Ashwell, Arthur Rawson
- J. H. Overton
- , revised by H. C. G. Matthew
Ashwell, Arthur Rawson (1824–1879), Church of England clergyman and college head, was born at Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, on 9 December 1824, the son of James Ashwell, civil engineer and resident director of the Luxembourg Railway, and his wife, Susan, née Rawson. In 1843 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, and in 1846 was elected foundation scholar of Gonville and Caius College, graduating as fifteenth wrangler in 1847. In 1848 he was ordained deacon and became curate of Speldhurst, Kent. In the following year he was ordained priest and returned to Cambridge as curate of St Mary-the-Less, in order to study theology with Professor J. J. Blunt. In 1851 he was appointed vice-principal of St Mark's College, Chelsea, and in 1853, partly through the instrumentality of Canon W. J. Butler of Wantage, he was appointed by Bishop Samuel Wilberforce principal of the newly founded Oxford Diocesan Training College at Culham. Here he remained for several years, and, besides his work in the college, assisted the bishop in organizing a system of diocesan inspection. In 1854 he married Elizabeth Fixsen, of Blackheath, who survived him. In 1862 his health compelled him to retire to lighter work, and for two years he was minister of Holy Trinity Church, Conduit Street, Hanover Square, London; in 1865 he returned to his former occupation, accepting the principalship of the Diocesan Training College, Durham. His success there led to his appointment in 1870 to the principalship of the Theological College, Chichester, with a canonry of Chichester Cathedral attached, and he also held for a short time the rectory of St Martin's (1871–5) and of St Andrew's (1872–5) in that city.
Ashwell wrote widely. From 1864 to 1876 he edited the Literary Churchman, and in 1876 he became first editor of the Church Quarterly Review (a high-church review); shortly before his death he also resumed the editorship of the Literary Churchman. To both these periodicals he was a regular contributor. He was also a contributor to the third series of Tracts for the Christian Seasons, and he wrote occasionally for the Quarterly Review and the Monthly Packet. He was also in great demand as a preacher in his own cathedral and elsewhere. He was, moreover, a frequent reader and speaker at church congresses, and an effective conductor of mission services. Overwork led to illness and Ashwell succumbed to an attack of congestion of the lungs, which led to his death at Canon Lane, Chichester on 23 October 1879. A window and a lectern in Chichester Cathedral perpetuate his memory.
Ashwell was a high-churchman, though he was sometimes described as a Tractarian. His articles on F. W. Farrar's Life of Christ in the second number of the Church Quarterly Review, and on the state of the church in the Quarterly Review (July 1874), excited much interest. His article on Samuel Wilberforce in the April number of the Quarterly Review (1874) was the main cause of his being asked to write the bishop's life, and several of his educational articles attracted unusual attention. His longest work was the first volume of the Life of Bishop Wilberforce (1880), the best volume in that notable work.
As a trainer, first of future schoolmasters and then of future clergymen, Ashwell made his influence deeply felt. His clear, epigrammatic style was ideal for capturing the attention of young men. He was a very strict disciplinarian, and the kindest of friends and counsellors to all pupils who sought his aid in confidence. He was a noted preacher, especially to congregations who enjoyed theological disquisition. Some of his sermons were printed in God in his Work and Nature (1863). Among his other publications were The Schoolmaster's Studies (1860), The Argument Against Evening Communions (1875), Lectures on the Holy Catholic Church (1876), and Septuagesima Lectures (1877).
- BL, letters to W. E. Gladstone, Add. MSS 44445–44785
- Bodl. Oxf., corresp. and notes relating to ‘Life of Samuel Wilberforce’
Wealth at Death
under £9000: resworn probate, June 1880, CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1879)