Alfred William Wardell


Swanbourne Lake

To home page
To directory of publishers
To gallery

Brighton stationer, fancy goods dealer and postcard publisher, who moved to Worthing after the Second World War. Bill or Will, as he was known to members of the family, was born in late 1878 at Newport in Monmouthshire. His father, another Alfred Wardell, born in Chelsea in 1852, worked as a piano tuner. His mother, Jane Salmon Stott, born at Badgeworth in Somerset in 1848, had been married to Richard Guy, a merchant's clerk, who worked in Newport. Richard died early in 1878, aged 28, and Jane lost no time remarrying, which was understandable, as she had been left with four children to support: Charlotte Florence Guy (born in 1871, and known as Florie), Ethel Maud Guy (born in 1872), Marion Lucy Guy (born in 1874) and Henry Charles Guy (born in 1875).

By the time she married Alfred Wardell, Jane was already expecting Bill, which Brett Jeffery points out raises the possibility that Bill's biological father was actually Richard Guy.

In April 1880 Jane Wardell gave birth to another daughter: Rosa May Wardell. By the time the 1881 census was held, the Wardell family had moved from Newport to 47 Barnwell Road in Brixton, South London, where Alfred continued to work as a piano tuner. The family then settled at 7 Norley Terraces in Lugard Road, Peckham, Camberwell. Still more children were to follow: Mabel Louisa Wardell in April 1882, Lily Amy Wardell early in 1884, Albert James Wardell in June 1886 and Jessie Ann Wardell (Annie) in July 1888 at the then family home at 76 Whateley Road, East Dulwich. Harriet Elizabeth Wardell was born in January 1890 at Newbury in Berkshire. Whether Alfred and his family lived at Newbury at the time or were simply passing through has not been established.

By 1891 the family had returned to Newport. The census found them at 9 Bridge Street, where Jane was keeping a lodging house. This was west of the river, close to where Jane had lived with Richard Guy. Jane and Alfred had a further two children: Arthur Leslie Wardell late in 1891 and Doris Winifred Wardell in mid 1895. The 1901 census records that the family had relocated to 28 Bridge Street. Two young actresses were visiting the family. Jane Wardell was now 52 and presumably past child rearing. According to Brett Jeffery, family tradition holds that she produced a total of 14 children. Only 13 are recorded here, suggesting that one, who may have died in infancy, has not been identified.

The 1901 census reveals that Bill Wardell had left the parental home at 28 Bridge Street and was living in a boarding house at 9 Oxford Street in Weston Super Mare. He had taken up his father's profession of piano tuning. No doubt he returned to Newport at regular intervals to stay with his family and see old friends. On January 12, 1903 he married Flora Derrett at Maindee Parish Church at Newport (on the east side of the river). Flora was 24 years old, the same age as her husband, and lived at 63 High Street, Maindee. Her deceased father, Robert Derrett, had been a brewer. Wardell gave his address as Oxford Villa, Severn Road, Weston Super Mare.

Bill and Flora then moved to Brighton, where on May 17, 1906, Flora gave birth to twin boys: Charles Reginald Wardell and William Frederick Wardell ("Willie"). At the time she and Bill were living in a rented apartment at 25 Russell Square. She had contracted tuberculosis and, after moving with her family to 10 Clarence Street, she died on March 22, 1907, aged only 29. Perhaps she and Bill had settled in Brighton because they hoped the sun and sea air would keep the disease at bay. The deaths of Bill's father, Alfred Wardell, at about the same time (at Aston in Birmingham) and his infant son Charles towards the end of the year would have come as further blows.

Bill did not remain a widower for long. Like his mother, he evidently believed in moving forward, not dwelling on setbacks. On November 2, 1907, he married Grace Maud Pearce, daughter of William George Pearce, a hotel proprietor. Grace was six years younger than Bill, who was continuing to work as a piano tuner. She bore him a son, Aubrey Alfred Wardell, on November 16, 1908, and a second son, Leslie Arthur Wardell, on December 26, 1909. When Aubrey was born, the Wardells were living at 49 Clarence Square in Brighton, between Russell Square and Western Road, but, when Leslie arrived, they had moved to Cowper Street. Kelly's 1911 Brighton & Hove Directory (prepared no doubt in 1910) locates Bill Wardell at 110 Cowper Street, near Sackville Road, but the 1911 census and 1912 edition of Kelly's Directory list him as a piano tuner at 4 Clarence Street, Brighton. Although he was publishing postcards in some numbers by this date, it was evidently still only a secondary source of income. Clarence Street was a local photographic "hot spot". The Brighton View Co. was based at Number 3a, while the previous owner of Number 4 was Arthur Deane, who played a part in several postcard publishing ventures.

