Walter Robert Wynter


Seaford, Old Steine

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Photographer, stationer and tobacconist, Seaford. Wynter was born in 1868 at Seaford. His father, Mark Wynter, who had been born at Evasholt near Woburn in Bedfordshire in about 1827, was a chemist and druggist with a shop in Seaford High Street (he had previously kept a pharmacy in Upper North Street, Brighton). His mother, Ellen Wynter (formerly Marchant), came from Alfriston. She and Mark had married in 1852, but she died in 1870. When the 1871 census was held, Mark Wynter was still a widower, living with his umarried daughter, Ellen Kate Wynter aged 17 (born at Newhaven in 1853), and two sons, Ernest Charles Wynter, aged 11 (born at Seaford in 1859), and Walter Robert Wynter, now aged 2. Only a few months later, however, he remarried; his second wife was Elizabeth Adelaide Sage, a Londoner, born in about 1832. The couple tied the knot in Kent. She gave birth to a daughter, Edith Mary Wynter, in 1872.

A major event in Walter Robert's childhood was the sea flood of November 14, 1875, which, at the height of a south-westerly gale, ravaged the lower part of Seaford, reaching up to the front door of his father's house and shop in the High Street. Even in middle age he retained vivid memories of the speed and violence of the inundation, and all the havoc it wrought. Houses were stripped of doors and furniture, which were carried inland on the flood.

During the 1860s Mark Wynter supplemented his income as a chemist and druggist by offering his services as a portrait photographer. By 1891 he moved with his family to Broad Street, where he opened a new chemist's shop. Walter helped his father as an "assistant chemist and druggist", and in 1893 married Muriel Grace Collins from Bishop's Stortford in Hertfordshire. In 1895 Mark Wynter died, and Walter set up in business on his own as a tobacconist and photographer at Carlton Terrace in Broad Street. According to the 1901 census, Walter was assisted as a "photographer and tobacconist" by his brother-in-law, Edward Collins, aged 20. The census records that Walter and Muriel had two children: Cedric Walter Wynter, aged 6, and Edward Charles Wynter, aged 4. In about 1910 he and his family moved to 28 Broad Street. Edward Wynter served as an airman in the Royal Naval Air Service at Eastchurch in Kent during the First World War. He was killed in an accident on February 5, 1916.

Although Wynter undertook some portrait photography, he was also concerned to record the local landscape. In the 1890s he published The unrivalled album of permanent photographic views of Seaford and neighbourhood (London). After the turn of the century he also published many local postcards. One of the earliest is a view of the Long Man of Wilmington. The picture occupies only half the face of the card and the back is undivided. A used example has been found postmarked October 11, 1902.

Wynter seems to have persuaded at least four different printing firms to manufacture cards for him. Some black and white collotypes labelled "Wynter's Series" with red captions on the front and red printed backs were on sale by 1903. Some coloured collotypes with white captions and green backs soon followed. In addition, Wynter negotiated with William Gates at Camberley in Surrey to print many cards for him; these have the Gates logo (a G inside a diamond outline) followed by the negative number and a code number for Wynter (189). For example, G 3556-189 is a black and white view of Seaford beach with bathing machines (a 1915 postmark is known) while G 3557-189 is a view of oxen ploughing at Exceat. The R A Publishing Co. of London also printed cards for Wynter, for example a coloured view of "Oxen ploughing in the Cuckmere valley, Seaford", which is labelled on the back "Published by W. R. Wynter, photographer & stationer, Broad Street, Seaford."

Wynter printed many real photographic cards himself when he had the time. He embossed his name on a few cards, especially ones without captions. Until the mid 1920s, however, his usual practice was to write "Photo Wynter" or "Photo, Wynter, Seaford" on the bottom of the photographs, to the right of the handwritten captions. In the late 1920s and in the 1930s the cards are often anonymous, but can be identified by the relaxed, unpretentious handwriting of the captions. Only a few of Wynter's cards have borders around the photographs.

Many of Wynter's real photographic cards show the tented military training camps that were set up at Seaford, usually in summer or autumn, in the years leading up to the First World War and also during the war itself. He often photographed military bands and soldiers parading through the town.

Wynter made a special point of recording shipwrecks, such as the "Speranra" which was washed ashore on Seaford Beach on October 29, 1911, the brigantine "Catherine", which came to grief off the East Beach at Newhaven on March 14, 1914, and the steamship "Needles", which ran aground on Seaford Beach in the same year. Much later, probably around 1920, he photographed a German submarine and Italian tramp steamer wrecked under the cliff at Birling Gap (see the entry for F. A. Hutchinson).

Wynter found rough seas, flooding and storm damage an unfailing source of interest. He issued, for example, a card of seas pounding the Buckle in October 1908, several cards of the Easter 1913 floods at Seaford (including damage on the sea front and the flooded Buckle Road), the Buckle Inn during and after a storm on 29 November 1924, and the extensive damage to the seafront caused by further storms on October 9 and December 7, 1929. A set of about 6 cards records the remarkable Easter 1914 cliff fall at Birling Gap, which ran a long distance out from the cliff into the sea.

Wynter is remembered today not only as a postcard publisher but also as an author. Just before the First World War, he published Seaford of the Past, which he revised and re-issued in 1922 as Old Seaford (Farncombe, Lewes). He was still in business as a photographer (at 28 Broad Street) in 1934, but gave up not long afterwards. An anonymously published card of damaged bathing huts at Seaford in September 1935 is possibly a last encore.

Following his retirement, Wynter moved to a house, Sutton Peveril, in Sutton Drove at Seaford, where died on December 21, 1938, aged 70. He was survived by his wife, Muriel, and son, Cedric Walter Wynter.

For further information on Mark and Walter Wynter see David Simkin's invaluable website at

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