Gardner  - Brighton Photographer

Walter Gardner - Brighton Photographer

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[ABOVE] The trade plate of the photographer Walter Gardner of St. Martin's House, 11 Lewes Road, Brighton, as shown on the reverse of a carte-de-visite. (c1882). Gardner called his business premises in Lewes Road, "The Grove Studio".

[ABOVE] A carte-de-visite by Walter Gardner of 11 Lewes Road, Brighton, showing what appears to be two dark-skinned men acting out a scene from a play or entertainment. The two actors appear to be made up in the style of  "black minstrels". Gardner's carte was found amongst other portraits of "black entertainers" from Brighton (see below).

[ABOVE] Portrait of a "Black Entertainer" by Richard Wicks of Brighton (c1882)

Walter Blink Gardner (1850-1923)

Walter Gardner was born at Chichester, Sussex, in the Summer of 1850, the youngest son of William and (Sarah) Agnes Gardner. [Birth of Walter Gardner registered in Chichester during the Third Quarter of 1850]. Walter Gardner's baptism took place at St Paul's Church, Chichester on 28th July 1850. Walter's parents, William Gardner (born c1817) and Sarah Agnes Gardner (born c1816, Chichester) married in the late 1830s. William Gardner and his wife Sarah Agnes (generally known as Agnes) produced at least six children between 1839 and 1850 - Charles Gardner (baptised in Chichester on 7th July 1839), Agnes Emma Gardner (born 1841, Chichester), Edward Gardner (born in London on 25th October 1842), Clara Gardner (born in London on 1st May 1844), Henry Gardner (baptised in Chichester on 30th November 1848) and Walter Gardner (baptised in Chichester on 28th July 1850). William and Agnes Gardner lived and worked in Chichester for much of their married life, but for a few years the Gardner family lived in the Shoreditch district of London ( Edward Gardner was Christened at St Leonard's Church, Shoreditch on 8th October 1843 and his sister Clara was baptised in the same London church on 26th May 1844).

Walter Gardner was a young boy when his father, William Gardner, died around 1853 [the death of a "William Gardner" was recorded in Chichester during the First Quarter of 1853]. When the 1861 census was taken, Mrs Agnes Gardner, a widow, was living in Chichester with five of her children - Agnes, aged 20, Edward, aged 18, Clara, aged 16, Henry, aged 12, and ten year old Walter Gardner. When the 1871 census was carried out ten years later, only twenty-six year old Clara Gardner was living at home with her mother in Chichester. By this date, twenty year old Walter Gardner was living in Brighton. According to Sally Savage, a descendant of the photographer, Walter Gardner arrived in Brighton with one of his brothers in 1870, when he was just twenty years of age.

In 1874, Walter Gardner married Caroline Augusta Boulter (born 27th July 1852, Shoreditch, London), the daughter of William and Caroline Boulter.[ The marriage of Walter Gardner and Caroline Augusta Boulter was registered in the City of London during the Third Quarter of 1874]. The following year, Walter and Caroline Gardner were living in Sevenoaks, Kent, where their daughter Maud Eveline Gardner was born during the Fourth Quarter of 1875.

Walter Gardner in Brighton

When the 1881 census was taken, Walter Gardner and his family were living in Brighton. The census return records Walter Gardner, his twenty-eight year old wife Caroline, and their five year old daughter Maud at 41 Sydney Street, Brighton. Walter Gardner is described on the 1881 census return as a "Photographer", aged 30.

By 1882, Walter Gardner was operating a photographic studio at St. Martin's House,11 Lewes Road, Brighton. The business premises above the shop at 11 Lewes Road had been used intermittently as a photographic studio since the late 1860s. [see below ]At the time of the 1881 census, 11 Lewes Road was occupied by Harry Cheesman, a twenty-six year old "Artist & Photographer" and his wife Jean Cheesman, an artist and miniature portrait painter. It seems that the Cheesmans had vacated the studio by the end of the year. Kelly's 1882 Directory of Sussex lists Walter Gardner as a photographer at 11 Lewes Road, Brighton. Gardner called his studio at 11 Lewes Road, "The Grove Studio". Walter Gardner's ownership of The Grove Studio in Brighton's Lewes Road was brief, probably only a year or so. By 1884, Walter Gardner and his family were in Wellington, Somerset. By this date, George Gooch Doughty, who ran a grocer's shop a few doors away at No 7, was using 11 Lewes Road as an "Italian Warehouse". A few years later, "The Grove Studio" was occupied again, this time by the photographer Henry Thomas Edwards (born 1857, Hurstpierpoint, Sussex). Henry Thomas Edwards was still running the The Grove Studio in Lewes Road, Brighton in 1921.

