Arthur James Carter


Naval personnel excavating the shell at Selsey, February 1907

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Arthur James Carter, who must not be confused with Arthur John Carter of Eastbourne, was born in Worthing in 1880, and was a son of a local stationer, Edward Carter and his wife Elizabeth Hannah Carter. Arthur had a brother, William E. Carter, who was four years his senior. The 1881 and 1891 census returns give the family address as 95 Montague Street in Worthing.

Edward Carter had been born in about 1840 in Worthing, and Elizabeth in about 1842 at South Mimms near Potters Bar in Hertfordshire. It seems that they may have married in Greenwich in 1874. When Edward died in 1896, Elizabeth continued the stationery business with Arthur as her assistant. William became a Post Office Clerk. By the time the 1911 census was held, Elizabeth had handed over the stationery business to Arthur, and she and Arthur lived together in a house called Earlstone in Graham Road in Worthing, along with two male boarders. Arthur who had turned 30 was unmarried. It is not known whether he later married or when he died.

William has not been located in the 1911 census. He lived at Armardin, St. Michaels Road, Worthing during the Great War. His brother Arthur does not seem to be listed in wartime directories, and may have shut up shop and joined the armed forces, though this has yet to be firmly established. It is not known when and where he died.

Arthur James Carter's name appears on very few postcards, some halftones but others real photographics. Perhaps postcard publication held little interest for him, or perhaps he preferred to publish anonymously. The card shown above is one of a pair of fairly crudely printed halftones commemorating a strange incident at Selsey in February 1907 when a dummy shell, thought to have been fired from a warship, tore into a field near the Fisherman's Joy Hotel, creating a large hole in the ground and blowing out windows. One man was knocked off his feet by the blast, but fortunately no lives were lost. A second shell quickly followed, but fell harmlessly into the sea.

Naval staff were dispatched from Portsmouth to dig up the first shell and examine it. No warships that could have fired the shells were reported to have been steaming off the coast at the time of the mysterious bombardment of Selsey, which remains unexplained to this day. Although the Admiralty denied all responsibility for the incident, Selsey residents were convinced that some naval vessel must have fired the shells, as a result of some blunder that could not be acknowledged.

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