(c) 2016 Mount Merrion Historical Society
Mount Merrion Historical Society
The name is William Ashford
By DES SMYTH / Posted: August 19, 2014

In 2011 a small group of residents under the auspices of Mount Merrion 300, an offshoot of Mount Merrion Historical Society, undertook extensive research of the later years of the Fitzwilliam Dynasty in Ireland.

In the course of that research we found that there was a very close bond between Richard the 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam and the renowned Landscape Artist William Ashford. In the first decade of the 19th century Ashford painted six reasonably large views of and from Mount Merrion Demesne. These paintings have recently been completely restored by the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and can be viewed on the Museum website and of course in the Museum. Ashford also drew a portfolio of 24 Grey wash sketches of and from the demesne. These are also in the Museum still in the original Moroccan Leather Portfolio Album.

Of course there is much more to William Ashford than his relationship with Richard Fitzwilliam. Although born in Birmingham in 1746 he came to Ireland in his teens and never left. He was employed by the Surveyor General in Dublin Castle but his work took him all over the country, hence his appreciation of the Irish Landscape. Among his many landscape paintings is one of Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin. It can be seen on the Kilmainham Gaol website and is also included in their visitor audio/visual presentation on Kilmainham Gaol. The painting c.1796 is entitled 'A View of Dublin from Chapelizod' giving a great view of the then newly opened Gaol.

As early as 1775 he was accepted as a Fellow of the Society of Artists in London and became President of the Irish Society of Artists in 1813. He subsequently became involved with the establishment of the Royal Hibernian Academy and in 1823 was elected the First President of that noble Institution which continues to flourish today.

He lived in College Green which was very adjacent to his offices in Dublin Castle. In 1790 he asked his good friend James Gandon to design for him a home in Sandymount, there he spent the rest of his life with his wife and three children.

Very little is known of his family. We have been unable to find any trace of his son William. He did however bequeath his house in Sandymount to his daughter Anne, but because of the loss of subsequent Census documents we are unable to verify how long she spent there.

His other son Daniel however appears to have been an amateur painter since he did exhibit at Allen’s Gallery in Dame St in 1800. In the 1821 Census he is listed as living as “a Gentleman and Limner” in No.16 Ballsbridge. In 1812 Daniel became a father to another William Ashford.

This William Ashford grew up to be a renowned Apothecary and Accoucheur (obstetrician) in Ballsbridge. In Thom’s directory of 1862 he is listed as operating out of 5 Ashford’s Buildings. There was also an Ashford’s Terrace in the locality. Around the corner was The Hammersmith Ironworks, operated by Mr Turner and Mr Gibson where they designed and manufactured Wrought Iron Conservatories and roofs for Railway Terminals.

William was a renowned General Practitioner and it is reported that he gave of his time and expertise freely to the poor of the area. He died on the 15th July 1892 in his home at No.1 Serpentine Avenue Ballsbridge. A pillar memorial was commissioned and erected to his honour in Irishtown in 1893 to commemorate his service to the poor of the Parish for over 50 years. It stands in front of Victoria Terrace at the junction of Bath Street and Irishtown Road.

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