David Dinnage


Boating on the Arun at Houghton Bridge (1909 postmark)

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Amberley grocer and postcard publisher. David Dinnage was born at Houghton, near Amberley, in 1882. His father was another David Dinnage, a farm labourer, who had been born in 1841 at Nuthurst. His mother was Ann or Anne Dinnage, who came from the Crewkerne area of Dorset. Following their marriage in 1861, Ann and David lived in Nuthurst for several years, and this was where their first children were born: Jame Dinnage in about 1862, Ellen in about 1865, Alfred Richard Dinnage in 1866 and Henry Dinnage in 1872. They then moved to Findon where Annie Dinnage was born in in 1875, followed by Minnie, two years later. By 1881 the Dinnage family were living at Houghton, where first David and then Ruth Dinnage were born, the latter in 1884. At the time of the 1891 census the Dinnages were living at 35 The Street in Houghton, but by 1899 they had settled in Amberley. Kelly's 1899 Sussex Directory records that Mrs Dinnage let rooms at Hope Cottage, where she and her family presumably lived. The cottage seems to have been located in the street known as the Alley. David Dinnage, most probably her husband and not her son, is listed as a thatcher.

In the 1901 census Henry Dinnage is described as a general labourer, as is his father. Annie and Minnie are not shown as having any employment, but Ruth is listed as a pupil teacher, presumably at the local school. Eighteen-year-old David is a house-boy. There is no mention of anyone in the family working as a thatcher.

Kelly's 1905 Directory records that Mrs Dinnage was continuing to let rooms at Hope Cottage, and that Henry had become the village sexton. David Dinnage is described in the 1903 Kelly's as a thatcher, and in the 1905 and 1907 editions as both a thatcher and a grazier. In 1909 he reverts to being listed solely as a thatcher. In the 1911 census he is described once again as a general labourer. He was living in Church Street in Amberley with his wife, daughter Annie and son Henry, who worked as a grocer.

In 1911 David Dinnage's son, David Dinnage, was also living in Church Street, but separately from his parents. He had set up in business as a grocer and dealer, presumably in partnership with his brother Henry. He was unmarried and shared his home with his sister Minnie, who assisted with the business. Also living in the house were his brother, Alfred Richard Dinnage, described in the 1911 census as a police pensioner, and Gerald Leake (1885-1975), who was boarding. The census notes that Leake, who had been born in London, was an aviator. He later became a well-known artist and settled in the USA.

Leake was friend of the artist and glider designer, Jose Weiss. Born in Alsace in 1859, Weiss became a naturalised Englishman in 1894, and in about 1900 began renting Meadow Cottage in Amberley in order to make landscape paintings of the local area. A keen ornithologist, he became increasingly interested in how birds soar and glide. Starting in about 1905 he built a series of experimental gliders, which he launched from Amberley Mount and later from a specially constructed ramp on top of Bury Hill. On several occasions his gliders plunged into the Arun and had to be recovered from the river by local men. His later gliders were large enough to carry a man, and both Gerald Leake and another aviator, Gordon England, made short flights. In 1909, Gordon England succeeded in reaching a height of 12 m above his starting point while covering a distance of three quarters of a kilometre. Weiss died at Amberley in 1919.

Kelly's 1915 Sussex Directory lists David Dinnage as a grocer, but the 1922 and 1924 editions refer to him as a cycle agent and dealer. The 1927 and 1930 editions list him as a private resident.

David Dinnage published some interesting black and white real photographic cards of the Amberley area that are labelled on the back "D. Dinnage, Amberley, Sussex". As will have been noticed, the card shown above is commendably full of animation, but is disfigured by the oversized and badly positioned name and address of the presumed retailer.

Dinnage's cards are very scarce, and appear to have been offered for sale for only a few years, around 1909 and 1910 judging from the few postmarks that have been seen. Dinnage faced strong competition from a number of well-established Sussex postcard producers, such as Douglas Miller of Haywards Heath, John White & Son of Littlehampton, and C. V. Travers of Hove, and may have decided after a year or two to discontinue postcard publishing.

One Dinnage card shows "Martins, Bury, after the fire", which is believed to have taken place in 1909 or 1910. An unsolved mystery is whether Dinnage was also the anonymous publisher of some fine, sepia-tinted cards of Bury. These resemble the cards with the Dinnage label in having bold, handwritten captions, but the style of the handwriting is different, as is the method of punctuation. A 1907 postmark has been recorded. Bury could easily be reached from Amberley by the old ferry, and it is possible that Dinnage took the photographs, but then got someone else, perhaps one of his sisters, to write the captions. The pictures give an unusually intimate glimpse of life in a remote Sussex village and must have been taken by a local person, though whether this was in fact Dinnage needs further research.

David Dinnage died in 1940 at the age of 56.

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