Harold Thomas Connold


Ashdown Forest, possibly near the present Visitor Centre

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East Grinstead photographer. Born on May 26, 1889 at Hastings, Connold was the son of a grocer, Edward Thomas Connold. At the age of 15 he began working as an assistant to the photographer Ernest Watts, who had a studio at 23 High Street in East Grinstead. Tradition has it that he soon fell in love with a local girl, Ethel Ledword. Her parents, William and Ellen Ledword of Lingfield Road, objected, so he took himself off to London to work for Stonemans in Baker Street. Ethel followed him to London, and they married at East Grinstead on June 13, 1915. During the war, Connold worked as a photographer for the Royal Engineers, having briefly served in a Scottish regiment. Around 1919 he returned to London and worked as a photographer for Russell & Sons in Baker Street for about seven years. In 1926 when Ernest Watts retired, Connold seized the opportunity to leave London and buy his former employer's business in East Grinstead. In the late 1920s Barclays Bank acquired the site and adjacent properties, demolished everything and erected a new building, but included space for Connold's business at the new address of 15 High Street. Domestically, Connold was unaffected by the upheaval - he and his wife lived at 13 Grosvenor Road in East Grinstead before moving in 1937 to a house in Lewes Road.

Ernest Watts had been almost wholly concerned with studio portraiture, but Connold also greatly enjoyed outdoor work. He produced an extensive series of real photographic cards of the interior and exterior of St Margaret's Convent at East Grinstead, as well as group photographs of pupils, teachers and nuns. In addition, he issued about 200 other cards (some very artistic) of East Grinstead and the surrounding countryside, including Balcombe and Ashdown Forest, which he used to visit on cycle rides and after 1932 using a car that he had bought. A strong diagonal light enhances many of pictures. Connold also published calendars and contributed photographs to guidebooks, Sussex County Magazine and other publications.

Connold issued his first cards in the late 1920s and continued to sell cards long after the Second World War. In his book Around East Grinstead (1997, Sutton, Stroud, page 77) David Gould reproduces a circa 1928 view of Hartfield High Street with a handwritten caption. Some other early cards, embossed "H. Connold, East Grinstead", lack captions, for example some views of the damage suffered by St Swithun's Church in January 1930 when one of the pinnacles of the Church tower fell through the Church roof.

By 1936 Connold was producing very stylish cards with neatly printed lettering. Some cards, for example views of Ashdown Forest, carry a facsimile signature. Way outside Connold's usual territory is a card of the Manor House garden at Horsham, which may have been produced to special order.

Ethel Connold died in 1952, and three years later Connold married Edna James. Failing eyesight forced him to retire from business in 1959, and he moved with Edna to Upper Dicker, and at a later date to Herstmonceux. He died on May 22, 1968, just before his seventy ninth birthday. His studio was taken over by Malcolm Powell, who continued to sell and even re-issue many of Connold's real photographic cards.

David Gould in his book, East Grinstead (1995, Sutton, Stroud) reproduces a fine portrait photograph of Connold, which is believed to have been taken as he was approaching retirement. East Grinstead Museum preserves many thousands of Connold's negatives and a daybook.

David Gould provides a detailed and very interesting biography of Connold in his latest book, East Grinstead through a lens (2010, Amberley Publishing, Stroud).

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