It was at 4 Clarence Street that Grace gave birth to her third son, Victor Frank Wardell, on July 6, 1912. During 1914 she and Bill moved to 39 West Street in Brighton. Their first daughter, Grace Wardell, was born at West Street on March 13, 1914, followed by Jeanne Ellen Wardell on January 8, 1916. The birth certificates continue to describe Bill Wardell as a piano tuner. By contrast, Pike's 1917 Directory lists him as a stationer at 39 West Street and as a confectioner at 26 Queens Road. There is no mention of piano tuning, which he may have given up.

Brett Jeffery has established that Bill Wardell joined the Army Service Corps on December 8, 1915, aged 37. He enlisted as a motor transport trainee driver, and became one of a vast legion of men who ferried ammunition, food, and other supplies to the soldiers on the Western Front. While still completing his training, Bill was posted to France late in 1916, where he soon contracted scabies, which flourished in the insanitary conditions of the military camps. After hospitalisation, Bill worked for the Army Printing and Stationery Services at Amiens. Brett Jeffery suggests that Bill may have been assigned to photographic duties because of his camera skills. Bill was demobilised in March 1919.

There are entries for both Bill and his wife at 39 West Street in the Electoral Registers for 1918 (when women were at last given the vote), 1919 and 1921, although by June 1920 Grace had in fact left home. She had fallen in love with Frank Teague, who was 17 years her senior and like her already married. He had been a Brighton grocer, but had sold up. Grace eloped to Australia with Frank and her elder daughter, 6-year-old Grace, whom she described as "my little queen". She abandoned her other children at Brighton at the same time as the hapless Bill, who pleaded with her to return, but to no avail. In July 1921 the Divorce Court in London granted Bill a divorce and awarded him the not inconsiderable damages of £1000 from Frank Teague.

On February 28, 1922, Bill Wardell married for a third time. His new bride was Sadie Norman, aged only 27, the daughter of Jacob Norman, a chiropodist. Wardell was now 43 years old, and working as a "stationer and bookseller". Both he and Sadie gave their address as 39 West Street. As far as is known, the new marriage did not yield any children. Sadie was once described to Brett Jeffery as a "brassy, blonde barmaid type", but a photograph in his possession shows her to have been a brunette with an open, kindly face. She seems to have been a well-loved member of the family.

Bill joined the Freemasons in 1925, and was a very active member of his lodge, eventually becoming Worshipful Master.

Pike's Brighton & Hove Directory for 1926 records that Bill Wardell had opened a "stationer and fancy goods"' shop at 11 Imperial Arcade (at the eastern end of Western Road). By 1927 he and his wife moved from West Street to live at 58 Rugby Road in the Preston area of Brighton. He retained the shop at 11 Imperial Arcade. Pike's Brighton & Hove Directory for 1933-34 confirms that he still living at 58 Rugby Road, describes 11 Imperial Arcade as a "fancy goods shop", and notes that he also ran a postcard shop at 2 Madeira Drive. Kelly's 1934 Sussex Directory lists him as a "toy dealer" at Castle Square (near the Royal Pavilion), a "stationer" at 11 Imperial Arcade, and a "fancy goods dealer" at Madeira Drive.

By the time Pike's Brighton & Hove Directory for 1939-40 was compiled, Bill Wardell had moved to 22 Cissbury Road, near Old Shoreham Road. His postcard shop was now stated to be at 4 Madeira Drive. Kelly's 1940 Brighton & Hove Directory again lists him at 22 Cissbury Road.

After the War, Bill and Sadie moved to Worthing. By 1949 they were living at 3 Malvern Close, Heatherstone Road in Worthing, with William Frederick Wardell (Willie). This was still their address when Bill died aged 83 at 18 Winchester Road on May 7 1962, of a cerebral thrombosis and arteriosclerosis. He left an estate valued at £9614. Sadie died on December 1978, aged 84, having survived Bill by 16 years.

Brett Jeffery writes that Bill Wardell was always very close to his sister, Mabel. She married Thomas House (1884-1967) on April 3, 1909 at Bramber Parish Church. Thomas was a piano tuner and had presumably been introduced to Mabel by Bill. They ran the Friars Tea Gardens at Bramber before moving to Hove. Mabel died in January 1960.

