Thomas Honywood (Family of)


Old Horsham: the postman in 1850

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Born in 1819, Honywood was Horsham's most eminent Victorian. He started photographing the town and its inhabitants in 1850, when the technique was in its infancy, and invented a process of "nature printing" that created positive images of fern fronds, snow flakes and other objects. He was also a leading archaeologist of his day as well as a local historian and skilled artist. He set up his own museum in Horsham for public education, and for well over twenty years was captain of the town's volunteer fire service. His portrait hangs in Horsham Museum, which in 2007 organised a major exhibition in his memory. Also on display in the museum is the "Horsham Hoard", a collection of medieval pots and jugs that he found while building a new house in West Street.

Honywood died in 1888, long before the invention of the modern picture postcard. In about 1905, however, someone commissioned a Berlin printer to reproduce a selection of Honywood's historic photographs as collotype postcards. The cards are labelled on the back "Photo by Thos. Honywood". A well-known 1850 view purports to show the local postman delivering a letter, watched by an old man, but there are suggestions that the "postman" was actually Honywood's brother pretending to make a delivery, and the old man was their father, John Honywood (1790-1866)! Less contrived, perhaps, is another 1850 view showing a group of woodcutters dressed in smocks. Also dating from 1850 is a view of the Lodge and Gate to Denne Park.

Another card pairs two 1855 views of Horsham, one of the Causeway and the other of the churchyard and some old houses. Also dating from 1855 is a view of the path leading to the cricket field in 1855. From 1859 comes a view of two Horshamites posing in the old stocks, and from the following year an interesting view of East Street. That Honywood was still taking pictures not long before his death is demonstrated by his card labelled "Old Horsham, The Carfax in 1885".

Whoever commissioned the cards must have had access to Honywood's negatives, which suggests that it was his widow, Clara Ann Honywood (née Simpkin), whom he married at St Mary's Church in Marylebone on September 26, 1878 at the age of 58, or his son, Thomas Courtenay Honywood (born in 1880), or daughter, Mabilia Mary Honywood (born in 1883). Clara remarried in 1889 - her new husband was Leonard Baldwin Henderson, the Horsham Superintendent of Police, who had only recently lost his wife. In the 1901 census, Thomas and Mabilia styled themselves De'Honywood. Thomas was a railway telegraphist and Mabilia a milliner.

Recently, a collotype card has come to light entitled "A bit of old Horsham, East Street in 1850". The card was published by Albery & Son, Carfax, Horsham and printed in Britain. It seems very probable that Thomas Honywood took the original photograph, but how was Albery able to publish the card? Was he commissioned by the Honywood family, or did he acquire the picture by some other route? Did the family instruct him to print all the other Honywood cards or was he acting on his own? Further research is clearly needed!

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