Tenby History of the Postcard
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History of the Postcard and Tenby Photographers

By Albie Smosarski

Much has been written of the delights of Tenby, the town in which I live and work. Visitors have constant praise and occasional criticism of the area but many return year after year.

Charles Norris, renowned local artist and writer, mentions the following in his book, An Account of Tenby, in 1818: 'The principal advantages which Tenby enjoys over other sea bathing places, consist in the variety of its aspects, the strength and clearness of the salt water, the firmness and extent of the sands, the purity of its air, and its freedom from the smoke of works, and from the noise and confusion of more frequented and commercial sea ports.'

History of the Postcard
Postcard: Unknown Mayor of Tenby by G.W. Barnes

I have many fond childhood memories of Tenby and as an adult have collected any memorabilia and printed ephemera of the town and surrounding areas. Postcards and photographs have always delighted me and the search for new materials is endless. I have been helped by many warm, equally interested collectors in the neighbourhood and further afield.
Whilst collecting postcards, I have learned a large number of facts about their development, which may help you date your own:

*In 1859 Tenby's first letter box was set up in the Norton.

*The first plain postcard originated in Austria in 1869. Britain followed in 1870, and in the mid-1870s the first picture postcards appeared.

*Our first picture postcard appeared in 1894.

*In 1902 Britain became the first country to divide the back of postcards into two for address and message to appear on one side.

*'The Golden Age' of postcards ranged from 1902-1914. In the pre-telephone period, this represented the cheapest and quickest way of getting messages to people. It was quite common for a postcard to be posted in the earliest daily postal collections and arrive early enough to notify the recipient that: 'I shall arrive at 3 o'clock today.'

*This was also a Golden Era for collecting postcards. 'I hope that you like this card for your collection,' was a regular message seen at the time.

*The oldest card posted from Tenby is listed as being 13 Aug. 1900. If you have an earlier example please let me know so that the record may be updated.

*World War I saw a reduction in the printing of postcards as the majority of British cards prior to this period had been printed in Germany. Of course, many postcards were sent from the Front and many still exist in family circles to this day, especially those termed 'silk' which were embroidered sentimental cards sent home by the soldiers on active service to their loved ones.

Postcard: Unknown 'Scotsman' by H. Mortimer Allen

*Between the wars there was a decline in picture postcard collecting, There may be reasons for this, e.g., the recovery needed after the horrors of World War I, the doubling of the inland postal rate for postcards, the developmental use of the growing telephone systems and the need for businesses to re-establish themselves after the damage caused by the war.

*World War II saw a slight rise in popularity in the production and collection of cards, especially in the Aviation and Military series and those that dealt with political and military personalities.

*From the 1950s, interested collectors formed clubs and groups to re-establish the hobby which received a massive boost in 1970 with the travelling Centenary Exhibition of Postcards run by the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the increasing number of magazines, sales lists and Postcard Catalogues. The one I refer to, IPM, has been running since 1975.

*Today, there are numerous fairs across the country dealing with the sale of photographs and postcards. As a trades person in Tenby, I am delighted to share in viewing all types of collections and am pleased to bring enjoyment to visitors perusing postcards in Cofion.

In my personal experience, I have been amazed at the range of collecting in the postcard world. It is a healthy hobby that attracts people from all walks of life. Many friendships have evolved through collecting cards and related items. There are many people who have a keen interest in discovering new cards of their hamlet, village or town.
At work, I am surrounded by collections from the past. The Tudor Merchant House has constant visitors through its season. Tenby Museum has a wonderful range of artefacts, art and local exhibitions, library and postcard collections, and provide assistance with family history research. From Cofion's window I can see the townhouse in which Charles Norris once lived, and have a beautiful view of a section of the harbour.

Postcard: Unknown by G.W. Barnes

In order to find local cards, I have had to travel miles around the country. I am constantly amazed at the number of cards produced in, and taken of Tenby. I even found one in a Parisian street market. I take great pleasure in examining all the photographs and art work on local cards as they all reveal something different each time. Norris and other artists used their media to capture scenes of Tenby, whereas the camera helps us identify a unique moment in time, the event, the people, the family and the slight changes that occur through natural progress.

The messages on the cards also reveal the attitudes of people visiting Dinbych-y-Pysgod. A photographic card published by HB & S Ltd. [Bristol], showing Castle Hill and Royal Victoria Pier saw David writing to Splott, Cardiff, from Clarence House, 1, Esplanade:

Pleased to say we're all O.K. at Tenby. Weather not so bad: a little misty rain. Had shocks this a.m: Saw a dirigible passing over the bay - wasn't a Zepp. though, worse luck. Quite pleased with the place, etc., quite pretty. [Tenby, 11th September 1916].

Another card posted on 17th June 1949 to Watford, Herts. shows a sepia photograph with a single car in a quiet street outside the Five Arches:


Thank you for your letter and good wishes & Mummy & Daddy & Treun too.
I had a lovely birthday with a bathe in the morning and a coach ride to Bosherston, St. Govan's Head and Stack Rocks. The guillemots were thick on the top of the rocks and made such a noise. Granny and I are sitting down by the harbour watching the tide coming in and the children digging on the sand and bathing. We wish you and Treun & Ruth & Derek were here.
We shall be sorry to leave tomorrow.
With love to you all from Quintine Jan.

98 words for the price of the card plus 2d postage!

On a card posted from Tenby to Hanwell on 14th July 1954 'A' records:

Today is smashing, we are exploring Tenby, it is a lovely place. Smashing views. Sitting on the beach now, in the exact spot this p.c. is showing, The building on the rock is a monastery, we have seen 2 or 3 monks in the town. Boy! oh Boy! this is the life, no work, smashing! wish you were here to enjoy it.

Unfortunately, despite the joy, there appears to be some confusion as to the home of the monks seen in town as the postcard is a watercolour, Salmon published, of St. Catherine's Rock by the artist AR Quinton!
Another card showing a photographic aerial view of Tenby posted 19th August 1966 reveals:

What lovely weather we've had this week! It's a pity Joy &Co. weren't here this week. Very high & very low tides. On Wednesday evening there were water-skiing demonstrations in North Bay [round Goscar] - still hoping to get to Caldey but haven't managed it yet. The pleasure boats are packed today. A steamer went to Ilfracombe. It would be a very quick way for me to go to Pat's - I am going there on Monday next. Hope you are having a good time. Much love, D.

The card was posted to Anchersholme, Blackpool.

I have always admired the art of the photographer, from the earliest periods to the present day. I remember saving up my pocket money for my first basic camera, one in the Coronet range, and still have the earliest shots at home. Next Page >>

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