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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

Henry M. Ash and CS Faraday (1)

Introduction: Henry Morris Ash, whose pencil sketches of cable-laying voyages on the Siemens Brothers’ ship CS Faraday are shown here, was born in London on December 10th, 1850, the seventh of eight children of Sargeant Ash, a dentist, and his wife Mary Ann Ash. He was baptised on 2 March 1851. The family lived at 70 Harmood St, Camden Town, London NW1. While there is no detailed account of his career, snapshots of Henry Ash’s life for the next 50 years may be obtained from census, marriage and copyright records, and from ships’ crew lists.

The census records show that in 1871, at the age of 20, Ash was occupied as a Draughtsman, still living at home with his mother and two siblings. By this time the family had moved to 55 Willes Rd, London NW5, and Mary Ann Ash was listed as Head of Household, Sargeant Ash evidently having died sometime after the 1861 census. In late 1877 Henry married Mary Ann Aust, and the couple moved into the house next door to Ash’s mother at 53 Willes Rd, which is given as their residence in the 1881 census.

Henry Ash’s signature
from a CS Faraday Crew Agreement for 1884.
Image reproduced by permission of, and copyright © 2006, Maritime History Archive, Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The first known group of Ash’s sketches was made in 1879 on CS Faraday (1) , the purpose-built cable laying ship owned and operated by Siemens Brothers of London. The dates of other sketches show that he also sailed on the Faraday in 1881, 1882, 1884, 1889, 1893, 1894, and 1900. See the list of expeditions below, which includes links to page showing all of the sketches and descriptions of the events of each lay, and also the detailed index to the sketches..

In the 1881 census Henry’s occupation was given as Draughtsman and Designer; on the Faraday crew agreement for the 1884 Mackay-Bennett cable voyage he was listed as Engr. General Assistant.

In the 1891 census he was listed as still residing at 53 Willes Rd in London, now a Draughtsman and Hydrographer, but his mother no longer lived next door, having moved to Islington.

In the 1901 census, Henry’s occupation was given as Hydrographer to Submarine Cable Engineer, and he and his wife had moved to Brighton on the south coast of England, residing at 50 Queens Park Terrace.

The 1911 census (the last one open for public research at the present time) has Henry and Mary Ann still at the same address. At age 60 he described himself as a Retired Hydrographer.

The last residence record for Henry Ash is in Kelly's Directory for 1918, at the same address in Brighton.

No children of Henry and Mary Ann Ash are shown in any of the public records, and no details of his life after 1918 have yet been discovered. Henry Ash died in Brighton at the age of 94 on 10 February 1945, still at Celtic Lodge, 50 Queens Park Terrace, where he had lived since at least 1901. His will was probated at Lewes on 30 May 1945 to Claudius William Ash stores superintendent and Emmie Sarah Ash spinster. Effects £29,729 12s 11d.

If any site visitor has further information on Henry Ash or his family, please contact me.

As Henry Ash’s profession called for precise surveying and drawing skills, it is perhaps not surprising that he was also a talented artist. His first known pencil sketches date from 1879, when he was 28 years old, and were made on the CS Faraday (1) voyage to lay the French Atlantic cable from Brest, France, to St. Pierre, near Newfoundland. During his service on Faraday between 1879 and 1900 he produced many pencil sketches at sea and on land, illustrating the places and events of each voyage.

Two groups of Ash’s sketches came to auction in 2005. One lot, sold in April at Christie’s in London (a substantial portion of the lot listed as being sold again in September), included pencil sketches of scenes from CS Faraday’s seven Atlantic Cable expeditions between 1879 and 1900. 86 of these sketches are now in the collection of the Library and Archives Canada; more information may be found in the Archives catalog entry.

Library and Archives Canada had been unsuccessful in acquiring this collection when it was made available at Michael Bowman's Antique and Fine Art Sale, South Devon, in October 2004. One year later, the same group of works, minus 19 drawings (most likely views of the Azores and Ireland) was again put up for sale at Christie's, South Kensington, and LAC had the winning bid. The collection was acquired by Library and Archives Canada in September 2005.

Between the two sales at Christie's, another auction at Bowman's in June 2005 had six further lots of drawings by Ash. One group of 11 sketches was acquired by the Atlantic Cable website, and includes drawings made during the Atlantic Cable expeditions of 1879 and 1884, and the 1889 Canso, Nova Scotia - New York cable voyage. The sketches in this group, shown on these pages in chronological order together with the Library and Archives Canada images, vary in size from 7½" x 4½" to 6¾" x 3¼". This group also includes an unusual miniature watercolour of the Faraday by Henry Ash.

