Claudius Ash (1792-1854) began his career as a goldsmith, but turned his skills to dentistry and manufacture of dental equipment, including artificial/false teeth.
Prior to his involvement, replacement teeth were either (very gruesomely) gathered from bodies on battlefields, or (cruel to animals) made from hippopotamus or walrus ivory, which were prone to discolouration. Ash’s idea was to make teeth from porcelain mounted in gold plates, fixed by gold springs and swivels. Apparently, they functioned well and looked good.
His firm (several of his sons and their descendants were involved in the business) became incredibly successful, dominating the European market.
At the Great Exhibition in 1851, the firm exhibited 2 sets of mineral teeth with gold tubes, and single teeth of various colours.
And these would have been made at the factory in Anglers’ Lane, just around the corner from Ryland Road.
Several of our earlier residents worked at this factory.
Sisters Alice Rosa (20) and Amelia Jane Gibbins (16) from number 36 were recorded in the 1891 census as being employed as artificial teeth makers. Although they moved from Ryland Road, they stayed in Kentish Town and carried on with their work making teeth. They never married, and lived together till their deaths in the mid twentieth century.
Another pair of sisters, Hilda Louisa (18) and Ida Florence Short (16) from number 1, worked as dental assistants in 1911. Their father, Robert John Short, had worked in the manufactory in 1893 when the family was living in nearby Castle Road.
And yet another young pair of sisters, Lilly (23) and Eliza Cooke (19) were dental factory workers from number 33. As were (you’ve guessed it- yet another pair of sisters!) Florence Minnie (19) and Dorothy Lilly Scott (16) making the short journey to work from number 19. Amazingly, the Scott sisters were still living in Number 19 in 1939, both now working as clerks, with their parents, and still unmarried.
I wonder whether any of these hard workers ever wore what they made?
[Good question! Ed.]