2 September 2021
Robert Aske Factsheet
Robert Aske, the businessman
Robert Aske was a successful businessman, principally as a wholesale trader in silk, which was one of the growth industries in London in the late 17th Century. As a consequence of his business activities, he accumulated significant wealth. At the time of his death his estate was worth approximately £50,000; this has an equivalent value today of c. £13M. It is estimated that his annual income at the time of his death would have been up to £3,000 p.a. (c. £780K today). It is further estimated that the value of the silk that was held in the estate was between £1,600 and £4,800 (c.£480K to £1.2M today).
Aske made an investment of £500 (c. £110K today) in the Royal African Company (RAC) in 1672. This was made under the provisions of the original RAC Charter of 1672 which stipulated that individual investors were entitled to one vote for each £100 share. To be elected an Assistant, or Director, of the RAC, a shareholder had to hold at least £400 of shares. This regulation required those who wished to be entitled to vote as a shareholder in the RAC to show some financial commitment. Aske may have voted and participated in discussion about policy decisions, but there is no evidence that he was elected as an Assistant, or Director, of the Company. At the time of his death, his estate included £650 (c. £150K today) of RAC stock. This represents 1.3% of the total value of his estate.
The Royal African Company
In December 1671, the RAC was valued at £111,100 (c.£25M today). Most subscriptions came from the business community, and they contributed modest sums. In 1675, 14 (of more than 200 stockholders) owned more than £1000 (c.£210K today) each in stock. There were numerous investors in the RAC. The Duke of York, later King James II, subscribed £3,000 (c.£620K today) and Prince Rupert made an investment of £400 (c.£83K today). The majority of investors came from the City of London business community and included fifteen of the Lord Mayors and 25 of the Sheriffs serving between 1660-1688. Approximately 90,000 slaves were traded by the RAC in the period between its foundation in 1672 and Robert Aske’s death in 1689.
The Aske Charity
Robert Aske became a Freeman of the Haberdashers’ Company in 1643, was elected Alderman in 1666 and was appointed Master Haberdasher in 1684. On his death in 1689, Aske bequeathed to the Company a sum of £20,000 with which to buy land within one mile of the City of London and build on it a hospital (or school) and almshouses. He also left in his will the Company the residue of his estate which amounted to some £12,000. His total charitable bequest was £32,000 (value equivalent today of c.£8.3M) which is the foundation of the Aske Charity.
Land was purchased at Hoxton on which the hospital and almshouses were built. Aske directed that the Master and Wardens be appointed to be governors of the hospital, that twenty poor elderly Freemen of the Company were to be accommodated in the almshouses, and twenty poor sons of Company freemen were to be educated in the hospital. The establishment of the charity was confirmed by an Act of Parliament in 1690, and the Architect Robert Hooke designed and built the hospital and almshouses which opened in 1693.
- The Master and Wardens of the Haberdashers’ Company were and continue to be the Trustees and Corporators of the Aske Charity. Following on from the aspirations set for the legacy by Robert Aske in his will, the current object of the charity is to promote “in or near Greater London and the neighbourhood thereof the education, including social and physical training, of boys and girls”. As at 31 August 2020, the assets of the charity were valued at more than £116M, with the property assets being used as schools.
The Aske Schools
Due to disrepair, in 1824 the original Hospital building was demolished and a new school and almshouses were built on the same site in Hoxton. In 1874 the almshouses were closed (and replaced by Aske’s Eleemosynary Charity) and the buildings were enlarged and adapted as a day school for 300 boys and 300 girls. The school was officially opened by the Company’s Royal Patron at the time, Prince Arthur of Connaught.
In 1875, the Aske Charity bought land at Hatcham from the William Jones Charity and a school was built there for 200 boys and 200 girls. In 1889 more land was purchased in Jerningham Road, Hatcham and a new school built for 300 girls. The first school in Hatcham then became the boys' school for 300 pupils. Knights Academy, the first academy to join what was to become the current Haberdashers’ Aske's Federation Trust (HAFT), opened in 2005. This was joined in the Federation by Crayford Academy in 2009, Borough Academy in 2019 and the five primary schools between 2008 and 2013.
- In 1898, the Hoxton site being unsuitable, it was sold for the sum of £21,000 (c.£ 3M today) and sites in Hampstead and Acton were purchased. A school for 350 boys was built at Hampstead and a school for 350 girls was built at Acton. In 1959 the Aske Charity bought Aldenham House at Elstree from the BBC. A new school for 800 boys was built there and the move from Hampstead was completed in September 1961. The girls' school moved to Elstree from Acton in 1974. The Elstree Group now comprises the two senior schools, two prep schools and a pre-prep.
The Aske Legacy
The principal element of the legacy is the number of pupils who have been and now are the beneficiaries of Aske’s remarkable vision and considerable generosity 350 years ago. From a start point of a school with twenty poor boys and almshouses for twenty old Freemen of the Company, there are now 14 schools which benefit from the property and assets of the Aske Charity.
At the end of the academic year 2020/21, there are approximately 8,000 pupils enrolled in the Aske schools, with c. 2,600 at Elstree and c. 5,400 in the HAFT. Since the opening of the original school at Hoxton in 1693, it has been calculated that more than 100,000 pupils have received the benefit of an Aske sponsored education.
- More than 66,000 of the total number have been educated by the HAFT since it was established as an entity in 2005, and these pupils have been and continue to be drawn from some of the most deprived and disadvantaged boroughs in South East London. These pupils come from an ethnically diverse community; 33% are Black African/Caribbean, 38% are from other ethnic groups and 29% are White British.
- The Elstree Schools are similarly diverse. Of those in the current pupil body across both the Boys’ and Girls’ schools who have formally declared their ethnicity, 42% are White British/Irish, 33% are from the Indian Sub-Continent, 17% are from Asia, 4% are Black African/Caribbean and the remaining 4% from other ethnic groups.
 All equivalent values are as calculated by the Bank of England Historic Inflation Calculator.
 Prof Hugh Thomas (2006), The Slave Trade; London W&N; Ch 11.
 The medieval term 'freeman' meant someone who was not the property of a feudal lord but enjoyed privileges such as the right to earn money and own land. Town dwellers who were protected by the charter of their town or city were often free – hence the term 'freedom' of the City. Freedom of the City - City of London
 The Aske Charity Scheme dated 02 August 1991.
 Investments of £34.7M and Property of £81.5M.
 Hatcham Temple Grove (2008), Crayford Temple Grove (2009), Knights Temple Grove (2010), Slade Green Temple Grove and Hatcham Free School (2013)