Henry Ash was evidently a prolific artist both at work and at home, as four of the other lots in the June 2005 sale had a total of 117 of his countryside sketches, all scenes of the south of England. These are dated in the years between the Faraday’s cable voyages, and include views of Kent, Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Hampshire, and Sussex. Some of the views of the countryside around Hastings, dating from 1880 and 1888 are included here for reference.

Based on some of his 1884 cable expedition sketches, Henry Ash created a coloured lithograph which was published by Maclure & Co. of London. The date is unknown, but presumably some time during 1885. A copy of the lithograph is in the collection of the National Maritime Museum, London, object ID PAH0368.

In 1894 Ash registered at Stationers' Hall in London the copyright on a small book titled “Souvenir of the 1894 Mackay Bennett Atlantic Cable, Laid by Messrs. Siemens Brothers Co. for the Commercial Cable Company”. The registration certificate and a cover for this book are in the collection of Library and Archives Canada. From the format of the cover, the book was most likely a collection of his sketches. The registration certificate notes that: "One copy of each publication should be forwarded forthwith to the British Museum; and four copies delivered here for the Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, and Dublin Libraries". However, the book is not listed in the catalogues of any of those institutions.

A consolidated catalogue of all 97 of Henry Ash’s cable-related sketches,with dates, titles, and notes, may be viewed here.

--Bill Burns


Birth Index: District: Pancras (1837-1901), County: London, Middlesex, first quarter 1851, volume 1, page 345.

Census of England and Wales, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901.

Crew Agreement, CS Faraday, 25 January 1884.

England & Wales, Death Index: 1837-1983, first quarter 1945, volume 2 b, page 439.

Christie’s, South Kensington, auction records, April & September 2005.

Michael J. Bowman, Devon, auction records, June 2005.


Detailed index of Henry Ash cable expedition sketches

Library and Archives Canada catalogue entry for Ash’s pencil sketches

National Maritime Museum catalogue entry PAH0368, a lithograph with drawings by Ash from the 1884 Atlantic cable expedition. See the 1884 page below for an illustration and description of this lithograph.

Henry Ash family background

1884 Faraday crew agreement

1894 Mackay-Bennett Cable souvenir book

1900 musical production on board Faraday



Brest, France - St. Pierre
Countryside around Hastings, England
Porthcurno, England - Canso, Nova Scotia
Porthcurno, England - Canso, Nova Scotia
Dover Bay, Nova Scotia - New York, USA
Dover Bay - Waterville, Ireland (2 cables)
Waterville - Weston Super Mare, England
Waterville - Le Havre, France
Countryside around Hastings, England
Canso, Nova Scotia - New York ( 2 cables)
Maintenance work
Dover Bay, Nova Scotia - Waterville, Ireland - Weston Super Mare, England
Dover Bay, Nova Scotia - Horta, Azores - Waterville, Ireland

Miniature watercolour of CS Faraday by Henry Ash (undated)
This painting measures only 3" x 1½"

Crew photograph, undated, but presumably taken at the time of the production on the Faraday detailed in the Programme below
Library and Archives Canada - Henry Ash Fonds: e04414207

Programme for a musical production on
the Faraday, dated Sept. 1st 1900
Library and Archives Canada - Henry Ash Fonds: e04414209

by Bill Glover

Built 1874 by C. Mitchell & Company Ltd., Newcastle on Tyne.

Length 360.38 ft. Breadth 52.25 ft. Depth 39.6 ft. Gross tonnage 5052

Purpose-built for Siemens Brothers, incorporating many of William Siemens' ideas, as he had found chartered vessels totally unsuitable for cable laying. Two of these ideas were twin screws and a bow rudder; another was the swivelling bow and stern sheaves which prevented the cable from riding up the side of the sheave when ship and cable were not in a straight line. The two funnels were placed side by side and the bow and stern were of similar design, giving the vessel a unique appearance.

In 50 years of cable work Faraday laid a total of 50,000 nm. The ship was sold in 1924 for scrap but the inch-thick plates defeated the breakers and so Faraday became a coal hulk, named Analcoal, at Algiers for the Anglo-Algiers Coaling Company. 1931 saw the hulk moved to Gibraltar, still storing coal. In 1941 the vessel became a Naval store ship at Sierra Leone. Towed back to England in 1950, she ended her days at a South Wales breaker’s yard.

See also the main page for CS Faraday (1) and the page for the 1879 French Cable

Ivan Smith’s page on the Commercial Cable Trans Atlantic Park at Hazel Hill gives an excellent view of the area around Dover Bay which was sketched by Henry Ash on several cable expeditions

Last revised: 24 December, 2023

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You can help - if you have cable material, old or new, please contact me. Cable samples, instruments, documents, brochures, souvenir books, photographs, family stories, all are valuable to researchers and historians.

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—Bill Burns, publisher and webmaster: