William Page


Great-upon-Little rock, West Hoathly - almost certainly a print from a Melville negative

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Photographer, Moat House, 5 Moat Road, East Grinstead. William Page was the son of Martha and William Page of Reading and Shoreham. He took over the Moat Studio, which had been founded by Henry Thomas Melville (1833-1878) from Melville's widow, Mary Ann Melville, in 1883 or 1884, together with the entire stock of negatives (see Ron Michell and David Gould, East Grinstead then and now, 1985, Middleton Press, Midhurst).

On October 30, 1886 in New Shoreham Church Page married Sarah Whitten Evans, who had been born in 1854 at Hardway in Hampshire. Her parents were Sarah and Henry Evans, a retired naval officer, who at one time seems to have served as the Chief Officer of Coastguards at Shoreham. William and Sarah do not appear to have had any children. Although he sported a "fine crop of whiskers", Michael Leppard, the East Grinstead historian, notes that Page was essentially a shy man, who easily blushed ("Photography in East Grinstead before the Second World War", East Grinstead Museum Compass, no. 24, Autumn 2007).

Page, like his father, specialised in high quality studio portraiture, and his many cartes-de-visite and cabinet pictures testify to his skills. However, he also undertook outdoor work. Michell and Gould note that some of his photographs of East Grinstead appeared in a town guide of 1909, and also in later guides. He started issuing real photographic cards, mainly street scenes, at about the same date as his competitor, Arthur Harding, one of his earliest showing a High Street parade in 1902, celebrating the Coronation of Edward VII.

Many of Page's cards are blind stamped (impressed) with his name and address, but often so lightly and discreetly that the cards at first glance appear to be unmarked. The black and white and also sepia photographs generally lack borders and have captions written in small, neat, blocky capitals. The first capital of each word tends to be larger than the rest, and "East Grinstead" is normally abbreviated to "E. Grinstead". By about 1905 Page developed the annoying habit of rubber-stamping "EAST GRINSTEAD" in obtrusively large italic capitals across the tops of some photographs.

The photographs on some of Page's cards can be shown to derive from Melville negatives. He published, for example, a view of the vicarage at East Grinstead, which had previously featured on a Melville carte-de-visite. His cards of "London Road 1883" and "High Street, 1883" may feature photographs taken by Melville but more probably by Page himself when he arrived in East Grinstead. A card showing the High Street in 1870 must, however, be a reprint of a Melville photograph.

Page produced many fewer cards than his East Grinstead contemporaries, Arthur Harding and Edgar Kinsey, but his work was always of high quality. An anonymous card of Lewes Road in snow is particularly fine. Page published cards of not only East Grinstead but also villages in the surrounding area, for example Sharpethorne and Forest Row. Country houses and estates feature on many of his cards. He seems to have continued to issue cards right up to his death at East Grinstead on December 11, 1911, at the early age of 53, leaving effects of £1242 to his widow, Sarah. She continued to liveat Moat Road until 1915.

David Gould provides further information about Page in his recent study of East Grinstead photographers, East Grinstead through a lens (2010, Arundel Publishing, Stroud).

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