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Changing Times | Snapshots of past tell us about town history

I have written about postcards many times, and as a collector that is what you would expect. These small pieces of cardboard can tell us so much about our life and times from their conception in the 1870s.


Originally, the postcard had one image and was a way of saying ‘Wish you were here’, this is what our holiday destination is offering us. Over the years, their use has totally developed into promotion events, items, places, holidays, hobbies and so much more.


It was, therefore, inevitable that because of the widening of their use, manufacturers and shops saw an opportunity to not only increase their businesses but to provide more information to the sender, the recipient and, of course, the postman en route.


There were many postcard publishers over the years, some of whom compiled sets of postcards on one particular artist. This was the case in Devon where there was a Sydney Endacott, no relation, who was an artist of places around the Exeter area.


Other companies developed, with the increasing use of aircraft aerial shots of our countryside, which are most useful to local history today, as we can see the development of villages into towns. We can spot where we live – which was one of my first postcards of Bognor Regis.


To advertise and promote a business what better way than to produce a postcard with an image of your organisation to be used in sending messages to the customer? I suppose today this could be seen almost as the messages on Facebook that keep popping up because we are aware of the product.


Another development was the movement into cards for occasions, like birthdays, Christmas, new year and Easter – cute little images to be sent around the family. These all eventually developed into the massive card industry that we have today selling thousands of cards through shops.


We should not forget that Raphael Tucks, the postcard publishers, in the early 1900s, at one time had 2,000 shops around the country purely selling postcards.


Then along came the idea of multiple images, either on the card or those cards with a small flap on the front, which you lifted to reveal a further 12 pictures of somewhere or something.


One such was produced here in Bognor Regis to advertise a new development, that of the Newton Estate. Each individual picture showed a different aspect of the new houses. The postcard image was of the beach, enticing purchasers to the area.


Over the years, there have been many publishers in our area. In fact, 21 people and companies were listed, who have provided us with an excellent look back in time. The major players were Edward Lawrence Wood, Webster and Webb, Briant Burgess, and WP Marsh – his specialty was ‘high seas’.


Another idea was to have a house style. This could be borders around the images in a symmetrical format – one such company who did this was JMJ of Grimsby, (J.M. Jackson & Son).


Another was the multiple images, as shown this week. I was sorting through my cards and came across these three, long since forgotten. On the reverse of these cards it simply states: ‘This is a St Albans Series real photograph,’ and these were sent in the 1960s the


‘Bognor Regis – just my cup of tea,’ was used in the conventional sense but also by views of Butlin’s in 1964.


It shows the gardens that were on the prom and some of the gardens within the centre. This was sent to friends in Bath with the message ‘Plenty to do at Butlins, doing mostly swimming and resting, which I have the chance to do’. We should remember that Butlins had only opened on its present site in 1960, so was still a relatively new attraction.


‘On Top Of The World here in Bognor Regis’ shows the prom at the bottom of West Street with the pier in the background. The other picture shows Marine Park Gardens.


I have two of these cards with very different messages, one sent in 1962 saying ‘We are now having Bed and Breakfast at a very nice place, lovely food good beds. We have just booked up for the whole week’. This person was staying in Gloucester Road.


The other card sent in 1963 to friends in Sutton is a litany of ill health, hospitals etc., but is obviously the easiest means of telling friends and family your news. No Twitter, email or Facebook then.


The final card, ‘Gone to Bognor Regis’ shows a phrase used by numerous companies. ‘No scrubbing floors, no washing up, no daily chore to do, enjoying myself? I’ll say I have.’


Here they have included the images within everyday items, the bucket, washing machine etc. So, while remembering the sending of the message, they have included ‘Floral Garden (Marine Park Gardens), The Beach and The Front, at the bottom of West Street – this particular image being used on all three cards.


Postcards are our snapshot on the past, giving us an insight into the way of life, holidays and communications.


It is very difficult for young people to understand how we all sent messages between friends and family without the mobile phone. How people went to the railway station to go to work and would send a postcard to the butcher requesting a purchase to be delivered that evening and available on their return home.


There were so many collections and deliveries per day. Even the postcard from your holidays home and abroad are on the decline as now, of course, with our mobile phone, we can stand, take the picture, message it with the ‘wish you were here’ or ‘this is the view from our bedroom’ – the later remark in the past was denoted on a postcard with a cross on the window of your B&B or hotel if you were able.


One company – J Salmon – has closed as a postcard publisher after 140 years. So how will future generations understand our lives?

Posted in Lifestyle.