William Smedley-Aston

William Smedley-Aston (1868–1941)[1] was with his wife Irene a Victorian Pre-Raphaelite Arts & Crafts photographer and member of the Birmingham Group of artists and the Linked Ring Brotherhood. He was also known as W. S. Aston or W. Smedley.[2]

William Smedley-Aston c. 1900

He was also instrumental in encouraging and financing early moving films or "Biographs" as they were initially know, through his firm the British Biograph Co.[3]

He was married to Irene Smedley-Aston, who featured in many photographs, paintings, and drawings of the Arts and Crafts movement because the couple were friends with other members of the Birmingham School of Art and the Birmingham Group (artists) such as Joseph Southall, Arthur Gaskin and Maxwell Armfield. Armfield's wife Constance, née Smedley was William's first cousin. Constance was a successful writer who like her husband had attended Birmingham School of Art.[4]

He lived at the William & Francis Radford designed villa townhouse 77 Holland Park W14 (the same street Victoria & David Beckham currently live on at 23) when in London and The Yew Trees, Henley-in-Arden, a 16th-century timbered house, which housed his famous collection of early English Furniture, Old Masters & very early English Glass. A valuation report by The Fine Art & General Insurance Company (now part of Aviva) for the glass held by the family from 1920 shows it was insured for £2,000 which with inflation in 2011 equated to £73,345.[5] The collection was auctioned off in three sales (each three days long) by the auctioneers Grimleys throughout the 1920s and early 1930s. The Yewtrees is now three houses, having been sub-divided, and the five-acre gardens built upon.

Much of his collection is pictured in the book Early English Furniture & Woodwork.[6] The collection was sold by the auctioneers Grimleys through a series of three sales.

They had three children:

The family were relatives of John Smedley, who had constructed Riber Castle and whose company still exists as a luxury garment producer. William's brother, J. Herbert (Bert) Aston, founded what became (after its 1919 merger as Tube Investments Limited) TI Group, the world's largest[when?] tubing firm. In turn his son John Aston went on to run Reynolds Technology, which was part of TI Group, and included Raleigh bicycles


  1. ^ "Obituary: Michael Smedley-Aston". The Times. London: Times Newspapers. 20 February 2006. Retrieved 10 February 2011.
  2. ^ "William Smedley Aston Collection". Birmingham City Council. Retrieved 10 February 2011.
  3. ^ Article called "Birmingham Film Folk" – Birmingham Gazette – 10 May 1933
  4. ^ “A World Fellowship”: The Founding of the International Lyceum Club for Women Artists and Writers, Grace Brockington, Academia.edu, Retrieved 21 June 2016
  5. ^ "Bank of England | Education | Inflation Calculator". www.bankofengland.co.uk. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012.
  6. ^ Cescinsky, Herbert; Gribble, Ernest. R. (1922). Early English Furniture and Woodwork. George Routledge And Sons. Retrieved 22 March 2011.