Obituary: The Ven Percy Ashford

IN 1965 Percy Ashford felt the call to prison ministry which was to become a personal quest for fulfilment in his work for the Church of England. This ambition, I believe, he achieved, for he was at his best in understanding the complex lives of those who found themselves in prison.

He believed in a social gospel which understood the frailties of people and which had a human face when it came to tolerance and forgiveness. Serving at Wormwood Scrubs, Risley Remand Centre, Durham, Wandsworth and Winchester, and then as South West Regional Chaplain of Prisons, Ashford was instrumental in bettering the conditions of service for the Prison Chaplaincy through a review and restructuring which took place in the late 1970s. In 1981 he was appointed Chaplain General of Prisons, becoming the following year the first Archdeacon to the Prison Service, and then Chaplain to the Queen in 1982.

Ashford belonged to the Evangelical wing of the Church of England and evidence of this was seen in the place of the pulpit in his life, with the preaching of biblical truth central to his convictions. He also enjoyed hymn-singing and always maintained a love of choral music, something he inherited from his father, who had conducted choirs in and around the Hampshire area where Ashford was brought up.

Whilst remaining loyal to his tradition, he grew in his understanding of others' churchmanship. He led an ecumenical team at the Chaplaincy Headquarters of the Prison Service; developed in-service training; and began to tackle the spiritual needs and requirements of other faiths whose numbers had increased dramatically in prison in the Seventies and Eighties.

Ashford's potential was not fully realised for, during his time as Chaplain General to Prisons, he was dogged by increasingly poor health and this forced his early retirement in 1985 after four years in office. After a bypass operation on his heart he did recover sufficiently to become Vicar of Hambledon, near Portsmouth, for two years, but he was forced to recognise that his health was not going to improve enough to allow him to continue, and so he finally retired to Fordingbridge in Hampshire in 1987.

As a contemporary working alongside him in the Prison Service Chaplaincy, I remember him best as a man with a disarming smile, who could be as effective in dealing with staff as he was prisoners. He was an ennobler of others, and, although remaining a realist, he was always one to encourage others to achieve their potential.

Such qualities came out of his own experience, for when he felt the call to be ordained, Ashford had to work harder than most to achieve the educational demands the Church made on those seeking ordination at the time. After qualifying at Bristol University and Tyndale Hall Theological College in Bristol, he was ordained deacon in 1954, and priest in 1955. Curacies at Ilfracombe and Aylesbury were followed by his first incumbency at Poughill, near Bude in Cornwall, in 1959.

Here was a man who had an uncomplicated view of life in general and faith in particular. He prioritised care and concern for people with a humility and "hands-on" approach which never deserted him. Not one for theological debate or academic niceties, he lived with an urgency to proclaim the Gospel with zeal and conviction to the end.

He prepared all the detail for his own funeral and this included the text for the preacher which was, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians i,24). He could have no better epitaph.

Percival Leonard Ashford, priest: born 5 June 1927; ordained deacon 1954, priest 1955; Vicar, St Olaf's, Poughill 1959-65; Assistant Chaplain, HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs 1965-66; Chaplain, Risley Remand Centre 1966- 69; Chaplain, HM Prison Durham 1969-71, HM Prison Wandsworth 1971-75, HM Prison Winchester 1975-77; South West Regional Chaplain of Prisons 1977-81; Chaplain General of Prisons 1981-85, Archdeacon 1982-85; Chaplain to the Queen 1982-97; Vicar of Hambledon 1985-87; married 1955 Dorothy Harwood (two sons); died Southampton, Hampshire 11 October 1998.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
    Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

    They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

    A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
    David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

    Hanging with the Hoff

    Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
    Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

    Hipsters of Arabia

    Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
    The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

    The cult of Roger Federer

    What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
    Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

    Malaysian munchies

    With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
    10 best festival beauty

    Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

    Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
    Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

    A Different League

    Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
    Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

    Steve Bunce on Boxing

    Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf