Charles Tidy


Brighton Road, Crawley, looking south from near the railway crossing. The seond shop on the left (between the two carts and before the junction with East Park) belonged to C. & N. Tidy.

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Photographer, 8 Brighton Road, Crawley. Charles Tidy was born in 1869 in Paddington, London, where his father, another Charles Tidy (born in about 1830 in Kent), worked as a carpenter and builder's employee. His mother, Elizabeth Tidy (born in about 1836 in Paddington or Marylebone), had married his father in 1861 in London. The 1871 census records that the family lived at 36 Tichborne Street in Paddington, sharing the house with two other families. Besides Charles there were two other children: Mary Anne Tidy, born in 1863, and Joseph Tidy, born in 1866, both at Paddington.

In 1878, following the death of his father, his mother remarried. The 1881 census records that her new husband, George Miles, was a stockbroker's clerk who had been born at Walthamstow. The family continued to live at 36 Tichborne Street. Charles has not been located in the 1891 and 1901 censuses, and it is not known how quickly he took up photography after leaving school. He is believed, however, to have worked for a few years as a photographer in Lewisham.

On March 16, 1905, at Horsham Registry Office he married Eleanor Emma Grantham, who had been born at Pulborough in 1883, and was 15 years his junior. She was the daughter of Charles Grantham, a grocer, and Emma Grantham, a dressmaker, and lived in Crawley (the Granthams had moved from Pulborough to the Crawley area by 1891). Charles Tidy was living in Tarring Road in Worthing and working as a "photographic operator".

After her marriage, Eleanor left Crawley to join Charles in Worthing, and it was at Worthing where her daughter, Elizabeth Irene Tidy, was born in the late summer or early autumn of 1905. In 1908 or 1909 Charles took over as manager of the Worthing Portrait Co. and was still in charge when the 1911 census was held. The census records that he and Eleanor were living at 4 Railway Approach in Worthing, presumably over the studio and shop, together with their daughter, Elizabeth. Eleanor assisted her husband with his photographic business.

Late in 1911 or early in 1912, Charles Tidy left Worthing to become a photographer in Crawley, taking over premises previously occupied by Helen Newbery. He seems to have moved on again before the end of the First World War.

During his few years in Crawley, Tidy issued a series of 26 or more real photographic views of the town with white borders and elegantly handwritten captions in a flowing, italic script. Other cards lacked captions, for example, a series of views of the summer 1912 Hospital Parade at Crawley and soldiers on marches and on horseback in the grounds of a local mansion. The cards were similar in design to many that he issued when he was in charge of the Worthing Portrait Co. Almost all the cards were discreetly blind stamped "C. & N. Tidy, Crawley". Andrew Harrison suggests that the "N" is a reference to Eleanor, who was known throughout her life as Nellie.

In addition to the photography, C. & N. Tidy ran an "art needlework" business at 8 Brighton Road. Husband and wife appear to have been forced to give up trading and leave Crawley before the end of the First World War, no doubt because of the increasingly difficult economic conditions.

Acknowledgement: The help of Peter Allen (Three Bridges) in supplying information about Tidy and his cards has been invaluable.

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