Collotype of East Grinstead Fair (1906 postmark)
Photographer and shopkeeper, 65 Lingfield Road, East Grinstead. Morris was born at East Grinstead in 1877. He was the son of Fanny and James Morris, who ran a post office, grocery, newsagents and general store at 65 Lingfield Road in East Grinstead. James, who had been born at Nutley in 1838, was an ardent Liberal and Non-conformist with a strongly puritanical streak, and he served as a town councillor from 1903 until his death in 1906. His son, Victor, shared many of his political and social beliefs.
In the mid 1890s Victor started to take a keen interest in photography, and by the end of 1909 he was publishing real photographic postcards of East Grinstead, particularly of the Lingfield Road area. He developed his pictures in a dark room at the back of the store. The captions on the cards are written in a flowing italic script, with capital letters reserved for the start of names. The photographs are a greyish or chestnut sepia colour and of very high quality. Early cards are signed "V. E. Morris", whereas later example are initialled "V.E.M", and, unlike the earlier cards, some have narrow borders round the photographs. Morris also published collotype cards of East Grinstead, with captions printed in scarlet ink. These are marked on the front "V. E. Morris' Series". Postmarks start in 1906. In addition Morris produced lantern slides, some of which won prizes at photographic exhibitions.
Few of Morris's real photographic cards survive today, and it is likely that they were sold in very small numbers, perhaps only at his Lingfield Road shop. They were evidently much sought after, albeit locally. One card that has been seen, unfortunately undated, carries the message "I want you to have this and I want it myself, and Mr B. and I had a scrabble for it the other night. He had not seen it before but I think there are some more now, but isn't it good?"
Morris published at least five cards of St Mary's Church just west of Lingfield Road, off Windmill Lane. One card shows the exterior of the church prior to its completion in 1911 when two extra bays and a bell turret were added. Others show it after its enlargement.
When his father died, Morris took over the running of the Lingfield Road shop with the help of his elder sisters, Joanna Morris (born 1868 at East Grinstead) and Mary Morris (born 1870). A staunch pacifist, he refused to enlist when the First World War began, and on October 26, 1916 appeared in front of a Tribunal, declaring "I believe that God alone has the right to take life and that under no circumstances whatever has a man the right to kill another person. I believe that war is immoral." Despite being a conscientious objector, he was also a patriot and issued several cards of troops in the autumn of 1914 proudly marching in East Grinstead before they travelled to the Front.
Morris carried on running the Lingfield Road shop until "well into the 1930s" (Ron Michell and David Gould, East Grinstead then and now, 1985, Middleton Press, Midhurst), but does not seem to have published any new cards after 1914. He died at Wyecoller, Highfield Road in East Grinstead on March 28, 1944, aged 66, leaving an estate valued at £0,396.
For further information see M. J. Leppard (2007): Photography in East Grinstead before the Second World War, East Grinstead Museum Compass, 24, 4-13, and also David Simkin's website at http://photohistory-sussex.co.uk.To directory of publishers
Design: Lucid Design