Walter Gardner in Wellington, Somerset

In 1884, Walter Gardner was living and working in Wellington, a small country town in Somerset, seven miles south-west of Taunton. In 1884, Caroline gave birth to a son, who was named Walter Gardner after his father. When the 1891 census was taken, Walter and Caroline Gardner were recorded in Wellington, Somerset with their two children, Maud, aged 15, and seven year old Walter Gardner junior. Around this time, Walter Gardner inserted the name Blink in front of his surname and in the 1890s and early 1900s, his photographs are either signed Walter Blink Gardner or Walter Blink-Gardner. When Caroline gave birth to a second son early in 1892, his parents named him Herbert Blink Gardner. Before the end of 1892, the couple's eldest son, Walter junior, died at the age of eight. Although it appears he was Christened Walter James Gardner in 1884, the boy's death was registered in Wellington as Walter Blink Gardner during the Third Quarter of 1892.

The name of Walter Blink Gardner does not appear in the lists of professional photographers in Somerset trade directories, but there is evidence that he earned his living as a photographer in Somerset. A carte-de-visite portrait of a child, photographed by Walter Gardner around 1890, is rubber-stamped on the back with the words "W. BLINK GARDNER, PORTRAIT & LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHER" [see below ]. No studio address is given on the carte, which suggests Walter Blink Gardner was working as an itinerant or travelling photographer during his time in Somerset.

[ABOVE] The trade plate of Walter Blink Gardner, Portrait & Landscape Photographer, as shown on the reverse of a carte-de-visite portrait (c1890).


During the 1890s, Walter Blink Gardner worked as a travelling photographer, touring the country with a mobile studio. There is evidence that Walter Blink Gardner took photographic portraits at fairs in Sussex, Somerset, Kent and London. By 1901, Walter Blink Gardner had reached Farnborough in Hampshire, where he decided to settle. By 1903, Walter Blink Gardner had established a permanent photographic studio in Victoria Road, Farnborough.

 

The Photographic Studio at 11 Lewes Road, Brighton

[ABOVE] The trade plate of Boxell & Co. of  11 Lewes Road, Brighton, as shown on the reverse of a carte-de-visite (c1869). This studio was established by a young Brighton photographer Thomas Boxell around 1869. Thomas Boxell (born 1846, Brighton) had previously operated a studio at 40a North Street, Brighton.

The business premises at 11 Lewes Road, Brighton, had been first used as a photographic studio around 1869, when Thomas Boxell (born 1846, Brighton) used it as an additional studio to his original studio at 40a North Street in the centre of town. Around 1870, Thomas Boxell left Brighton to continue his  photographic career in East Anglia and Yorkshire. The studio at 11 Lewes Road was then rented to Angelo Tagliabue (1837-1900), an Italian from Milan who had arrived in Brighton with his English-born wife and two young children in 1866. Angelo Tagliabue's career as a photographer was brief. He operated the photographic studio at 11 Lewes Road until about 1871 and then returned to London and eventually found work as a hotel waiter.

In the 1870s the shop at 11 Lewes Road, Brighton, was used by George Gooch Doughty, a grocer and "oil man", based a few doors away at No. 7 Lewes Road. Presumably the photographic studio above the shop remained in working order, because when the 1881 census was taken it was occupied by Harry Cheesman, a twenty-six year old "Artist & Photographer" and his wife Mrs Jean Cheesman, an artist and miniature portrait painter. Harry Cheesman (born 1854, Brighton) was a local man, the son of William Alfred Cheesman (1819-1876), a bathing machine proprietor and the first Pier Master of Brighton's West Pier.

Walter Gardner acquired the photographic studio at 11 Lewes Road, Brighton between 1881 and 1882. At this time the building was known as St. Martin's House, but Gardner appears to have introduced the name of "The Grove Studio" for the studio above the shop at No. 11. By 1884, Walter Gardner had vacated The Grove Studio and had moved to Wellington, Somerset.

