Ashton Photographic Collection

A collection of 3,295 glass lantern slides brought together by John Cooper Ashton (fl. 1880-1935), a proprietor of coffee rooms in High Holborn, London, proficient angler and gifted amateur photographer. Some 3,000 of the slides are albumen or collodion transparencies of his own photographs, augmented by commercial transparencies – mainly gelatin-silver - by photographers such as Frederick Henry Evans, George Washington Wilson and James Valentine.

Ashton had special permission from the Italian government to photograph churches in Italy and the collection includes many interiors and close-ups of details, perfected by frequent visits. There is also extensive coverage of ecclesiastical and other buildings in Britain, Dalmatia and France, with more selective views of Spain, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. Ashton clearly had an eye for a good picture and his collection includes many evocative passing scenes of everyday life and events in these countries. Very few of the photographs are dated, but most appear to have been taken between 1890 and 1925.

Parts of the collection are arranged for a series of six lectures which Ashton delivered to interested societies. They are described in detail in a printed syllabus. Three are devoted to Italy and one each to Dalmatia and France. The sixth was entitled A glance at nature’s gallery and contained photographs of natural history phenomena, including photomicrographs illustrating marine biology, aimed particularly at children; the collection also contains the manuscript text of this lecture.

Other groups of photographs were taken on angling expeditions based at Pontoon, Co. Mayo, Ireland and at Porthouslock, near Mevagissey, Cornwall and various other places along the south coast of England. These include scenes with fellow members of the British Sea Anglers’ Society, of which Ashton was curator. In addition there is a substantial collection devoted to the ‘Martinware’ pottery of R.W. Martin & Brothers at Southall, Middlesex, with views of the potters at work as well as of their products.

Please note: owing to the fragile nature of this material, access to the slides is restricted. Viewing is strictly by appointment only: please apply to the Keeper of Special Collections.

How to find material from the Ashton Collection

  • For a list of manuscript items in this collection, see shelf-mark Ashton (click on the 'List Collection Content' link to bring up a list of all items)
    Note access is restricted: viewing of slides is by appointment only
  • Alternatively, use the manuscripts search
  • J. Cooper Ashton Syllabus of illustrated lectures on the art, architecture & scenery of France, Italy, Dalmatia is shelved at Ashton 53/3. Click on the thumbnails in the Quick links section (right) to view the syllabus page by page