Bodley and Garner

Following letters of introduction from the likes of John Henry Middleton (architect and later archaeologist, museum director and Fellow of King’s College) and an interview, Ashbee started work as an articled pupil for the renowned architects Bodley and Garner on 19 October 1886. He seems to have admired fellow student Ninian Comper, although their careers took very different paths. His colleagues were known for their work in Gothic Revival, whereas Ashbee’s next move would see him carving a career in the more modern Arts and Crafts movement, as well as his social experiments. Though Ashbee rejected Bodley’s style of architecture and even criticised the quality of his figurative drawing, his correspondence suggests he always respected his former mentor.

In his memoir, Ashbee shared an anecdote about how he nearly died while working on Bodley’s reredos in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

In his recent book on George Frederick Bodley, Michael Hall suggested that Ashbee admired Bodley for his sense of vocation. He also thought it likely that it was through Ashbee’s advocacy that Bodley was commissioned to design his building at King’s College, and that Ashbee may have assisted in the drawings. If his time with Bodley influenced Ashbee’s later work, it was more to do with the office’s work ethic than its architectural style.

In 1902, Wolverhampton brewer Lawrence Hodson considered commissioning Ashbee for a church but questioned his acceptability to Anglo-Catholic tastes. Ashbee’s reply not only discussed the Arts and Crafts movement in this religious context; it also highlighted the experience he had gained under Bodley.