Bertram Hyde Tugwell


London Territorials at Sussex Square, Haywards Heath, before leaving for the Front, September 12, 1914

To home page
To directory of publishers
To gallery

Photographer, Franklynn Road, Haywards Heath. Tugwell was born on March 21, 1872 at Plymouth in Devon to Robert Young Tugwell, a master mariner, and Caroline Tugwell, whose maiden name was also Tugwell. Why he moved to Sussex is not recorded. By 1901 he had become butler to Augusta Ingram, a 73-year-old widow, at a house called Colwell at Wivelsfield. Augusta must have been quite wealthy as she kept four other servants besides Tugwell.

Tugwell married on June 9, 1904, at St Anne's Church in Lewes. His bride was 25-year-old Ada Mary Smith of Ashcombe, the daughter of a coachman. By this date he had already settled in Haywards Heath and was working as a photographer, specialising in "commercial" work. Rather than starting afresh, he took over an existing studio that had been established in 1897. In an advertisement in 1912 he offered cabinet portraits at 6 shillings a dozen, carte-de-visites at 3 shillings and sixpence a dozen, and postcards at two shillings and sixpence a dozen. He also sold photographic materials and hired out his darkroom to amateur photographers.

In 1905 Ada gave birth to a daughter, Rose Mary Tugwell. It is not known whether there were any other children. When the 1911 census was held, Ada's brother, Arthur Victor Smith, from Lewes was staying in the Franklynn Road house and assisting Tugwell with his photographic work, which would suggest that his business was flourishing.

Tugwell is perhaps best known for his black and white real photographic cards recording the dare-devil exploits of some pioneer aviators at Haywards Heath in May 1911. Gordon England, one of the aviators, invited two of his friends, Percy Pixton and Oscar Morison, to spend the night with him at his parent's house at Haywards Heath, which was called Oakwood. Pixton flew solo from Shoreham and successfully landed his biplane on the Oakwood lawns, just managing to stop short of a belt of trees. England flew as a passenger in a second biplane piloted by Morison, but they ran out of fuel and had to put down at Freak's Farm near Burgess Hill. After a second unplanned landing, at Holy Cross Convent, they eventually arrived at Oakwood. Unfortunately, on taking off again, on May 9, the inexperienced Morison crashed his biplane into the top of a 30ft oak in the garden. Local journalists, hungry for news, climbed up the tree to interview Morison and England before they could disentangle themselves from the wreckage and make their descent!

Tugwell published cards of Percy Pixton's plane at Oakwood that are marked on the front "Photo B. Tugwell. HH", the latter shorthand for Haywards Heath. Unlike similar cards produced by his rival Harry Tullett these do not carry Pixton's facsimile signature. Tugwell can be presumed to have also been the publisher of cards showing the wreckage of Morison's plane entangled in the oak tree that are labelled "Photo A. Smith. HH" or "Photo P. Rich. HH". Presumably A. Smith was Arthur, Tugwell's brother-in-law, who may have witnessed the accident and seized the opportunity to take a photograph, which he then shared with Tugwell. The second photographer, P. Rich, has been identified by his grandson, Lawrie, as Percy Augustus Rich (1895-1961), who served as an aviator cameraman in the Royal Flying Corp during the Great War and later set up a camera shop in London where he worked as a portrait and fashion photographer for Vogue magazine. The wording and lettering of the captions on both the Smith and Rich cards closely matches that on the Tugwell cards, leaving little doubt that Tugwell was their publisher.

Tugwell issued many sepia-toned real photographic cards of Haywards Heath, including special events, such as the Hospital Parade of June 27, 1914 and the 3rd Brigade of the 1st London Division of the Territorial Force leaving Haywards Heath for France in September 1914 (see Nickola Smith, Haywards Heath in old picture postcards, 1993, European Library, Zaltbommel, The Netherlands). His real photographic cards have white borders round the photographs and, with the exception of the Oakwood and a few other cards, the captions are written in an elegant and easily recognisable italic script. The Hs with their curled ends are particularly distinctive. Some cards are labelled "Photo. Bertram Tugwell" below and to one side of the photographs, or are discreetly blind stamped with Tugwell's name and address, but others are anonymous, though the italic handwriting on the captions clearly identifies them as Tugwell's work. A card of Haywards Heath mental hospital lightly covered in snow is unusual in being dated (April 5, 1911) and having a caption written in neat blocky capitals with "Photo Bertram Tugwell Copyright" printed on the verso (see Gallery).

Tugwell's card showing the big fire in the corn and forage store in Market Square in October 1915, which Wyn Ford and Conway Gabe reproduce (The metropolis of mid Sussex, a history of Haywards Heath, 1981, Charles Clarke Ltd., Haywards Heath), may be one of his last. Photographers during the First World War had to compete for many fewer customers, and Tugwell became so depressed at his inability to make his Franklynn Road studio pay that he suffered a nervous breakdown. As a former butler, he probably had few savings to fall back on. In May 1916, after his wife had gone out for the day, he shut himself in his studio and committed suicide. At the inquest evidence was provided confirming that photographers in Haywards Heath were encountering very difficult trading conditions. Tugwell's early death deprived the town of a talented photographer, who has left a most useful record of local events.

Some Haywards Heath photographic cards published anonymously differ from normal Tugwell cards in having captions written in a less decorative, non italic script with accentuated "R"s and "H"s. The publisher has not been identified, but could possibly have been Tugwell working with an assistant (such as Arthur Smith) who wrote the captions.

To directory of publishers
To gallery

Design: Lucid Design