Harold Camburn in old Bramber

The first article in this sequence about Harold Camburn (Looking Back, February 26) dealt with Camburn’s life and early career, and his postcards of Lancing.

Card 122

Here, we look briefly at his later career, and then focus on his views of Bramber.

Before Camburn went to serve in the war in 1917, most of his local-view cards were either of his home town of Tunbridge Wells or of Worthing and its hinterland.

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After the war, his focus changed.

Card 102  The Street, looking east, with Highcroft on the right

Although he continued to produce cards of Tunbridge Wells, Camburn gradually withdrew from Worthing, and there are no cards in his main Worthing series later than about 1925.

Camburn evidently saw no point in trying to compete with big national companies such as Valentine, Dennis and Salmon, which now dominated the postcard trade in Britain’s large towns and resorts.

These companies had no interest in small villages, however, and Camburn knew there was a market there – not least became many villagers bought his high-quality “Real Photograph” cards to keep themselves rather than to send through the post.

Modus Operandi

Card 148  J. Keywoods tea gardens

This certainly applied in the case of Bramber. My copies of the postcards that illustrate this article are all unused.

Camburn’s modus operandi was simple. In those days, most small villages had shops or post offices, and Camburn would enter into a special arrangement with the proprietor.

One attraction of his pitch to the shopkeeper was that he “personalised” the cards with a publisher credit for the shop.

This appeared on the backs of the cards in addition to Camburn’s Wells Series trademark, with its familiar logo of well-head, rope and bucket.

Card 226  Lavender Cottage (centre-left) and St Nicholas (centre)

Once Camburn’s attractive cards were on display in the village shop, it is hard to see competitors trying to move in on his patch, and he probably often had the field more or less to himself.

The subjects of his photographs more or less chose themselves.

In addition to postcards of the shop itself, there would be views of the church, the pub, the main street, and notable houses in the locality.

Camburn’s postcards are a roll-call of villages that few people have heard of except those who live there – places such as Eridge, Hook Green, Groombridge, Hartfield, Robertsbridge, Turners Hill, Beech Hill, Henfield, Laughton, Stedham, and Frant.

Card 97  A flock of sheep in front of the Old Cottage

The number of different views he published of some villages was astonishingly high.

There were, for example, at least 93 differently numbered cards of Penshurst, 102 of Rotherfield and 112 of Withyham.

Although most of Camburn’s local-view cards are of villages in Kent, Sussex and – to a lesser extent – Surrey, he was also commissioned to produce postcards of a few locations further afield, including Woburn Sands in Bedfordshire, Lowestoft and Ipswich in Suffolk, and Eccleshall in Staffordshire.

Popular destination

All but one of the cards of Bramber that illustrate this article were numbered as part of Camburn’s main Worthing series, hence the high numbers.

Card 22 is the exception, coming from a short later series of cards of Bramber and Beeding that Camburn produced in the 1920s.

Card 22  The Street, looking west towards the castle

Evidence from other postcards in my collection suggests that all the photographs seen here were taken in 1912 or 1913, apart from those on Cards 224, 226 and 22, which date from a decade or so later.

Before the First World War, Bramber was an immensely popular destination for cyclists and day-trippers.

Most visitors arrived by train, Bramber Station having an unusually long platform to cope with the numbers.

In those days, there were various entertainments inside the castle grounds – swing boats, Gipsy Rose Lee to tell fortunes, refreshment stands, and so on.

Potter’s taxidermy museum in the Street was a major attraction, and rowing boats could be hired on the river.

There were at least seven different tea rooms or tea gardens in Bramber during the 15 years or so before the First World War, although it is not clear whether all of them were in business at the same time.

The age of tea gardens and train trippers may be long gone – the railway closed almost half a century ago – but the Old Tollgate Hotel and the Castle Hotel are still there to welcome visitors to Bramber, and the church and the castle keep maintain their centuries-old presence above the village.

Cards 102 & 148

Our tour of Bramber begins at the west end of the village, looking east. The large house on the right of Card 102 is Highcroft.

At centre-left, just beyond where the fence ends, can be glimpsed the building that stands on the site of the Old Toll Cottage.

In 1901 it was Alfred Friar’s tea gardens, but by the time this photograph was taken it was the Old Tollgate Hotel, as remains the case today.

The buildings on the left will be described in a moment, when we come to Cards 122 and 224.

The photograph on Card 148 was taken further down the Street, again facing east.

The first house on the left was J. Keywood’s tea gardens (“Large & Small Parties Catered For / Accommodation for Cyclists”).

In the 1901 census, James Keywood was listed as a carpenter and his wife as a laundress, and they had five sons and a daughter.

Their eldest son, Herbert, served as a private in the First World War.

He died in 1917, of ulcerative colitis – a condition relatively easy to treat today – in the Borough Sanatorium in Brighton, and was buried in Bramber churchyard.

The house was demolished in the late 1960s or early 1970s, and a small estate of modern houses was built on the site in 1972.

The next house is Lavender Cottage, which is followed by St Nicholas, Firs Cottage and the Old Cottage, all of which still exist.

