Anne Ashberry (Engineer, gardener and author)
Chessins, Mashbury Road, Chignal Smealy
Anne Ashberry (also known as Annette Ashberry) was born Hannah Annenberg in Hackney in 1894 to a large Jewish immigrant family. Prior to the First World War, the family changed their surname to Ashberry due to anti-German sentiment.
In 1916, under her professional name of Annette, Anne began her career in engineering, inspecting fuses in a factory. After the end of the First World War, Anne joined a mainly female-staffed factory near Kirkcudbright in Scotland, and began studying for a BSc in engineering at Loughborough Technical College
In 1920, Annette was one of eight women founders and Managing Director of Atalanta Ltd, an engineering company in Loughborough that specialised in making oil burners and hand scraped surface plates. The factory was unique, as it was run by and employed female apprentices, due to the lack of engineering opportunities for women. In the following years, the company moved to London, and Anne won prizes from the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) for a design of a dishwasher and obtained patents for a potato peeler.
In 1925, Anne was the first woman elected to the Royal Society of Engineers and developed many successful products, such as the Atalanta screwdriver. In 1928, the company moved to exhibiting at industry fairs, before closing in 1935.
When Anne lived in London, she started designing window boxes, planting them with slow growing dwarf trees and alpines to create miniature landscapes and gardens. In 1937, she started a business selling these miniature gardens to the elderly, disabled gardeners and people who didn’t have a garden.
During the Second World War, Anne returned to engineering, working for Hoffmans. After the war, Anne moved to Chignal Smealy and resumed her miniature gardening business. She found fame on television, exhibited at the Chelsea Flower Show and the Festival of Britain Exhibition, and created a miniature garden for Queen Elizabeth II.
In the 1950s, Anne started writing, producing seven books before passing away in 1990 aged 96.
You can watch a video about Anne here - https://www.britishpathe.com/asset/83182/