Daniel George Fenwick & Son


Brighton sea front

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Printers and stationers, 10 (later 128) Western Road, Hove. Founded by Daniel George Fenwick, this firm is best known for its six halftone cards of "Brighton Celebrities (Past & Present)", which it began selling by 1904. The cards featured "Old Charlie" (who advertised the comic paper "Ally Sloper"), "Brandy Balls" (also known as "Dizzy"), W. H. Shoosmith ("The Beach Orator"), Charles Andrews ("The Brighton Jester"), "Blind Harry" (an acccordion player), and "The Wheeler Band" (an old man and woman, possibly a married couple). Starting in about 1905, the firm also issued halftone view cards of Brighton and Hove, though these were not as popular as the Celebrities. Some were labelled "Fenwick's Gem Series".

When the wandering mystic, Joseph Salomonson, arrived in Brighton in 1906, dressed in a long white robe and holding a staff, he created quite a stir. Fenwick & Son published several postcards of Joseph, who styled himself Meva, Apostle of Natural Life. At least two of the cards were collotypes printed by Mezzotint, though labelled "Published by Fenwick & Son" on the back.

Daniel George Fenwick was born at Long Sutton in the Lincolnshire Fens in 1856. By curious coincidence another Sussex postcard publisher, John Slator, was born in the same town six years later. Daniel's father was George Fenwick, a "grocer and hair cutter", at 8 High Street. His mother, Charlotte, had been born at Cottesmore in Rutland. He had at least four brothers and sisters. By 1881, at the age of 24, he was living at 77 Western Road in Brighton where he worked as a bookseller's assistant. He married Amy Elizabeth Boniface, a Brighton woman, in the following year and she bore him two sons: Reginald Boniface Fenwick in 1883 and Sydney Herbert Fenwick in 1889.

The 1891 census lists the Fenwicks at 108 Western Road in Brighton. Daniel is described as a "stationer and librarian". The shop next door belonged to an unnamed photographer. Was this by any chance Daniel himself, or the person who taught him photography? Daniel is still described as a "stationer and librarian" in Kelly's 1895 Sussex Directory, but his address is given as 50 Western Road, Hove. By 1899 he had moved with his family to 8 Lorna Road in Hove, and was working as a printer at 1, 2 & 3 Farman Street in Hove. In 1901 he and his family were living at 47 York Road and in 1905 at 35 Highdown Road. His son, Reginald, began assisting him as a printer by 1901, and not long afterwards the business was renamed D. G. Fenwick & Son. A stationers and printers shop was opened by 1904 at 10 Western Road in Hove. The Farman Street premises were later relinquished, and in about 1908 the shop was transferred to 128 Western Road, where the Fenwicks went to live. The 1911 census records that both sons, who were single, assisted in the business. Daniel Fenwick is described as a master printer.

Directories fail to mention that Daniel Fenwick was a photographer, but a copyright application survives in the National Archives at Kew that relates to two photographs that he took of the Tunbridge Wells area (High Rocks and Broadwater Down). The application was made in July 1901 and gives his address as 1, 2 & 3 Farman Street. Fenwick does not appear to have published any postcards of Tunbridge Wells, and his reason for taking the trouble to copyright the two photographs is unknown.

Amy Fenwick died in 1911, when she was only in her early fifties. Her son, Reginald, married Edith Needham in the Eastbourne area in the following year.

D. G. Fenwick & Son were still trading at 128 Western Road in 1930, but as stationers rather than printers. They went out of business by 1934. Daniel George Fenwick died on February 22, 1935, leaving effects of only £160 to his second wife, Frances Alice Fenwick. Perhaps she was the Madame Fenwick, who took over the shop at 128 Western Road to run a hairdressing business, which she continued until the Second World War.

Liz McKernan provides very useful background information on the Fenwick Brighton Celebrities in her article in Picture Postcard Monthly, May 2010, pp. 20-21. She notes, for example, that one of the celebrities called Brandy Balls, who sold gob-stoppers, bore a strong resemblance to Disraeli, hence his nickname of Dizzy. He died in Brighton workhouse in 1883, so evidently Fenwick & Son were not averse to using archival photos of long vanished personalities. "Old Charlie", by contrast, was still wandering the streets of Brighton advertising Ally Sloper in 1910.

As far as is known, Fenwick & Son of Brighton were unconnected with the York firm of Delittle, Fenwick & Co., who were very successful publishers of postcards.

Some supposed pirate copies of Fenwick's Wheeler Band card have been found that lack any background and show only the old man and woman. They are labelled "Copyright, G. M. F. Ltd. Brighton" and also in some cases "Garnett, Mepham & Fisher Ltd., Brighton". Some of the cards (with half-sized pictures) carry a printed caption claiming that the old man and woman are "reproduced from cleverly painted cardboard models by Mr Clem Lambert, the well-known Sussex artist, and lent by Mr H. Willett, art dealer and picture restorer of 39 Ship Street Brighton". Close inspection suggests that Mr Lambert used an enlargement of Fenwick's card to create his models. A former owner of one of the pirate cards wrote on it: "Do you remember the happy pair? She is still living at the Infirmary but two baths which the authorities insisted on the old man having killed him"! A search of contemporary newspapers might possibly supply some corroboration of this strange story. Perhaps the unfortunate man dissolved. No postmarks have been found but the pirate cards were in circulation before postage rates were raised in 1918.

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