Howard Roy Ashton was born on 16 April 1922 in Perth, Australia
In Britain from 1932, he attended the School of Arts and Crafts in London, and then spent five years with Gaumont British under the tutelage of a German make-up artist from Ufa. In 1942, Ashton qualified for a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, which fulfilled a long-standing ambition. He would remain forever conflicted between his love of singing and his work as a make-up artist. After World War II, he became principal tenor at Covent Garden and co-founder of Benjamin Britten’s Opera Group, understudy to Peter Pears. At first, his film work provided the money to allow him to indulge his passion for performing in concerts, but, by the mid-1950’s, he began to realise that movies provided a more reliable – and substantial – source of income.
Roy joined Hammer at Bray Studios in 1957, assisting Phil Leakey, on The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula (1958). He succeeded Leakey as head of the department upon the latter’s departure in 1959. During the next seven years, Ashton worked (often out of his own home in Surrey) on some of the most fondly remembered Hammer horrors, including The Mummy (1959) (for which he created a concealed zipper at the back of the costume, which enabled Christopher Lee to extricate himself from his cumbersome ‘bandages’), The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960), The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), The Gorgon (1964) and The Reptile (1966) (the scaly creature make-up for this one came from a plaster cast of genuine Boa Constrictor skin).
He married his wife, Elizabeth, in 1948.
Roy Ashton died in Farnham, Surrey on 10 January 1995, he was 85.