John Betjeman on C.R. Ashbee

A good John Betjeman letter found in a VHS cassette from the estate of Felicity Ashbee the daughter of the great Arts and Crafts figure C.R. Ashbee and granddaughter of the erotica collector Henry Ashbee. The video, not played, appears to be of a couple of talks on Ashbee in 1994 at the Fashion Institute of Technology. The letter has no address but interior evidence suggests Betjeman was dodging the bombs in London at the time...

June 2, 1942

Dear Mrs Ashbee,

I was most awfully sorry to read in The Times of Mr Ashbee's death. I had so look forward, the end of this war, which has separated us all from friends and interests, to seeing him again.

The personal loss to you and your family must be great indeed. I remember well that happy life at Godden Green at the time I came to stay with you and he and I walked over to see a *Comper church.

The loss to England is great. I had not realised, until I saw the notice of his death, that he had been two years ill – I hope he did not suffer greatly – that he was 79. His ideas and conversation were so much younger than his age and he was, anyhow, about 50 years in advance of his time. I thought The Times notice did him nothing like justice. His ideas on planning and architectural style and construction were pioneer work of the greatest importance. His advice on planning after this war, would have been invaluable. Thank goodness his ideas are put down on paper. And then there was that glorious and victorious passage of arms he had with the R.I.B.A.  He was a great man. I am so sorry for you all. I hope we shall meet if we all survive the present unpleasantness, in London. I feel an exile here.

Yours very sincerely, John Betjeman

*Sir John Ninian Comper (1864–1960) a Scottish-born architect. Last of the great Gothic Revival architects, noted for his churches and their furnishings.

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