James Ashworth (1904-1991)

My grandfather, known to family, friends and colleagues as Jim, was always fascinated by imagery and worked as a projectionist in the pre-talkies cinema in Horwich while he was still at school. He discovered his love for photography when he was working at the Horwich Railway Works in the early 1920’s, where he drove the steam engine ‘Wren’ (now in the National Railway Museum) around the works to deliver wage packets. He loved to travel too and took his camera with him as he explored the UK and much of Europe, which was very intrepid for the times. As he went, he sent his images back to the newspapers. It wasn’t long before his hobby led to him being asked to become Art Editor and Chief Photographer at the daily Bolton Evening News and The Lancashire Journal series of weeklies.
There he covered everything from local news, such as the Burnden Park football disaster to visits from world leaders and celebrities as diverse as Gracie Fields and Mahatma Gandhi. He knew Eric Blair (George Orwell), who was his contemporary in the 1930’s when Blair was a journalist in Wigan, while writing ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’. My grandfather did some advertising work, some pioneering aerial photography and weddings as a sideline and was a regular contributor to both the Evening News as a reporter and to photography magazines, in particular the biggest and best of its day, Amateur Photographer.
It’s interesting to me that in these articles, he shares information about how he works but it’s clear that his true love was for relaxed portrait photography. The pieces are illustrated by some incredibly informal images including many of my father and my aunt as children. I think he was well ahead of his time when it came to capturing the reality of people and places.
His images still appear regularly in national newspapers to illustrate articles about the past./p>
Here he is about to take off on an aerial shoot from Barton airfield:
At work in his darkroom:
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My grandmother is the young lady back right on this photo taken on Blackpool beach:
And here’s the group of friends walking on Blackpool promenade with my grandmother in the middle:
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  • Betty aldenI am so thrilled that you are treasuring your grandfather’s photographs and legacy. I grew up with Philip (your father presumably) and Kathryn and am lucky enough to have some black and white photos of us in the 1940s and 1950s taken by Jim. Jim and Nellie lived near us and were good friends with my parents. So pleased his work is still noted and treasured.

  • Susie LawrenceHi Betty Thanks for your lovely comment. It’s so special to hear from someone who knew my grandfather. I’ll let my dad (who is indeed Philip) know that you’ve been in touch. Susie

Stunning imagery for the people and places
of the New Forest and beyond