William Fearne Crowther


Middle House, High Street, Mayfield

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Mayfield photographer and chemist, who in the early 1900s supplied Mezzotint with photographs, which they used to create a set of collotype cards of the village. From a different manufacturer he commissioned coloured collotypes labelled "W. F. Crowther, Copyright". Also, from some of his negatives he made postcard sized prints on thin photographic paper, which he stamped on the back "W. F. Crowther, Photographer, Mayfield". In addition, he sold booklets containing six detachable black and white halftone cards of the village. The booklets had red paper covers and cost only a penny each. They were on sale by 1907, if not earlier. The cards had a broken line along their left sides to show purchasers where to detach them from the booklets. The backs of the cards were headed "Pictorial Post Card" in bold capitals. According to the booklet covers, the cards were "Published and Copyrighted by W. F. Crowther, M. P. S."

Detachable cards with identical backs were sold by the husband and wife team of Edwin and Lela Chell at Hailsham and an anonymous shopkeeper at Heathfield. Although a firm called the "Pictorial Postcard Co. Ltd." operated in the City of London from 1903 to 1908, it is not known to have printed view cards of the type sold by Crowther and his Hailsham and Heathfield contemporaries, who very probably commisioned their cards from some other, perhaps more local, supplier.

Crowther was a dispensing and analytical chemist, with a shop in the High Street in Mayfield. He was born in Leeds in 1858. When the 1891 census was held, he was boarding with his younger brother, Charles Crowther, a tobacconist at Shoreditch, and was already working as a chemist. He married his wife, Mary Clayton, a Londoner, a few months later. The couple briefly settled at Hailsham, where their daughter, Catherine Amy Crowther, was born in 1892. By 1895 they had settled in Mayfield. There appear to have been no more children.

Crowther sold a range of photographic materials at his shop, including glass plates, film and developing solution. As a pharmacist, he developed many speciality products such as his "Saponaceous Fairy Bouquet Tooth Powder", "Fairy Bouquet Perfume", "Glycerine and Cucumber Hand Lotion" and "Grape Saline Refresher". Judging from the titles of these products, Mayfield residents must have had quite a passion for personal fragrance and freshness.

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