After Walter Gardner's departure, No. 11 Lewes Road was again taken over by grocer George Gooch Doughty, who utilised the building as an "Italian Warehouse". Henry Thomas Edwards (born 1857, Hurstpierpoint, Sussex), who had previously owned a greengrocer's business in Brighton, re-established The Grove Studio at 11 Lewes Road around 1887. Around 1898, Henry T. Edwards expanded his photography business by taking possession of the neighbouring shop at No.10 Lewes Road. Henry Edwards used the adjoining shops for his photography business for the next twenty years and the studio of H. T. Edwards was still listed at 10 Lewes Road, Brighton, in Pike's Trade Directory of 1921.

[ABOVE] The trade plate of H. Edwards of  The Grove Studio, 11 Lewes Road, Brighton, as shown on the reverse of a carte-de-visite (c1888). The Grove Studio in Lewes Road was owned by Henry Thomas Edwards from around 1887 to 1921 and beyond.

 

[ABOVE] A portrait of a child sitting on a chair, photographed by Walter Blink Gardner when he was working as a travelling photographer in the 1890s.

 

Walter Blink Gardner - Travelling Photographer

According to Sally Savage and her daughter Rachel Savage (descendants of the photographer), Walter Blink Gardner travelled around the country with touring fairs in the 1890s. According to Rachel Savage, Walter Gardner travelled around the country with his camera, touring Sussex, Somerset and Kent. The Savage family have seen posters advertising the arrival of travelling fairs which mention the photographer Walter Blink Gardner by name.

 

[ABOVE] The trade plate of Walter Blink Gardner, Portrait & Landscape Photographer, as shown on the reverse of a carte-de-visite portrait (c1890). During the 1890s, Walter Blink Gardner toured the country with travelling fairs. As he had no permanent studio, he rubber-stamped his details on the backs of the photographs he took during this period.
 

Walter Gardner's Photographic Career after 1901

When the 1901 census was taken, Walter Gardner was living in the Hampshire town of Farnborough, which is located close to the boundary with Surrey. Walter Gardner was living with his forty-eight year old wife Caroline and their son Herbert, aged nine. Caroline gives her place of birth as Hampstead, London, rather than Shoreditch, the London district where her baptism took place. Her husband is entered on the census return as Walter Blink Gardner, a "Photographer", aged 50. Walter Gardner's daughter, Maud Eveline Gardner, a single woman of twenty-five, was living in Willesden, Middlesex, and earning a living as a "Photographic Painter". Maud had previously worked in her father's studio, colouring his photographs.

During the early 1900s, Walter Gardner was operating a photographic studio in Victoria Road, Farnborough. (Walter Gardner is not listed as a Farnborough photographer in Kelly's Directory of Hampshire and The Isle of Wight, published in 1898). Kelly's 1903 Directory of Hampshire lists Walter under 'B' as Walter Blink-Gardner with the studio address of Victoria Road, Farnborough, Hampshire.

At the time of the 1911 census, Walter Gardner was living at 34 Lansdown Place, Lewes, the studio premises owned by the firm of A. M. Bliss & Co. (Rendel Williams has established that the owner of A. M. Bliss & Co. at this time was a photographer named John Lee Dadford, also known as 'John Lee-Dadford'). Rachel Savage (Walter Blink Gardner's great, great grand-daughter) reports that Gardner was occupying 6 rooms at 34 Lansdown Place. Gardner was living at the studio premises on his own and on the census return he gives his profession as "Photographer", which suggests he was managing the studio on behalf of the owner of A. M. Bliss & Co. ( 'John Leedadford', the proprietor of A. M. Bliss & Co. was living elsewhere in Lewes with his wife and two daughters). During this period, Walter Blink Gardner's wife Caroline and their two grown up children, thirty-five year old Maud Gardner and nineteen year old Herbert Blink Gardner, were residing in the Hampstead area of London.

It appears that Walter Blink Gardner moved back to London towards the end of his career. Sally Savage, Gardner's great grand-daughter has found evidence that at one point in his career, Walter Blink Gardner operated as a photographer in Ealing.

The death of Walter B. Gardner, aged 73, was registered in the London district of Hampstead during the 4th Quarter of 1923.

[ABOVE] The photographer Walter Blink Gardner (1850-1923), photographed in his garden in Hampstead, London, towards the end of his life.  

[PHOTO: Courtesy of Rachel Savage]

 

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Rachel Savage, a great, great grand-daughter of  the photographer Walter Gardner, for providing family history details of the Gardner Family and for supplying the portrait of Walter Blink Gardner.

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