Aubrey Alfred Wardell married Marjorie Rita Gurney in 1941 at Blandford in Dorset. They had one son: Anthony Douglas Wardell (born in 1943). Aubrey became a Sergeant Pilot in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve during the Second World War and was killed near Anzio on February 20, 1944, when a German submarine torpedoed the LST (landing assault craft) that was transporting him across the Mediterranean. Leslie Wardell married Nellie Casey and lived at 32 Meadway Crescent in Hove from the 1930s until his death in 2000. He is believed to have managed a soft drinks factory in Hove. Victor Wardell married Vera Songhurst in 1940 and moved to Bromley in Kent. Jeanne married a fireman, Leslie Terry, in Brighton in 1938.

Following his elopement with Grace Wardell, Frank Teague and his first wife, Alice, evidently divorced. He then married Grace. Brett Jeffery has discovered that he and Grace lived in New South Wales until at least 1954, first at Parramatta, then at Robertson. Grace's daughter, Grace, took her mother's new name of Teague, and in 1949 was living at Lyne in New South Wales.

Bill Wardell started publishing real photographic postcards while he was living at 10 Clarence Street. The photographs on the early cards are often richly sepia toned and the captions are handwritten, either entirely in capitals or with a random admixture of lower case letters. Ruled guidelines are sometimes visible. The earliest postmarks seen are September 1907 on cards of Varndean Road in Withdean and the great and the good parading on Hove Lawns. A winter-time view of Bramber Church from Friar's Tea Gardens has been reported postmarked March 1908. No doubt this particular card was produced for sale by Mabel and Thomas House. All three cards are labelled on the back "A. W. Wardell's Series, Brighton", and make no mention of Clarence Street. However, another sepia-toned card has been found labelled "A. W. Wardell's Series, 10 Clarence St, Brighton", which shows the Vanderbilt stagecoach arriving at the Metropole Hotel in Brighton and is postmarked June 1908 (the coach's first summer of operation). Another card with the 10 Clarence Street address reproduces a painting of the old toll gate at Bramber. The same address appears on a card showing an elegantly dressed mother holding her young daughter's hand as she feeds a swan at Swanbourne Lake, Arundel. A peahen that has crept up unnoticed appears intent on raiding the mother's handbag! No early postmarks have been found, but the reference to 10 Clarence Street must mean that the card was first issued in 1907 or early 1908. Giesen Bros. & Co. of east London published their own sepia version of the picture set in a facsimile wooden frame by 1909 and a full sized coloured card by 1910. Almost certainly, Bill Wardell supplied them with a copy negative. In his early years, he made a practice of selling copy negatives to other publishers to use for making their own cards.

As already mentioned, Bill Wardell moved to Clarence Square during 1908. A July 1908 postmark has been found on a rather yellowish and faded real photographic card of the "Steep Grade Ry. Devil's Dyke. Sx" that is labelled "A.W. Wardell, 49 Clarence Square" on the reverse. A card posted in the same month showing the Vanderbilt Coach arriving at the Old Ship Hotel in Brighton is similarly labelled and also in poor condition. Equally yellowish is a card of "Bramber Village, Sussex" with the Clarence Square address that is postmarked August 1908.

Over the next 55 years or so, Bill Wardell expanded his postcard sales area along the Downs and coastal plain as far west as Arundel and Worthing and as far east as Eastbourne, leaving a gap at Newhaven and Lewes (though he covered Telscombe), where perhaps he found existing publishers were too well entrenched. He specialised in sea front and beach scenes, which sold in great numbers to day-trippers, but he also produced cards of many of the backstreets in Brighton, aimed at local residents, which would have had relatively modest sales. He photographed some of the villages at the foot of the South Downs escarpment, but did not venture further north into the Weald.

Bill Wardell's real photographic cards reveal that he had an earthy, cheeky sense of humour. His card "Bathing Beach, Brighton - (My word I caught him bending)" featuring a young man in bathing trunks bending over to adjust his footwear and presenting his bottom to the camera was evidently popular with day-trippers, though the Brighton intelligentsia may not have been amused. At least one London publisher was sufficiently impressed to produce a halftone version. On his card, Bill gives 4 Clarence St. as his address, so it presumably was issued just before the First World War. "Holding his own at Brighton", another example of his humour that would have raised some eyebrows, shows a baby boy fidgeting with his manhood. The address given on the back is 4 Madeira Drive, so evidently this particular card dates from the late 1930s. Another card, "For me and my gal", shows a sad-looking boy and girl perched on the steps of a bathing hut. Perhaps the children had been kept waiting too long on a cold day, but the picture is unsettling to modern eyes, though doubtless Bill conceived it as mere light-hearted fun.

