Frederick James Tanner


Parade on Brighton Seafront, possibly celebrating the end of the Great War

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Brighton photographer. Frederick Tanner was born at Battersea in London in about 1875 and was the second of three sons of James and Susan Tanner. James, who had been born in Hampshire, was a railway passenger guard. Susan came from East Dereham in Norfolk. By 1891 the Tanner family had moved to Brighton where James continued to work as a railway guard. Frederick had left school and become a stationer's assistant. In 1899 Frederick married Ellen Devereux Mason, who was a local girl and a year his senior. Ellen gave birth to their first child, Leslie James Tanner, in 1900. The 1901 census records that Frederick and his family shared a house with others at 47 Vere Road in the Preston district of Brighton. Frederick was working as a photographer's assistant, but his employer is not named.

Ellen and Frederick's second son, William Frederick Tanner, was born in 1904. By the time the 1911 census was held, Tanner and his family had moved to 46 Vere Road. Tanner was now working for Donovan Studios at 1c St James's Street. It is unclear when he set up his own photographic business at 13 St James's Street, which is the address listed on all the early cards that he is known to have produced under his own name. According to Kelly's Sussex Directories, a Miss Margaret Randall held this property. In 1905 and 1909 she was described as a bookseller, and in 1915 as a newsagent. Presumably, she allowed Tanner to rent rooms upstairs or at the back. He and Miss Randall continued to share Number 13 in 1927 (see Pike's Brighton Directory), but by 1930 she retired and Tanner transferred his business to Number 111a. He was still working from this new address in the late 1930s, when he was living in Princes Road off Ditchling Road. He retired as a photographer during the Second World War.

Tanner appears to have been mainly a studio photographer, although he was clearly not averse to working outdoors. He is perhaps best known for his souvenir cards of Jack Sheppard's Entertainers, who for many years performed shows on a little stage on the beach near the West Pier. These real photographic cards are blind stamped (impressed) with Tanner's name and business address in their bottom right corners, or sometimes on the left. The earliest example that has been found dates from 1916, the latest from 1922. While some of these cards of the Entertainers have captions, others lack captions even when they derive from the same negative.

The blind stamped card reproduced above as a titlepiece differs from Tanner's usual work in recording an outdoors event. It lacks a caption, but one suggestion is that it depicts a Peace Parade on Brighton's seafront just after the Great War. Several other mostly captionless cards show unidentified football teams, private residences, and groups of Boys Brigade members. Some are blind stamped with Tanner's name and address in the usual way; others instead of being impressed are stamped on the back in ink in a double ellipse "F. J. Tanner, Photographer, 111a St James Street", which establishes that they date from 1930 or later. A card of a group of uniformed men with a handwritten caption "B Division" is believed to show special constabulary in about 1931 parading at Brighton College. It too has Tanner's name and the 111a address stamped in ink on the back. Tanner published at least three different views of the interior of the Race Hill Inn at Brighton; these also have his stamp on the back with the 111a address.

Tanner's wife, Ellen, died in 1928 and on December 29 in the following year he remarried. His new bride was Sarah (Sally) Howlett (formerly Manning), a 42-year-old widow who lived at Ridlingfield in Suffolk, where the marriage was conducted. Her father was James Manning, a farmer. Tanner died at Brighton on February 16, 1942, aged 66.

Acknowledgement: Tanner's great grandson, Robin Wilson, has kindly provided much useful information about his Brightonian predecessor's life and business activities.

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