Charles Ashton and British Silent Films

British Silent Film Star – Charles Ashton

Biography of Charles Ashton

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Charles Henry Ashton, film actor, from the silent movie era, lived at 20 Carroll Hill, Loughton, from 1917-34, and then moved to Arkesden and later Strethall, Essex.

Charles Ashton was born in 1884 in Leyton, Essex.  According to the 1901 Census, he worked as a clerk for a marble masons and then in 1904, when he was 20 years old, he worked with a meat trader, A P & D Ltd (possibly in London’s Smithfield market area).  It was here that he was presented with a wooden writing box by his friends and staff.  By the time of the 1911 Census, he was working as a photographer.  Photographers were sometimes synonymous with cinematographers at that time, and perhaps this is a clue as to how Charles found his way into the British silent film industry after World War I.

During World War I, Charles trained in the Artists’ Rifles and then joined the Royal Field Artillery as a gunner.  He had good mathematical skills which were used to position the gun for firing.  However, at the battle of Ypres he was shell shocked and later invalided out of the army in 1917.

Charles and his wife, Julia, lived at Arkesden, Essex, from 1934 until he moved to Strethall in the late 1950s.  Whilst living in Arkesden and Strethall, he was guardian for the young Kyran Casteel from 1942 till the early1960s, whilst Kyran’s mother (Margueritte nee Annan/Casteel) worked for the London based SHAEF (Supreme HQ Allied Expeditionary Force) based in Middlesex, and then after the war for the Central Office of Information in London.

On Charles’ death in 196?, Kyran inherited the wooden writing box presented to Charles by A P & D Ltd, and a number of photographic stills from Charles’ silent film career. Little is known about this period of his life.  There are no documents or letters, for instance, to help us build a picture of why and how he became a member of the creative group of people who were a part of the British silent film industry.  We can however, tell his story through these fascinating photographs.  Most of our research was supplemented with Internet sources including the British Film Institute’s (BFI) Film & TV Database, All Movie Guide, Ibsen.net, AMC Movie Guide, Internet Movie Database, Complete Index to Films, and for context, publications and media on the silent film era including Rachel Low’s History of British Film; Mathew Sweet’s Shepperton Babylon: The Lost Worlds of British Cinema and the BBC’s DVD Silent Britain.

We have told Charles’ story as best we can through the people he knew and worked with, from the pictures and  films in chronological order, together with a snapshot of the current developments, both technological and social, in the history of British silent film.

When Charles’ film career ended, he turned to writing crime novels.

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Written by anneramsden

February 24, 2010 at 10:50 am

Posted in Biography

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