Harry Ash (1863-1934) was born in Bridgewater, Somerset. He was deafened by scarlet fever aged 18 months. His father was a railway coach-maker who moved to Swindon to find work. Harry was sent to the London Asylum in the Old Kent Road when he was 11, later moving on to the Margate branch of the school. He was for a time a designer at the Hogarth Works, Chiswick.
In an autobiographical piece for The British Deaf Mute (Vol.4 (44) p.113-4, 1895) Ash describes how the education system changed while he was at the Old Kent Road School. "At sixteen I left the home paradise with three first prizes - for general proficiency, for religious knowledge, and for good fellowship, besides a prize for freehand drawing. Perhaps I should have written better English had there not been a complete change in the system of Instruction, from sign-manual to oral."