William Ashford.......some of his grey-wash drawings of Mount Merrion
(c) 2016 Mount Merrion Historical Society
Around 1804 William Ashford was commissioned by Viscount Fitzwilliam to paint his house and estate at Mount Merrion. Six of these paintings are now in the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge along with a portfolio of twenty-four drawings almost all of which relate to Mount Merrion.
The photo album to the right is showing some of those drawings. (click on any photo to enlarge).
William Ashford was born in Birmingham; nothing is known of his life until, as a young man of eighteen, he moved to Ireland. Through the patronage of the Surveyor General, Ralph Ward, he obtained a post as Clerk to the Controller of the Laboratory section of the Ordnance Office at Dublin Castle. This involved travelling around Ireland auditing the armaments and munitions in forts and barracks. He may have become interested in landscape painting from those travels around the countryside.
His first landscapes were exhibited in 1772 and his talent was quickly recognised. He is not mentioned in the Dublin Society Schools records except for a second place prize he won in 1772 for a landscape painting - the first prize was won by Thomas Roberts. Roberts died in 1778 and from then on Ashford was the most acclaimed landscape artist in Ireland. He was a founding member and first President of The Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA).
The original drawings and images are the property of the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge and all copyrights are acknowledged.
Ashford received many commissions from the landed gentry in Ireland to paint their estates - he worked for Lord Rossmore, the Duke of Leinster and the Earl of Charleville among others.
He resided in Ireland - his house in Sandymount was designed by his friend the celebrated architect James Gandon - but he maintained his links with England and exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Society of Artists. In later years he painted many seascapes, perhaps inspired by living beside Dublin Bay.
Ashford died in 1824 and is buried in Donnybrook cemetery.