Donald Massey


York Road, Bognor, after a sea-surge

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Photographer, Dorset House, 20 London Road, Bognor. Massey was born at Spalding in Lincolnshire in 1870, the son of William Massey, a "gentleman". In December 1893 he married Martha Brown Knowles, who had been born in Brighton in 1850. She was a widow, who had had at least three children by her previous marriage, and would have been past child bearing when she married Massey. Her last child, William John Knowles, became a Worthing photographer, doubtless with Massey's guidance and encouragement.

Massey was already working as a photographer at Bognor when he married. The 1901 census records that he was employing Charles Ward, a 20-year-old Londoner, as an assistant, and Rose Morgan, a 15-year-old apprentice from Cardiff.

Massey published far fewer postcards than his fellow townsman, William Marsh. A collotype of the 1904 flooding in Bognor (reproduced above) may be the first card he published. It shows four youths in a boat rowing up York Road, watched by a crowd of onlookers. Lawrence Wood issued another card of the floods of almost identical design. It is possible that Massey took the photographs for both cards, and that he and Wood used the same German printer.

Massey seems to have been most active as a publisher of real photographic cards around 1909-12. The sepia photographs on these cards, which are often badly faded, are blind stamped "Donald Massey, Bognor" in their lower right corners or have "By D. Massey" added beneath the captions. Most have white borders and capitalised captions.

The majority of Massey's real photographic cards show residential streets in Bognor. Some of the most interesting record the flooding of the lower town in February 1910. "Even-Tide" shows gulls patrolling the low shore in a glow of evening light. Like Marsh, Massey published a card of the redoubtable Mary Wheatland, who helped operate Bognor's bathing machines for over 60 years. He also ventured out onto Bognor pier in stormy weather to photograph giant waves battering the sea front, but his work was eclipsed by that of his prize-winning rival Marsh. Cards of Pagham village and Arundel (including the Black Rabbit Inn at Offham) prove that Massey did not confine his attentions to Bognor. One of his most memorable cards shows the Bognor Miniature Railway, which ran at a site off York Road. James Cartland in his book Bygone Bognor (1979, Phillimore, Chichester) states that the photograph was taken in August 1909, but the card's style of back and quality of finish suggest a later date.

Massey retired in 1922 or 1923, when he was only in his early fifties. Kelly's 1924 Sussex Directory records that Harry F. Legg took over as the new proprietor of the "Massey Studio" at 20 London Road.

Several of Massey's photographs of Bognor, Selsey and other places appear in the 12th (1928) edition of Arthur Henry Anderson's Homeland Handbook, Bognor and its neighbourhood (Homeland Association, London). As far as is known none of the photographs were ever issued as a postcard.

Despite or perhaps because of his early retirement Massey lived to be 82. He died at Bognor on 23 June 1952, leaving an estate valued at probate of £8030. At the time of his death he had been living at Arundel Villa in Chichester Road in Bognor.

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