Exploring views of Bognor from 1850 to 1890

Every week when I write an article I like to include pictures of the area of which I am writing.

Sunday, 8th November 2015, 6:10 am

This can include newspaper articles, postcards, posters etc, but this week I have a very different perspective. I have been lucky enough to see new images of the town so decided to look at each of them here this week.

They are in fact three different formats from the 1850s to the 1890s, a painting, an architectural drawing and photographs.

The other year I was very pleased to be shown a portfolio of paintings by William Collis. Following research and information contained in the album, we knew he came on painting holidays to Bognor on at least three occasions between 1856 and 1876.

The Black Mill, at Felpham, painted by William Collis

Interestingly, he not only gave each painting a title but dated each and on some he even provided a time of painting.

So often today we forget to put even limited information on our digital photographs.

William Collis stayed with his family at East View in the High Street, the house his grandfather had built around 1815 and the family remained living there and were still shown in the 1881 census returns. William Snr died in 1860 and is buried in South Bersted churchyard.

William died in 1925 at the age of 98, but not before he had completed a considerable number of his interesting sketches.

The Princess Mary Convalescent Home, Bognor, in 1899

One such album contained many images of Bognor and the surrounding villages, which in the 1880s would have seemed to be some distance from Bognor, Felpham being predominant. He shows a very interesting artistic view of the area; with a lack of buildings, views across to the beach from the High Street etc.

Where is East View? It is immediately opposite the entrance to Sudley Gardens and adjacent to the tax office – the building that juts into the road as you enter the town. Today the house is known as West View. The first reference to this I have is in the 1952 Kelly’s Directory.

William’s portfolio contained paintings from surrounding villages, there were several views of East View plus other interesting views including one from the parlour window, looking towards the sea.

In fact all his paintings give the town a very country feel, with views showing the High Street and open areas across the fields or to the beach.

WP Marsh became very well-known for his local photographs of high seas

The second format concerned this week is a photograph. I have viewed an album on the work of AR Dresser from 1892 and subsequently I was loaned this very interesting album.

Mr Dresser was an eminent photographer but not a name that comes readily to mind today. He worked with a hand-held camera that he had helped design in 1885 from his own drawings.

This camera had a new kind of shutter which he called the ‘Dresser’ shutter which worked from 1/250th if used to two seconds, and it also had a wide angle Voitlander working at F8.

The album contained photographs of Bognor, Arundel, Goodwood, Chichester and the neighbourhood.

Views of the Neighbourhood, by WP Marsh

During his lifetime he became president of camera clubs and is recorded as a ‘gentleman with time and money to devote to his hobby’.

He was apparently employed in the advancement of photography and was an acknowledged well-known instantaneous amateur.

The internet provides us with more information on this man who became famous for his work which includes a set of 175 photographs taken in 1892.

The subject of these photos was various aspects of a Wild West show during a performance at Earls Court in London. That particular album chronicles a three-month stay of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and one of the images shows Annie Oakley.

While looking through a number of websites about this man, I was unable to find any reference to his stay within this area, so I was very privileged to view the contents and understand about his work worldwide.

The third view is that of an architectural drawing which has recently come into my possession of the Queen Mary Convalescent Home, the very large, imposing building near Nyewood Lane, and Aldwick Road, Bognor.

The original print was included in a publication called The Building News and was issued on February 10, 1899.

The information contains the name of C Heaston & Perkin who were the architects of this building, complete with a small ground plan for the Princess Mary Convalescent Home, Bognor, for the East London Hospital for Children.

This sketch is a single page plate measuring 13 inches by 8½ inches.

This makes you wonder how many more of this type of architectural drawings are hidden in old dusty files, long forgotten.

Finally, at the same period of the above images, there was also Bognor’s very own WP Marsh, who became very well-known for his local photographs of high seas.

He moved to Bognor about 1875 with his wife and first child.

His first studio was in Somerset Terrace, in Lyon Street, but by 1878 he had moved into his main studio in Waterloo Square.

During the 1870s, he was producing Views of the Neighbourhood with the introduction of instantaneous photography in the 1880s.

Much of his work was shown on the postcards that were sold around the town.

He was responsible for helping to make Bognor known further afield when he was exhibited at the annual exhibitions of the Photographic Society of Great Britain held between 1880 and 1891 in London, showing his photographs and advertising that his studio was here in Bognor.

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