Edgar Orlando Kinsey


High Street, East Grinstead

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Photographer, 24 Railway Approach, East Grinstead, who traded as the East Grinstead Photo Company. Edgar Kinsey was born in 1880 at Pakenham in Suffolk, and was the fourth and youngest child of Orlando Thomas Kinsey (born at Stanton, Suffolk in 1839, the son of a tailor and draper, Henry Kinsey) and Charlotte Emma Death (born at Pimlico in London in about 1844, the daughter of Henry Death, a butcher). The couple married at the Parish Church of St. George, Hanover Square in London on October 23, 1871. Both gave their address as Brewer Street. Orlando had joined the mounted branch of the Metropolitan Police in 1859 at a time when policemen wore top hats and tail coats. He was the first mounted officer to be given the task of controlling traffic in Hyde Park.

Orlando and Charlotte's first child, Charlotte Kate Kinsey, was born at Edgware and their second, Oliver Thomas Kinsey, at Hampstead. By the time their third child (Alice Sophie Kinsey) appeared in 1878, Orlando had resigned from the police and moved to Pakenham in Suffolk, where he worked as a bailiff at Bridge Farm in Turnpike Road. Two more children followed after Edgar.

By 1891 the Kinseys returned to London, to settle in Kentish Town, where Orlando became a hairdresser. The 1901 census found them in South Wimbledon. Orlando was retired, Alice was a dressmaker and Edgar had become a self-employed photographer, living at home.

Orlando moved to East Grinstead just before the First World War to live in Moreton Road with one of his daughters. He was a tall thin man with a flowing white beard and a patriarchal air whose simple recipe for longevity was "Keep cheerful and lead a happy life". He much preferred horses to motor cars, once remarking "I would rather be killed by a horse than scratched by a motor car". He died at East Grinstead in March 1933 asserting with some exaggeration that he was 103!

Early in the Edwardian era Orlando's son Edgar Kinsey acquired William Smith's picture framing business at 24 Glen Vue Road in East Grinstead (the road was renamed Station Approach in September 1906). Kelly's 1905 Sussex Directory lists William Smith as the proprietor of the business, but Kinsey was certainly in charge in 1906 (see M. J. Leppard's article "Photography in East Grinstead before the Second World War", East Grinstead Museum Compass, 24, 4-13) and there is even a suggestion that he may have taken over as early as 1902 (Ron Mitchell and David Gould, East Grinstead then and now, 1985, Middleton Press, Midhurst). The photographer and watchmaker, Arthur Harding, lived next door at Number 22 in 1903, but then seems to have moved elsewhere. Soon after arriving at Number 24, Kinsey took up portrait photography, perhaps with the assistance of his neighbour or his cousin, Edward Albert Kinsey, who David Simkin at has established had already become a professional photographer elsewhere.

At Croydon Registry Office on August 27, 1904, Kinsey married Florence Louisa Tanner, who was 22 years old and the daughter of Charles Tanner, a boot maker. The couple gave their address as 59 Furze Road in Thornton Heath. Their first child, Edna Muriel Kinsey, was born at East Grinstead in 1907 and their second, Irene Maud Kinsey, in 1912. Edna married Charles Stanford of Sevenoaks. Irene ran the East Grinstead School of Dance in the 1930s, and married Raymond Eyre, a Tunbridge Wells fruiterer and greengrocer in 1940.

Kinsey began issuing real photographic cards by 1906. These were mainly view cards of East Grinstead and the surrounding area, including Dormansland and Lingfield, which are in Surrey, but not far from the Sussex border. Many other cards featured social events, such as parades and fetes. Often he supplied his studio clients with their portraits in postcard form. The photographs on all the types of card tend to be greyish or chestnut sepia, and characteristically lack borders. The captions where present are sometimes written entirely in plain capitals, but much more often capitals are used only at the start of words, and tend to be very elaborate. Lower-case lettering is generally very rounded and curly. On many cards the captions are followed by a decorative squiggle (in the shape of a recumbent letter "P" or "S" or tick-like form often accompanied by one or two dots). The backs of most of the cards are labelled "East Grinstead Photo. Co., Railway Approach, East Grinstead", but some are anonymous, though the handwriting with its curls and flourishes immediately identifies the cards as Kinsey's. For some reason Kinsey never signed his name on his cards. A significant number of cards are slightly smaller than normal size.

Kinsey did not produce as many cards of local events as his rival Arthur Harding. Some of the earliest show the start of a walking race from East Grinstead to Brighton in June 1907 and a Church Parade in the following month. He seems to have been particularly active photographing parades in 1913, 1914 and 1917.

Kinsey issued many view cards of the principal thoroughfares in East Grinstead, such as the High Street and London Road, as well as the more important back streets. Three photographs of the High Street, taken in quick succession, overlap to form a panorama. Another card (reproduced by Ron Mitchell and David Gould in their book, East Grinstead then and now, 1985, Middleton Press, Midhurst) is particularly interesting as it shows Kinsey's shop on the south side of Railway Approach, between a jeweller and a butcher.

In addition to the real photographics, Kinsey issued coloured collotypes, for example of West Hoathly and Selsfield Windmill. His multi-view "Souvenir from East Grinstead" with rose blossom as decoration exists both as coloured collotype and as a real photographic. Some of Kinsey's coloured cards are very delicately tinted, and though printed in England are similar in standard to the best German work of the period. Other cards are crudely coloured and much less pleasing.

Leppard has discovered that Kinsey had a club-foot, and suggests that this may explain why he did not have to serve in the First World War. Postmarks indicate that he was most active as a postcard publisher between 1910 and 1915. He issued cards of the unveiling of the War Memorial in East Grinstead in July 1922, but it is doubtful whether he published any new cards in the following years, although he remained in business as a photographer at 24 Railway Approach until about 1930 when his studio burnt down. By 1923 he set up a branch business at 5 Middle Row (William Harding's old shop) and after the fire this became his only address. He was still in business as a picture framer at Middle Row in 1939, but during the Second World War he moved with Florence to Tunbridge Wells, staying at the Culverden Arms in St Johns Road. In 1946 he was working as a tobacconist in St Johns Road, but by 1950 he and Florence had returned to East Grinstead and were living in a house called Manor Hurst in Lewes Road. Florence predeceased him on June 11, 1956. He may have lived on until 1970, but this is uncertain.

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