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The History of the Postcard and Tenby Photographers

Postcard: F.B. Mason by G.W. Barnes

The Royal Photographic Society Historical Group's Supplement Photographers in Dyfed 1857-1920, compiled from South Wales Directories by Megan Colbourn BA, has helped me in my search for examples of works of the local photographers in Tenby and Pembrokeshire.
Photography arrived early in the counties of Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. 'In 1858 there were seven photographic artists - one in Tenby, one in Pembroke Dock, one in Cardigan and four in Haverfordwest. It was the regular flow of visitors to these towns that provided potential customers. Apart from weekly markets, the annual Portfield Fair at Haverfordwest drew those wishing to hire labour or find work as well as those looking forward to the main entertainment of the year. Pembroke Dock with its regular launchings and the developing tourism of Tenby, and later Aberystwyth, relied upon a considerable transient population.'

John Warr set up a business in the High Street in Haverfordwest in 1857 and was the earliest photographer to advertise his work. Five years later he moved to a fashionable house and, as was common at the time, he
stood his customers in front of suitable scenery which constituted classical balustrades and backcloths of romantic tree-lined rivers.
Photography in those days was a precarious business and many of them moved around the country. A strong feature of the photographers from the three counties mentioned is the way in which the trade was kept within the family, being passed to widows and sons. There were the Aces of Llanelli, the Trindalls of Pembroke Dock and Edward Richard Gyde, plus nephew Henry Hicks Davies, of Aberystwyth.

Postcard: (Tinted.) Posted from Tenby 18th August 1906.

The Carmarthen business of Howell spread to Llandeilo, Lampeter and Laugharne. The family of Charles Smith Allen of Tenby set up studios in Pembroke Dock, Haverfordwest and Cardigan. His own studio stood on the harbour in Tenby, where the printing frames overlooked the sea and sunlight is shown on many earlier postcards.
The turn of the century was a peak time in the production of postcards and photographs in Tenby. The photographers were dependent on the visitors having their images taken whilst in town and usually had their specific studios within which to take portraits or chose a pitch in town near an open space or on the Esplanade to capture local events, gatherings, incidents, or people promenading in their Sunday best. Mortimer Allen supposedly stood on a ladder to take his photographs, thus the distinctive style of his group shots.

The local photographers usually took carte de visite, cabinet and postcard-sized images, examples of which may be seen in this article. The advertising designs on the backs of the cards are equally appealing! Illustrated guide books were also an essential part of selling photographs and enhancing income. The Allens of Tenby sold books of fifty photographic views for five guineas to subscribers, each of whom could have two views of his or her residence.
The last decade has seen the publication of books reflecting Tenby through the postcard. The local photographers listed below contributed a great deal to the recording of the life and history of Tenby and Caldey Island. I have listed them in alphabetical order for the period 1857-1920:

ALLEN, Charles Smith, Market Street, Tenby. Excelsior Studio, 1864-1871; Castle Street, Castle Buildings, 1880; Priory Street, Cardigan, 1884-1891.
ALLEN, Harry Mortimer, Campbell Studio, High Street, 1891-1920.
BARNES, George William, Napleton House Studio, Warren Studio, 1891.
COLE, William Henry, South Sands, 1884.
JOWETT, R. Keeble, 'Lafayette, Tenby', Warren Street, 1901.
MEDCALF & EVANS, St. Julian Street, 1867-1873. SQUIBBS, Arthur, George Street, Newquay, 1901; Warren Street, Tenby, 1914-1952.
STONE, Isaac CMU, Warren Street, 1871.
SYMONS, Robert, St. Julian Street, 1868-1891.
VILLIERS, George, Quay Street, 1880.

Postcard: Goscar Rock by H. Mortimer Allen


I have one personal treasure produced by the photographer R. Keeble Jowett. It is one of Captain Johnny Hampson who lived in Bridge Street at the Wheel House and it was presented to George Ace, a local businessman and British penny-farthing cycle champion, on January 23rd 1899. It is entitled Light and Eventide and shows the captain seated at a table with shafts of light pouring through a small window. A bible is open in front of him and his nets are lying on an unmade floor. It's a romantic image but considering the period in which this was taken, it shows the art of a skilled photographer.

Copyright: Albie Smosarski 2000.

First published 2000 by Electric Future Publications.


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