Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ashton, Thomas (d.1578)

ASHTON, THOMAS (d. 1578), schoolmaster, was educated at Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1559-60, and M.A. in 1563. He was elected a fellow of Trinity College in that university, entered into orders, and in 1562 was appointed the first head master of Shrewsbury school, which he raised to a high position; there being, while he presided over it, as many as 290 scholars at a time. Among his pupils were the illustrious Sir Philip Sidney and Sir Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke. Camden, in his 'Britannia,' remarks that 'Shrewsbury is inhabited both by Welsh and English, who speak each other's language; and among other things greatly to their praise is the grammar school founded by them, the best filled in all England, whose flourishing state is owing to provision made by its head master, the excellent and worthy Thomas Ashton.' At Whitsuntide 1568 a noble stage play, in which Ashton was the principal actor, was performed at Shrewsbury in connection with the school. It lasted all the holidays, and was attended by a large number of people, including several noblemen and many gentry residing in the neighbourhood. Soon afterwards, however, in the same year Ashton resigned the master-ship of the school. About October 1574 he was sent to Ireland to Walter, Earl of Essex, who despatched him to parley with Tyrlogh Lynogh, and subsequently employed him in confidential communications with the queen and the privy council of England. The same nobleman by will gave him 40l. a year for life, and he was one of the feoffees of the earl's estates. Ashton returned to England in 1575. One of his latest acts was to visit Shrewsbury, where he preached a farewell sermon to the inhabitants. The 'godlie Father,' as he is styled in a contemporary manuscript, then returned to Cambridge, in or near which town he died a fortnight later, in 1578.

[Camden's Britannia, ed. Gough, ii. 399; Owen and Blakeway's Shrewsbury, i. 353, 365, 384; The Devereux Earls of Essex, i. 77, 78, 88, 106, 107, ii. 485, 486; Murdin's State Papers, 776; Cooper's Athenæ Cantab. i. 396, 567; Carlisle's Grammar Schools, ii. 375.]

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