Joseph Ashe, born in 1618, was the third son of James Ashe (1554-1642), MP for Westcombe in Somerset, and Grace Pitt (1556-1647). He became a successful London clothier with a hunger for land. He built up estates in Wayne, as well as Cambridge Park, Twickenham. He drained and enclosed land in Wayne and bought into the rectory, but his efforts were those of investment and he rarely inhabited the houses he owned.
Around 1650, he married Mary Wilson, who was the daughter of a London draper. They had a large family of daughters, many of whom died young, and one son, James, who was born to them late in their marriage in 1674.
Sir Joseph Ashe was a royalist merchant and Whig M.P. He supported the Royalist cause and was created a baronet by King Charles II at the Restoration on 19 September 1660 in consideration of the services he had rendered to the Crown. He came to Twickenham with his family in 1657, buying the property later known as Cambridge Park, from Thomas Lawley, heir of Sir Thomas Lawley (d.1646). He extended his land ownership in the parish and, by the time of the 1661 Survey, in addition to 59 acres adjoining the house, he had acquired 134 acres elsewhere. He was active in local affairs, a churchwarden between 1659 and 1661, and a benefactor to the parish.
He was M.P. for Downton from 1670 to 1681.
In 1673 Sir Joseph Ashe founded Burgh Manor as a grammar school for twelve boys, and endowed it with £100 and the profits from two sheep fairs held each year. The building was later donated by Sir Joseph Ashe as a school and dwelling house. The profits from the two fairs and the endowment maintained the building and paid for a schoolmaster. The fairs were held annually on 23 April (the original Cuckoo Fair) and 2 October. The original trustees to the school were Giles Eyre, William Coles, John Snow, Nicholas Farr and Alexander Welstead.
Sir Joseph purchased New Court Meadows and introduced the then cutting edge concept of the man-made water meadow to the village. Water was taken off the main rivers into channels known as carriers. Hatches were then used to direct the water into sluices, which carried it along the top of ridges from where it spilled over into the pasture. Drains cut between the sluices then carried the water back into the river. The continual flow of water protected the pasture from frost, which allowed the growth of grass a month earlier than had previously been the case – thereby improving grazing.
Two of Sir Joseph’s daughters made connections with Norfolk families: Katherine marrying William Wyndham of Felbrigg and Mary marrying Sir Horatio Townshend of Raynham.
Sir Joseph died on 15 April 1686 and his monument, erected in St. Mary’s Church, survived the collapse of the nave in 1713 and is at present on the south wall of the tower.
Extract from “Memorials of Twickenham: Parochial and Topographical” by the Rev. R.S. Corbett (1872)
Opposite, on the south wall, is another handsome marble monument. In a vault underneath this monument lieth the Body of Sir Joseph Ashe of Tittenham Bart., IV th son of James Ashe of the County of Somerset Esq., descended from the antient family of the Ashes of Devonshire. He married Mary, daughter of Mr. Robert Wilson of Low, Merchant. He had by her 2 sons, Joseph and James, and 7 daughters, Catherine, married to William Windham of Norfolk, Mary the late wife of Horatio Lord Viscount Townshend, Anne, Martha, Grace, Elizabeth and Diana.
He died the 15 April 1686 in the 69th year of his age, his wife and 4 children, James, Catherine, Anne, and Martha, surviving him.
Mary Ashe, relict of Sir Joseph Ashe, Bart. departed this life the 28th of November 1705 in the 74th year of her age, and lyeth inter’d in this vault.
In this vault lyeth the Body of Martha Ashe, 4th daughter of Sir Joseph Ashe Bart. who departed this life ye 1st of August 1714, in ye 57th year of her Age.
On September 6th, 1670, it was ordered, ” that the Church wardenes waite upon Sir Joseph Ashe and return him thanks in the name of the parish for two silver flaggons which he gave them for use of the Communion table.”
On March 8th, 1685, it was ordered “that in regard the Worshipful Sir Joseph Ashe Bart hath been a great Benefactor to this Parish that a Vault be made in the South Isle of Twickenham Church as near to my lady Harriett’s Vault as may be and the Vaulte to containe seven feet square.”
CAMBRIDGE HOUSE. Near Richmond Bridge, charmingly situated in Twickenham Meadows, is a house called, after its most celebrated occupant, Cambridge House. It was built in the early part of the seventeenth century, by Sir Humphry Lynd. After his death it was occupied by Joyce Countess of Totness, who died there in 1636. Not long afterwards it became the property of Joseph Ashe, Esq., who was created a baronet in 1660. The title became extinct on the death of his son. Windham Ashe, Esq., a subsequent representative of the family, built the west front and greatly enlarged the house.