Bromley, Kent born Gilbert Ashton was part of a remarkable sporting family and had been captain of the Winchester College Cricket XI before going up to Trinity College, Cambridge after the First World War. Upon leaving school, he served in the First World War in the Royal Field Artillery; it was at this time that he won his Military Cross “for conspicuous gallantry in action. He repeatedly repaired his telephone line under a very heavy fire, and maintained communication with his Battery all day.” He also lost his left thumb during the war, although this was said not to have affected the quality of his cricketing in later years.
As a footballer, Ashton captained Cambridge University and played with brothers Claude, a full England international and renowned England amateur international forward, and Hubert for The Corinthians in the 1920’s, Hubert played as a full back for West Bromwich Albion reserves, Bristol Rovers and Clapton Orient. Both brothers were also first class cricketers. Another brother, Percy, was also a first class cricketer who played for Essex.
Gilbert is however better known for his cricketing accomplishments. He was a sound right hand batsman in the outstanding Cambridge University sides in the years just after the First World War and captained them in 1921. His obituary in Wisden called him “a fine, aggressive stroke-player” and praised his fielding ability at cover point. His bowling was of the occasional variety, and after he left Cambridge became essentially non-existent. Ashton played less cricket than his ability merited as his “day job” for four decades from 1921 until 1961 was that of headmaster of the prep school of Abberley Hall School near Worcester.
However, he played for Worcestershire when he could during the holidays, and in 1922, on only his second appearance for the county, he made 125 (his career-best) and 84 in a match against Northamptonshire at New Road. Wisden’s obituary also praised his 36 for an England XI against Warwick Armstrong’s Australians a year earlier, which gave the English hope after having been dismissed for 43 in the first innings, and helped lay the ground for a fine victory.
After 1927, Ashton ceased to play even semi-regular county cricket, and indeed after that year he was to make only two more first-class appearances: against Northamptonshire in June 1934 and, finally, against Leicestershire in July 1936. He did very little in either game. He did, however, play a minor single innings game for his county against the Royal Air Force aged 47 in 1944; he was lbw for nought. After retiring from playing, Ashton was President of Worcestershire County Cricket Club from 1967 to 1969.
Ashton’s mother, Victoria Alexandrina Inglis, was the daughter of Sir John Eardley Wilmot Inglis, who commanded the British forces at the Siege of Lucknow in 1857, and Julia Selina Thesiger. Two uncles, Alfred Inglis and John Inglis reached first class level briefly in the 1880’s.