after Peter Lely, Sir Joseph Ashe, 1st Baronet of Twickenham (1618–1686)

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)


Country House
Raynham Hall
Sir Joseph Ashe, 1st Baronet of Twickenham (1618–1686)
The Belisarius Room
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 124 cm, Overall width: 100 cm
after Peter Lely (1618-1680)
Catalogue Number


Joseph Ashe (1618–1686) was the son of James Ashe, a Somerset clothier, and Grace Pitt, the daughter of a merchant of Dorset. Ashe had married Mary Wilson, the daughter of a London draper, by 1652. Their eldest daughter, Katherine (1652–1729), married William Windham I of Felbrigg in 1669, while their second daughter, Mary (1652–85), married Horatio, 1st Viscount Townshend (1630–1687) of Raynham in 1673. Ashe became rich as a merchant trading in Flanders and may have helped transfer funds to the exiled Royal Court. His alleged support of the Royalist cause during the Interregnum might explain the award of a baronetcy on the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. He acquired and enhanced a large estate in Twickenham (later named Cambridge Park) and also leased the manor of Downton, Wiltshire. He was MP for Heytesbury and for Downton from 1670 until 1681, though he was not particularly active in Parliament. Ashe was one of the largest investors in the East India Company, in which he served as governor in 1684–5. He died a wealthy man and was buried at the parish church of St Mary, Twickenham, Middlesex.1

This portrait, which shows Ashe positioned against a rocky outcrop, with a landscape background (presumably his Twickenham estate), is, as Oliver Millar noted, a ‘rather soft and indeterminate’ copy after a portrait at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk (National Trust, NT 1401171), attributed to Sir Peter Lely and studio, and thought to have been created around 1660–5.2 It is possible that Katherine Ashe took the original portrait of her father with her to Felbrigg Hall on her marriage and a copy was made for Mary to hang at Raynham. The artist Sir Ralph Cole (bap. 1629–1704), who may have been responsible for the portrait of another family member, Horatio the 1st Viscount (Felbrigg Hall, NT 1401200) may also have had some involvement in the copy of Lely’s Sir Joseph Ashe, given that he reproduced the same portrait format for two other sitters, Thomas Windam (National Portrait Gallery, NPG D4854) and Robert Liddell (Chirk Castle, National Trust, NT 1171138).

by Emily Burns


Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, ed. Rev. Edmund Farrer, vol. 2, Norwich : Jarrold and Sons, 1928, Singh, 1928, vol. 2, p. 226, no. 12 (‘RICHARD HARRISON’)


  1. See the entry on Ashe at the Twickenham Museum, (accessed 2 February 2020).

  2. Oliver Millar, notebook, ONM/1/22, p. 18, ‘version of the supposed Lely at Felbrigg’; Singh, 1928, vol. 2, p. 228, no. 1.


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