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The Ashby family and its milling business

Known as Ashby's Mill, Brixton Windmill was operated by the Ashby family for the whole of its working life.

John Ashby (1772-1845)

The windmill was leased to John Ashby and his family in 1817. At the time John Ashby would have been 45 years old with a wife and six children – his youngest – Amos – being just over a year old.

Born a Quaker, John Ashby was born in 1772 in Mayfield, Sussex. In 1803, he married Hannah Lutchford and they had seven children together. The Ashbys of Brixton were connected through family ties to a number of other Ashbys working as millers, millwrights and corn dealers in Kent and Surrey. There were Ashbys at the Lower Mill, Carshalton (John, son of John of Brixton); Aaron Ashby (the son of John of Brixton) was a miller and corn dealer; and another John Ashby worked at Brasted in Kent. 1He worked the mill until his death in 1845. After his death the running of Brixton’s mill passed to a succession of sons – firstly to Aaron Ashby (who became the miller of Mitcham), and then, in 1851, to his elder brother John (who later became the miller of Carlshalton)2.

Joshua Ashby (1821-88)

In the mid 1850s Joshua Ashby took over the mill and it was he who ran the business in Brixton until his death in 1888. In 1859, he was in business with the Sholl family in Dulwich Road, Brixton. They were bakers and made bread to sell. During this period Brixton become more urban with the new houses sheltering Ashby’s Mill from the strong winds needed to drive it. The mill could no longer work efficiently and in 1862 Joshua Ashby relocated the milling business to the water mills at Mitcham in Surrey. 

Joshua John Ashby (1858-1935)

Initially, the mill was leased by the Ashby family with an intention to buy it, but this did not happen until 1912. A leaflet in 1912 shows the types of products produced and sold by Joshua John Ashby at the time. Stone-ground flour, wheatmeal, poultry foods, white flour, self-raising flour, peas, beans, scotch oatmeal, yeast and rice. Throughout the 19th and 20th century bread was baked in a small bake house situated next to the mill cottage, which was occupied by various bakers and their families.

In 1912 the Ashby family also paid £2,000 to the Middlesex Hospital to obtain the freehold of the land. In 1935 Joshua Ashby (the grandson of the original owner) died at the age of 77. In later life he had been a recluse, busily tending his garden and growing exotic and rare plants and trees. He left nearly £9,000 and gave his personal effects to his housekeeper Miss Marion Johnson Marshall who was to live in the mill cottage for the remainder of her life. The mill and adjacent house (mill cottage) and grounds were to be administered by a trust. 

  1. PRO Prob 11/2204; Michael Short Windmills in Lambeth, (1971), pp. 57-9; informationkindly provided by Catherine Black, descendent of the Ashby family
  2. 1851 Census