held, was soon apparent in the eagerness displayed by the inhabitants to quench the devouring element. At one time, it was thought that the beautiful vicarage house lately erected would fall a prey to the fire, but the reverend gentleman, with good judgement, directed that the walls connecting the outhouses with the vicarage should be removed, and thus break the connection, which fortunately had the desired effect.
Between 1863 and 1865, Revd. Drummond Ash was responsible for the building of the north aisle at Cocking church; this was the work of renowned church architect, William Slater. At the same time, the south aisle was refaced with flint, the porch was added and the south arcade was restored.
A few years later, Drummond was responsible for the building of the first village school, which opened in November 1870 on the corner of Mill Lane. The principal architect for the school was William Slater’s partner, Richard Carpenter.
At the April 1871 census, Drummond and Georgiana Ash were living at the vicarage with their eight surviving children, together with a nurse, a housemaid and a cook and Georgiana’s sister, Jane.
In April 1871, Ash was one of many signatories of a “Remonstrance Addressed to the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England” which protested the decision of the ecclesiastical courts in the case of Herbert v. Purchas, in which John Purchas, curate of St. James’ Chapel, Brighton, was ordered to cease the use of vestments, candles, incense etc. during church services.
Whereas in the 1871 and earlier censuses, Drummond Ash’s occupation was given as “Vicar of Cocking” and his home as the “Vicarage”, in April 1881 these had changed to “Rector” and “Rectory” respectively, indicating an increase in his responsibilities and revenue from the parish. Still living at the Rectory with Drummond and his wife were their four daughters and youngest son, 13-year old Percy, together with Jane Boultbee, and a governess and two maidservants.
In July 1881, the railway came to Cocking with the opening of the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway Co. branch from Chichester to Midhurst, with the village station situated close to the vicarage in Bell Lane.
From time to time during his time as Cocking’s parish priest, Drummond Ash was occasionally assisted by curates, including George Fieldwick from 1883 to 1885.
On 8 June 1886, Drummond Ash’s youngest daughter, Caroline, died at the rectory, aged 20. The cause of death was recorded as phthisis (tuberculosis). She was buried in the churchyard on 11 June.
One of Drummond Ash’s final acts before leaving Cocking was to officiate at the marriage of his eldest son Cyril to Hester Alexander, the daughter of a civil servant from Bengal, on 4 October 1888.
At the end of November 1888, Drummond Ash left Cocking after 28 years’ service to the village and the church congregation, to take up the position of Rector at Saxby All Saints in North Lincolnshire.
In March/April 1893, he spent a few weeks assisting at St John’s Church in Bromley, South-east London.
Drummond Ash remained at Saxby until he retired in early 1896, when he and Georgiana went to live at “The Cottage” in Emery Down, near Lyndhurst in the New Forest , the home of Georgiana’s sister, Charlotte.
Charlotte had never married and had devoted her life to the care of her uncle, Admiral Frederick Moore Boultbee. Frederick Boultbee had settled in Emery Down in 1856, and was a major benefactor to the village. He had financed the construction of the village church in 1864, and provided the funds for the alms houses built in 1871 for the benefit of elderly people of the parish. Following his death in 1876, Charlotte continued to live in the village.
Charlotte died on 3 April 1896, aged 75, leaving most of her estate in trust for the benefit of the church and the incumbent.
Drummond Ash died on 14 June 1896 at Emery Down, aged 67. The cause of death was recorded as “Heart disease; Congestion of lungs”.
At the time of his death, Drummond Ash’s successor at Cocking, Henry Randall had arranged for the restoration of the chancel. When news reached the village of the death of Drummond Ash, a fund was raised for the installation of a memorial window in the south wall of the chancel. The original window dates from the 13th century, but the stained glass was the work of James Powell.
The image represents Richard de Wych who was Bishop of Chichester from 1244 to 1253, although the face is that of Richard Durnford, the Bishop of the Diocese who had recently died. The inscription below the window reads:
In memory of Richard Robert Drummond Ash, M.A. rector of this parish for 28 years A.D. 1860–1888. He entered into rest June 14, 1896 aged 67. In the same year, when the chancel was restored, this window was dedicated by his friends and parishioners.
Subsequent family history
Following Charlotte Boultbee’s death, her home at “The Cottage” in Emery Down was bequeathed to the village church, and became the vicarage. Drummond’s widow, Georgiana went to live with her eldest son, Cyril, in Yorkshire, initially at Skipwith and then, from April 1906, at Saxton, where she died on 4 March 1910, aged 79.
After graduating from Keble College, Oxford, Cyril Alfred Drummond Ash followed his father into the priesthood. After various curacies around Chichester, in 1884-85 he was briefly the domestic chaplain to Arthur Hamilton-Gordon, the governor of Ceylon, before moving to Brisbane in Australia. He returned from Australia in 1892 to become his father’s curate at Saxby All Saints for a year. He was then the vicar at Skipwith (from 1893 to 1906) and perpetual curate at Saxton (from 1906 to 1926). Following his retirement, he settled in Codmore Hill, near Pulborough, where he died in December 1949, aged 93.
Cyril and Hester Ash had four children. Their eldest son, Basil Drummond Ash was born in Queensland, Australia in May 1890. In 1905, he became a cadet at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, from where he joined the Royal Navy. In 1914, he qualified as a pilot and was transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service. In September 1914, he and his co-pilot were killed when their plane crashed into the sea off the east of Scotland. He is believed to be the first Australian airman killed in World War 1.
Basil’s brother, Cyril Frank Drummond Ash (born at Skipwith in September 1898) also qualified as a pilot and joined the Royal Naval Air Service in 1917. He survived the war and qualified as a dentist. He died in Scarborough in June 1965.
Herbert Richard Francis Ash qualified as a civil engineer and worked in India from 1880. By 1901, he had “retired” and in 1911 was living with his elder brother at Saxton Vicarage. He died unmarried in December 1928 in Wandsworth, aged 71.
Edith Isabel Katharine Ash never married and in the various censuses her occupation was described as “private means”. She died in Kensington in December 1916, aged 57.
Georgiana Caroline Charlotte Ash married her father’s former curate, George Fieldwick, at Skipwith on 11 November 1896. The couple had two sons, Oswald and Wilfred, but both died as infants. Georgiana died in Cheltenham in November 1938, aged 78.
Selby Horne Boultbee Ash served in the Royal Navy, retiring as captain in July 1907. He married Grace Hetley in February 1898. Selby died in Hendon, West London in May 1936, aged 74. His only son, Hetley Selby Ash (born November 1898) joined the Royal Navy in 1911 and served until he retired as a commander in 1946.
Harold Edward Haydon Ash also served in the Royal Navy as an engineer commandeer. He married Adelaide Hemming in 1906; the couple had no children. He died in Farnham in March 1952, aged 87.
Percy Walter Hele Ash emigrated to California, where he married May Brandon in Jine 1891. He worked as a real estate agent and died in San Francisco in November 1933, aged 65. His only son, Selby Harrison Ash was born in San Francisco in May 1895. An aeroplane mechanic by trade, he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in June 1916 and ended the war serving with the Royal Air Force, with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
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