The area behind the fence in the distance, where two men are standing, is today the site of the car park and the public lavatories, and beyond the fence is Yew Cottage.

Cards 226 & 97

Card 226 takes us further east along the Street. Lavender Cottage, which we saw in the distance on Card 148, is the house to the right of the gateway.

In the 1901 census, Kate Andrews is recorded as a “refreshment shopkeeper” there, and the house later became a restaurant.

The one-storey building to the left of the gate may have been occupied by a gardener or servant.

It was demolished only this year, having become increasingly derelict.

The next house is St Nicholas. The fence and shrubs beyond it have been removed to create a car-parking space between St Nicholas and Firs Cottage, which is the house with its gable-end onto the Street.

The house past which the sheep are being driven on Card 97 is the Old Cottage, which probably dates from the 16th century.

The cottage is still there, but was partially rebuilt soon after this photograph was taken.

The door onto the street was removed and the windows were replaced with ones set higher up the wall.

The inside, too, was restructured.

As can be seen by comparing Cards 122 (on page 47) and 224 (below), these alterations took place at some point between Camburn’s first and second photographic visits to Bramber – thus, between 1912/13 and about 1922.

The small thatched building at the end of the Old Cottage was a stable.

The building that can just be seen behind it was Castle View Nursing Home, demolished some years ago and then replaced (only recently) with two pairs of semi-detached modern houses.

Beyond this can be seen a hedge, where, as already noted, the Bramber car-park is now located; and beyond that in 1912 was Yew Cottage.

On the right-hand side of the road is the Castle Hotel.

Card 22

The postcard on page 47 and the two postcards at the bottom of page 50 show the Street seen from the east.

The first house on the left of Postcard 22 is Bramber Villa.

Out of sight beyond it was Potter’s museum.

Next is Hollis’s Temperance Hotel and tea gardens.

The Hollises were not local people.

Arthur Hollis had been born in 1860 in Norton, Derbyshire, and his wife Elizabeth was a Londoner.

About two decades ago the hotel became Janine’s Restaurant, and by 2000 it was the Thai Bramber Dragon Restaurant, as is the case today.

On the right is the site of the present car park, followed by Castle View Nursing Home.

The houses in the middle distance will be described in a moment.

The keep of Bramber Castle and the church tower can be seen among the trees in the background.

Cards 122 & 224

Card 122 (seen on page 47) and Card 224 (reproduced below), were photographed from almost identical positions, but about ten years apart.

An obvious change is that by the time of the later photograph the walls of some of the cottages had acquired a considerable amount of growth.

The house nearest the camera is the Old Cottage, which features prominently on Card 97 and, as already mentioned, was considerably altered between Camburn’s two visits to Bramber.

A few years earlier, there had been a tea gardens at the Old Cottage, for I have a 1906 postcard of the same view on which the little building has a large sign attached to it that reads: “To the Tea Gardens, Covered Bowers & Shelters / Hot & Cold Luncheons, Refreshments, Sweets etc / Sunday Schools, Band of Hope, Choirs, Cyclists etc Catered For / Furnished Villas & Apartments to Let”.

The house with the gable-end onto the road – grey on Card 122, but painted white by the time the photograph for Card 224 was taken – is Firs Cottage.

On Card 122 St Nicholas is the house with a bicycle leaning against a small hedge in front of it.

By the time of Card 224, the front wall was entirely covered by climbing plants, so none of the white-painted wall is any longer visible.

The low two-storey red-brick building with undergrowth on its eastern side is Lavender Cottage.

The substantial building that follows does not survive.

It appears to have consisted of a pair of semi-detached cottages, the easterly of the two incorporating a taller end section, which was probably originally a separate cottage.

The furthest building on the right was called Yew Tree Cottage (not to be confused with Yew Cottage, at the eastern end of the village).

In 1901 it had housed Harry Goddard’s shop, but by 1912 one of Bramber’s tea gardens was located there.

The full text of the partially obscured sign includes: “Tea Gardens / Teas & Luncheons” and “Kidd & Hotblacks / Ales & Stouts”.

A.J. Jenner was the licensee at the time of this photo.

His son George Jenner, of the 7th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, was killed in the attack on Contalmaison in July, 1916, during the Battle of the Somme.

Much later, Yew Tree Cottage became an off-licence, and later still it was divided into two, with the part to the west – out of shot in both photographs – retaining the name Yew Tree Cottage, and the part of the house that served as the shop being named May Tree Cottage.

Cards 103 & 98

Castle Lane is still relatively narrow, with trees on either side, especially at the southern end – but it is wider than it appears on Card 103, and there are now passing places.

This view appears to be from the northern end, looking south, so the high banks on the left are the banks at the foot of the moat of Bramber Castle.

Card 98 shows Maudlin Farm Cottages, whose appearance has changed little in the past century.

I am greatly indebted to Pat Nightingale, honorary secretary of the Beeding & Bramber Local History Society, for her comprehensive assistance.

Almost all the information about Bramber 100 years ago, and the buildings seen on the postcards, comes from her. This is as much her article as it is mine.

Card 224  The Old Cottage, after restructuring
Card 103  Castle Lane
Card 98  Maudlin Farm Cottages