By 1912 Bill was issuing black and white real photographic cards with a distinct coppery-chestnut overtone and a logo on the back consisting of his initials arranged in line within an elongated "double-bubble". By 1913 he had begun adding a second logo to the photographs that was again based on his initials, but with the "A" placed over the two "W"s, often inside a circle. The printed reassurance "This is an actual photograph" on the reverse of many of the earlier cards became "This is a Real Photograph". Cards of this revised design were initially published from 4 Clarence Street in Brighton (as were their predecessors), but by 1914 the address changed to 39 West Street. It remained West Street for many years, but in the mid 1920s and 1930s new cards added to the range (for example, showing the Undercliff Walk, completed in 1933) gave Imperial Arcade as the address.

A card of St. Bartholomew's Church interior in Brighton dating from around 1913 or 1914 has been found that has Wardell's initials on the front but is labelled on the back "W. J. Williams & Co., London, E.C." Presumably, Williams printed many of Wardell's cards for him, but on this occasion slipped up and printed their own address instead of their client's on the back.

Bill Wardell published a series of at least 88 numbered cards of the 1922 Brighton Carnival, showing the various floats and parades. Among the many other photographers who produced cards of the festivities was "Uncle Harry", who is generally supposed to have been one of Brighton's many beach photographers. However, one of his cards labelled "Uncle Harry" on the front has been found that is hand stamped on the back "A. W. Wardell's Series, Brighton". This may simply mean that Bill Wardell sold the cards for Harry in his shop, but another possibility is that "Uncle Harry" was an alias that Bill used. Another card of the 1922 Carnival is labelled "Wardell's and Berles, Brighton". Who Berles was has not been determined.

Bill Wardell was also very active recording the 1923 Brighton Carnival, but in general he appears to have rather shunned special events. His March 1913 card of the "Wreck of Worthing Pier" is distinctly unusual, as is his card of a "Sopwith Seaplane off Brighton", also published from 4 Clarence Street.

A particularly puzzling card, marked like so many "Copyright Wardell", shows Magnus Volk's "Daddy Long-Legs" railway with the sea-going car "Pioneer" crowded with passengers. The photograph cannot have been taken any later than 1900 when the railway closed, which was before Bill Wardell moved to Sussex. How he came to acquire the photograph and the right to reproduce it is not recorded. Even more anachronistic is a card of the Chain Pier, destroyed by a gale in December 1896.

A popular entertainment for children visiting Brighton was a ride along the sea front in a miniature cart pulled by a goat. Bill Wardell produced two cards showing a boy and girl having rides, entitled somewhat ironically "His Majesty at Brighton" and "Her Majesty at Brighton". It would be interesting to know whether the boy and girl were his own children. Another charming card, "The children's friends, Brighton", shows four happy children riding donkeys on the seafront (a 1913 postmark has been seen). Although Bill can be assumed to have taken the photograph, a very similar picture of the same children appeared on a card published by E.A. Schwerdtfeger & Co. of London in about 1910, which probably means he supplied them with the negative.

By 1914 Bill Wardell was selling collotype versions of some of his best selling real photographic cards. The cards were labelled on the back in red "A.W.W. Black & White Art Series". He was also issuing coloured halftones labelled "A.W.W. Art Colour Series".

Bill Wardell's greatest technical achievement was his publication of a series of real photographic cards showing aerial views of the coast at Worthing, Shoreham, Brighton, Roedean, Rottingdean, the Seven Sisters, Beachy Head and Eastbourne. Again, Newhaven was ignored. Some of the cards were also issued as halftones. Although the cards are numbered, some of the numbers are duplicated and others may not have been issued. The highest number recorded to date is 39 and at least 37 cards are known. The cards carry the 39 West Street address.

There is good reason to believe that the air photographs were all taken in the summer of 1919 and that the cards were put on sale within a few weeks. Very few publishers in England marketed air views at this early date, though Shoesmith and Etheridge of Hastings were also pioneers, using at least in some cases photographs supplied by Bill Wardell. The photographs that appear on Bill's real photographic cards are remarkably sharp, given that they were taken from a moving plane using a bulky hand-held camera. Each glass plate negative would have had to be loaded into the camera individually, exposed and removed before the next negative could be loaded.

The labels on the cards state that Bill Wardell took the photographs from an AVRO airplane. The AVRO company was based at Weybridge in Surrey, and may have agreed to lend Bill a plane and pilot in exchange for the publicity that his cards would bring them. The cards seem to have enjoyed good sales, judging from the numbers of surviving examples, and it is puzzling that this did not encourage him to take further air photographs away from the coast, for example of Brighton's northern suburbs.

