george ashton

A Lane in Headingley
by John Atkinson Grimshaw

George was born in Charmouth on 2 August 1863, the second of five children born to John Ashton and Kezia Kenway. His father died several months before George’s thirteenth birthday and he took a job as a shop assistant at the local greengrocer’s to help support his family.

George left Charmouth in February 1882 when he obtained a position as a Boy Clerk with the Post Office’s Money Order Office in London. Following his mother’s death in early 1883, George was promoted to a Clerk and Telegraph operator in Bristol and moved there along with his younger brother Frederick. Two years later, he was transferred from the office in Bristol to the one in the town of Wells in central Somerset and he took lodgings in nearby Wookey Hole in the household of sisters Jane and Matilda Stevens and their neice, Harriet Elizabeth Stevens.

Despite objections from her family, George and Harriet married in Wells two years later and had their only son, John Stevens, on 30 June 1888. In 1891, the family was living at 1a Portway Street near the centre of Wells and George was working as a Clerk in the Post Office. But sadly, Harriet died of consumption one year later and the Stevens’ disapproval of George grew so pronounced after Harriet’s death that he chose to leave his son in the care of Jane Stevens and reportedly travelled abroad for six months.

George eventually returned to England but he did not return to live in Wells. Instead, he rejoined the Post Office in February 1892 and took a position in Wokingham near Reading in Berkshire. George did not have any previous connections or family in Berkshire so he may have moved there to take up the only position available to him at the time. One year later, he transferred to the Post Office in Sevenoaks, Kent where he first met his second wife, Georgie Fulcher. Apparently, George had returned to Wells to collect his four year old son, John Stevens, and they lived together in Sevenoaks.

Georgie Fulcher was born in Yaxley, Suffolk on 12 September 1870 to Henry Fulcher and Sarah Edith Mallandaine. According to Kavanagh’s biography of Fred Ashton, Georgie was visiting relatives in Sevenoaks when she met George while he was working at the local post office. George wrote to Georgie when she returned to Yaxley and was invited to visit by her mother, Sarah. The Fulchers were a successful farming family in Suffolk and although George was not thought to be the ideal husband for their daughter, Georgie’s parents eventually gave their consent for them to marry. It seems that George had already decided to seek his fortune in South America when he asked Georgie’s father for permission to marry her. This may have helped persuade the Fulchers as their only son, Tom, had disappeared in Brazil years before and they hoped that George could use his contacts in South America to help find their son.

George obtained a position with the Central and South American Cable Company in Lima, Peru and promised to send for Georgie once he had established himself. According to Kavanagh, George sent his son to stay with his great-aunts in Wells for his fifth birthday in June 1893 but told neither his son nor the Stevens sisters of his intention to emigrate to Peru. They heard nothing from him for six months until finally a telegraph arrived from Peru granting Jane Stevens guardianship of John. George eventually wrote to tell them of his position in Peru and his engagement to Georgie.

George’s family line has been traced back to the late 18th century in the county of Somerset in south west of England and his earliest known ancestors, Edward Ashton and Sarah Lang.