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Ashley Smith

Ashley Smith (1884-1964) was a London dental surgeon. He left a rich record of memories and observations of the period between 1890 and the 1930s in hand-written notes addressed to his children and grandchildren. Two artist friends, Jan and Cora Gordon, would join Ashley and his wife Doris (who wrote under the name "Catherine Ives") at their cottage in Itchenor during summer holidays. These visits are recorded both in Jan Gordon's diary for 1917 and in Ashley Smith's "Holiday Book". By the period of 1922 to 1925, however, there were signs of strain in their friendship, for example, "Jo talked until I could have smashed plates on her head" (Ashley's words). Even in 1917 Cora had felt herself disliked. W.D.A. Smith, Jan's godson, seemed to only have fond memories of the Gordons though.

In Jan Gordon’s diaries from 1917 is the following clue as to how the Smiths and the Gordons met: “Jo has a front crown tooth which has loosened, she has to hold it in and is terrified it will slip out altogether before Ashley returns to look after it.” Jan Gordon reviewed Ashley's attempts at witty poems and short stories. Conversations at Itchenor may have stimulated Doris' future as a journalist and author of engaging cook books.

"My father was the first of his family to come to London and my mother the first of hers to do so and it is probable that they were just units of a multitude." wrote Ashley. "My Father’s father was a man of considerable ability. He was just. He was as hard as granite, and so at the age of 16 his son James was sent out without a penny in his pocket to "show the world what a Smith could do". His first job was cleaning the windows of a chemists shop in Cambridge. He worked so hard and so denied himself that before he was 30 he was coughing up blood and given no more than 2 years in which to live. He had different ideas on the subject and by the time he should have been dead he had cured himself. He passed his minor and his major and was a good botanist. When he met my mother (who was one of 10) he was managing a chemist shop in Crambrook for the widow of a chemist."
Ashley Smith by Jan Gordon. The chair is still in the family, though it now has a red covering. Jan Gordon sketch of Ashley Wetherhead Smith Ashley cooking eggs and bacon at Whitchurch Lock Island, 1901 First page of Ashley's Holiday Book, August 1912 Lapwing at Itchenor, August 1912
Relaxing at Itchenor, First World War. Ashley and son, Mesylls 1920 Ashley's car Ashley's places A snippet from the First World War