One of Bill's air views was also issued by Louis Handwerck (see Rudolf Handwerck) in the Brighton Palace Series as a "Birds-eye view of Brighton. Taken from an aeroplane flying over the Palace Pier". Since Bill Wardell was in competition with Handwerck, it was curious that he allowed his rival to reproduce the picture, and one wonders what favour was granted him in return.

In the 1930s Bill Wardell reproduced enlargements of some of his aerial views as photogravures in a special album. An advertisement at the back of the album records that his shops at Imperial Arcade and Castle Square stocked local views, Christmas cards, calendars, ladies' handbags, fountain pens, dolls, toys, books, fancy goods and novelties.

From about 1913 onwards Bill Wardell began doctoring his photographs. At first he made only small changes, but as the years passed his meddling became ever more blatant. An early example of his trickery is his card entitled "Waterplane flying over Palace Pier, Brighton. No 199". Nobody on the sea front appears to have noticed the plane, which at this early date would have caused much excitement! Bill evidently added the plane from another photograph, taken on a different occasion and possibly nowhere near the Palace Pier. The deception did not deter him from cheekily adding his usual reassurance "This is a real photograph"!

During the 1920s Bill Wardell began selling cards with crudely added touches of colour, such as reddish dawns. He also sold Downland scenes embellished with fake skies or added sheep, cattle and other animals, even shepherds, while still asserting, "This is a real photograph"! The additions tend to be over-sized and out of perspective with the rest of the photographs. A good example is his card of Chanctonbury Ring with Wiston Pond in the foreground, on which sail swans that appear to be almost as large as ocean liners! Many collectors dismiss these pictures as stupid and clumsy attempts to deceive, but another possibility is that the humourist in Bill Wardell had once again gained the upper hand and they were intended as visual jokes.

Like several other publisher's, Bill Wardell produced faked night-time scenes. Arguably his most outrageous card shows a tram at the tramway shelter on the Old Steine in Brighton. The tram is illuminated with coloured lights, and behind the shelter are some incongruous illuminated windmills, which were put up temporarily for King George V's Silver Jubilee Celebrations in May 1935 (see Liz McKendrick Warden, Picture Postcard Monthly, June 2000, p. 21). A full moon rides high in the sky. In reality, the photograph was taken in the daytime, then doctored to make it look like a night scene. Another ludicrous fake nighttime view shows Butlin's Ocean Hotel at Saltdean.

Although Bill Wardell numbered many of his cards, the numbering system was haphazard. A view of Fulking from the Downs, for instance, was published as both No. 315 and No. 604. A view of Poynings and the mouth of the Devil's Dyke valley appeared as No. 22, without any indication of the publisher (1929 postmark seen), and also as a coloured card (No. C80) with added sheep, and as a non-coloured card, No. 265. Again, "Pyecombe. Sussex No. 186", which has 4 Clarence Street as Bill's address, displays the same photograph as "29 The Downs. Pyecombe, near Brighton", which is anonymous and apparently a later printing (1926 postmark seen), despite the low number.

When Bill Wardell moved to Worthing just after the war, he still continued to issue real photograhics, many of which were labelled on the back "Copyright by A.W.W., Brighton and Worthing", suggesting that he may have retained business premises in Brighton. The earliest postmark noted for such a card is 1947. It may have been around this time that he also issued black and white halftone multiviews of Brighton that include somewhat incongruously a portrait of a dog or a set of wine bottles. By August 1949, he began to issue cards (e.g. of Arundel) marked simply "A.W. Wardell, Worthing", which may indicate that he had finally severed his links with Brighton.

During the 1960s Bill Wardell published some colour cards of Worthing, Southwick, the Devil's Dyke and other places labelled "Wardell's". Some, if not all, the cards were supplied by Bamforth & Co. Ltd. at Holmfirth, near Bradford, and printed in Holland. Bill may have done little more than take the colour photographs. A card of a cricket match on Southwick Green appears to show a distant Ford Anglia with a reversed slope rear window, which if correct indicates that photograph was taken no earlier than 1960, when Bill was 82. It is hard to believe Bill was still active as a postcard publisher in his seventies and eighties, and much more likely that he had stepped down in favour of one of his sons, though who this might have been remains uncertain.

Acknowledgement: Brett Jeffery (Cheam) has kindly corrected errors in an earlier version of this website entry and has supplied much additional information as well as extra illustrations. Mabel and Thomas House were his great grandparents.

To directory of publishers
To gallery

Design: Lucid Design