The Slaugham Archives

Gamekeeper outside Desmonds Castle, Handcross
The Slaugham Archive
Gamekeeper outside Desmonds Castle, Handcross

Standing outside their home, Desmonds Castle, on the Hyde Estate, are my great-grandfather, Mark Ashby, gamekeeper on the estate, his wife, Emily, and, in the middle, one of their daughters, Charlotte.
I have heard tell that Emily was responsible for planting the daffodils all around the cottage.
Both Mark and Emily are buried in Slaugham churchyard; their graves are marked with a standing cross. My father, Ronald J.Ashby, said that Emily was one of the last to have the traditional farm wagon cortège from Desmonds Castle to the church.
The evidence of change of name from Dismal Castle to Desmonds Castle in 1887 is on Mark’s children’s birth certificates. I know nothing about when the cottage was built, or why it was called Dismal Castle.
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Picture added on 19 December 2014 at 20:34
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What a fantastic contribution, a great photograph and write up.
Added by William Hussey on 20 December 2014
This picture is one of my husband's great grandpa!
I am so grateful for it!
Added by Michal Ashby (USA) on 21 April 2015
I think on reflection, if the photograph is correctly dated 1912, that the daughter is more likely to be Elizabeth May (1886-1924) aged 25 in the photo who was living in the cottage according to the 1911 census, with her parents, Mark Ashby (1848-1921) and Emily (1846-1932) both aged 64 in the photo.
Also living there were Elizabeth's husband, Herbert Rushton (1877-1918) and their two children, Herbert William Ashby Rushton (1909-1921) and Maud Emily Rushton (1910-1994).
Elizabeth and Herbert went on to have had two further children, Kenneth Frederick Rushton (1913-1992) and Marjorie Patricia Rushton (1915-1938).
The three children, Maud, Ken and Patsy, continued to live at Desmonds Castle with Grandma Emily after their mother's death due to consumption in 1924. Herbert, their son Herbert, and subsequently Patsy also died of consumption.
Added by Richard Ashby on 21 February 2016
I am in possession of a painting of Desmonds Cottage, circa 1910, and I shall try to upload a scan of it soon.
The original cottage was smaller but extended to house the growing number of their children.
Mark's brother, William, was the landlord of the The Dragon pub in Colgate, and Mark's grandparents, James Ashby and Sarah (née Avery), were the millers at Crowborough Beacon Mill.
I have an extensive Ashby family tree if anyone is interested.

Added by Richard Ashby on 11 June 2019
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