William Welfare


Duckings Farm, Withyham

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Sub-postmaster, grocer and draper at Withyham between East Grinstead and Tunbridge Wells. Some rarely seen real photographic cards of Withyham and Coleman's Hatch published before the First World War are labelled on the front "W. W." with a third "W." positioned centrally underneath. The good quality black and white photographs have narrow white borders and captions that have been added to the negatives with a stencil or, as shown above, carefully handwritten on the negatives with many small decorative flourishes. A May 1910 and two 1911 postmarks are the earliest seen.

The cards with the three Ws monogram were almost certainly the work of William Welfare. The sender of one of the cards that has been found reported that he shopped at the post office during his stay at Withyham, and it can be presumed that he bought the card from Welfare.

An anonymous and borderless version of the card shown above has come to light that has a machine printed title and no "W. W. W." monogram. It recalls some of Homewood's real photographics, but lacks the latter's typical trefoil design. It may have been a reissue by Welfare of his earlier card.

Welfare gave up manufacturing his own cards in about 1912. Thereafter he sold cards supplied by Harold Camburn of Tunbridge Wells, who was developing a vast postcard "empire" covering most of Sussex and Kent as well as part of Suffolk. Some of the cards are labelled "Produced by H. Camburn, Tunbridge Wells, for William Welfare, Stationer, Post Office, Withyham". Camburn was the owner of an expensive, high quality printing machine that enabled him to print large numbers of cards very swiftly and very cheaply. Working by hand, Welfare could not compete on price and quantity. Mick Hall has found some interesting hybrid cards of Withyham that Camburn produced which retain traces of Welfare's original captions and three Ws monogram. Evidently, Camburn acquired Welfare's negatives and attempted to give them a makeover.

William Welfare was born at Hartfield in about 1860. By 1881 he was working at Withyham post office as an assistant to the then sub-postmaster, Obadiah Hall, who came from Leigh in Kent. Obadiah was unmarried, as was his sister, Lydia, who shared the house. Obadiah was still in charge in 1895, but retired by 1899, handing over the business to William Welfare. Late in 1898, perhaps when he had already taken over from Obadiah, William married Agnes Hatcher, who came from Tenterden in Kent. She and William proceeded to have five children, two boys then three girls. William Charles Welfare was born in 1899, Raymond Welfare in 1901, Muriel Welfare in 1902, Edith Mary Welfare in 1903, and Kate Welfare in 1904. William Welfare was still in charge of Withyham post office in 1924, but may not have been publishing postcards at this late date.

Acknowledgement: Grateful thanks are due to Mick Hall for supplying some of the above information. He is a descendant of Obadiah Hall, Welfare's mentor. Ducking's Farm at Withyham was the family home of the Halls for 236 years.

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