PK Cable Map 1880's

PK Cable Map 1880's

Thursday, 20 October 2011

W. H. Ash and his descendant.

Just heard from Ann Lewis, an Emeritus Professor of Education at Birmingham University, who's descendant of PK's second superintendent. She asked me to provide a link to the Nerve Centre of Empire website and details about Ash materials in the C&W archive, and naturally I asked her about family papers handed down. I'm sure some of you know the chap called Roger whom she mentions.

"Many thanks for the speedy and full reply- I was thrilled to hear back from you so quickly and with so much info.

Sorry I don’t have any photos or letters, I have a silver plate (I think given to WH when he left London for Porthcurno in 1877, a slightly smaller version of the one in your exhibition at Porthcurno) and my brother has some other artefacts including a silver inkwell inscribed to WH from St Leven. We have been strangely very short indeed on family info. I knew only that a relative had had some involvement at Porthcurno. So you can imagine how very surprised I have been to discover more about WH’s story and his significant role there.

My grandfather was Arthur Stanley Ash (WH’s son), AS had one son – my father Gerald, and I have a younger brother (Roger Ash) and older sister. Arthur retired early to the Lizard from Essex/London so my brother and I spent all our childhood holidays in Cornwall. The only reference to local family history that I can recall were dire warnings about the dangers of the sea (Arthur had at least one brother who drowned [age 27] although I only discovered that recently). Roger [who has a smallholding near Helston and has talked a while back with some people at the Telegraph museum] is a hydrographic surveyor involved in the laying of deep sea cables for gas /oil. As an educationalist / psychologist I have always argued for nurture over nature so it is disconcerting to discover the close family involvement in the laying of deep sea oil pipes / telegraph cables over a century apart!

Yes please- re sending a copy of your exhibition booklet – that would be fantastic [am happy to pay any costs re copying/postage. If it is eformat pl send to this address; if hard copy pl send to my home address below].

I visited the museum a couple of weeks ago and thought it was excellent- indeed it has triggered my rooting around the web and contacting you. Roger is currently working offshore and has not seen the new exhibition- I know he’ll be similarly impressed and will visit again asap.

Thanks again."


  1. I wonder if any of this branch of the Ash family are related to Henry Morris Ash, a hydrographer on CS Faraday in the late 1800s. I have several pages on him

    Bill Burns

  2. Could well be a relative. Dynasties were common in the ETC and Porthcurno - the Penders, Spratts, and Maunsells were just the more famous!

  3. Sadly I don’t think that there is a WH Ash family relationship with Henry Morris Ash. It would be an interesting connection since I am also a hydrographic surveyor.

    I was involved helping out at PK in 1995 and 1996 but work commitments meant I had to give it up. Mary Godwin gave me a copy of WHAs service record. From that I concluded that WH started work for E&I in Plymouth at age sixteen. He had seven children, 6 boys and 1 girl; the Spratt Diaries have been very useful for filling in some details.
    As far as I can ascertain, of the six boys, four went on to be employed by ETC. I am very confused by the PK reference to John ASH. Hugh Barty Smith in “Girdle around the Earth” states John ASH son of John ASH; which is even more confusing. There is no record of WH ASH having a son called John. Furthermore, only two of the sons were married, Percival Ernest and Arthur Stanley (my grandfather). The John ASH referred at PK and by HBS must have been a son of great uncle Percy.
    I am sure that the C&W personnel records could throw some light on this. I look forwarded to renewing my links with the PK museum.