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Background and Research

Young Joan Ashton  In memory of
Joan  Ashton

Joan Ashton in later life

Joan Ashton and her mother, Connie, moved to their permanent home in Sandy in Bedfordshire in 1933.  They lived there for the rest of their lives. 

Joan was thus part of the Sandy community for all but the first five years of her life.  Many knew her as a school-teacher - a friend - a neighbour - a church bell ringer - a dinghy sailor - an outdoor activities leader - a Scottish dancer - and so much more.  However, very few really knew her.  Even good friends knew little of her hobbies and activities other than the one where they had met her.  None knew anything of her family background, except for the very occasional fragmentary references she made in passing. 

Little further would have ever been known about her, or her family, had she not [like her mother and grandmother] been a great hoarder, never throwing anything away in case it was needed, and always keeping documents, in case dreaded “officialdom” demanded some proof or information.  These documents tell an important story of the struggles of a small, dispossessed part of a large and wealthy family, from the late 19th Century and into the 21st Century.  It may have been a fairly commonplace story - but rarely is such a story so well documented. 

The collection of contemporary documents, including photographs and a wealth of personal papers and letters written by the members of the family, provides a rare insight into the values of late Victorian and Edwardian times.  In addition the everyday correspondence, photographs and post cards provide a background to travel, hobbies - including a passion for early motor-cycles, holidays and life in both wars, and provide an unrivalled collection of social documents.

An illustrated lecture "From Lubenham to Sandy" uses this very visual material to tell the story of four generations from landowning county JP and Alderman and his fourteen children; an  "unsuitable" marriage with the girl from the pub; midnight run-aways to London; and all the trauma of a family trying to retain their values.

A Report is in preparation that tells the story of Joan, her mother and grandmother, and their extended family.  It is based on this archive of documents, together with some supplementary research and is being produced for the Executors as a memorial and tribute.

Once the Report is published, the documentary material will be handed to various Archives for storage and preservation.  At present material is destined variously for the Luton and Bedfordshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire County Record Offices, also the Imperial War Museum or the Army Medical Services Museum.

Many of the older family photographs were taken by Gulliver Speight of Market Harborough.  More details of this photographer and his family can be found here on the "Speight Photographers" page.

Several other lectures are available, based on the Ashton Archive material, see:
Lectures and Presentations.

Further details can be obtained from:- John Frearson -