A very accommodating flock of sheep

On Salvington Hill, looking towards Cissbury (Walter Brothers, posted September 8,1908)

On Salvington Hill, looking towards Cissbury (Walter Brothers, posted September 8,1908)

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The shepherd on the first two cards on this page is quite obviously the same man, and he was evidently a shepherd of regular habits. Not only does he stand in exactly the same way in both pictures; he also holds his stick at just the same angle.

But then shepherding is quite a lonely business, and a man can get into a rut.

Looking towards Chanctonbury (L. Mason, posted November 5, 1908)

Looking towards Chanctonbury (L. Mason, posted November 5, 1908)

His sheep were clearly creatures of habit, too. Or perhaps they were just very well trained?

Wherever on the Downs they were, they knew exactly how they were expected to pose for 
the camera.

The sheep in the middle always lowered its head and grazed. The sheep to the left turned its back to the photographer and the two sheep at the far left of the picture held their heads at the same angle.

Can there ever have been another flock of sheep that was so obedient to a photographer’s requirements?

On Bost Hill, looking towards Cissbury (Ramsden Brothers, posted August 6, 1926)

On Bost Hill, looking towards Cissbury (Ramsden Brothers, posted August 6, 1926)

Of course, the real explanation for the shepherd and sheep being identical in both pictures is that these postcards are examples of Edwardian photograph-doctoring.

It’s neatly and cleverly done – unlike the doctored cards of stormy seas that featured in Looking Back on September 12, last year, where most of the enhanced waves were very unconvincing.

These two cards were published by different firms – L. Mason and Walter Brothers – so this flock of sheep seems to have been touted around quite widely.

Indeed, it is possible that the sheep may never have been anywhere near Worthing in their lives – and that the same flock can be found superimposed on dozens of postcard views of locations all over England.

No publisher, no postmark ' and the location could be anywhere

No publisher, no postmark ' and the location could be anywhere

The Walter Brothers card, at the top of the page, and the Ramsden Brothers card, second smaller card, are both examples of the widespread practice before the First World War of local shops being credited as the publisher on the back of postcards sold in their premises, even though they were not in any true sense the publisher.

In both cases the small logo at the bottom right-hand side of the card tells us that the actual publisher was the large national firm, Valentine’s.

Numerous postcards were notionally published by Walter Brothers and Ramsden Brothers, and these cards have a variety of different caption fonts and styles, because the two shops used a number of different publishers for the cards they supposedly ‘published’.

In most cases, the only difference between their cards and the publisher’s own versions was the somewhat spurious credit on the back.

The Long Furlong (Wardell's, no postmark)

The Long Furlong (Wardell's, no postmark)

Some Ramsden Brothers cards seem genuinely to have been published by the shop itself, but there was never a consistent Ramsden Brothers house style.

Walter Brothers, however, did in due course – from about 1911 onwards – publish cards in a style that was instantly recognisable as its own.

On Ramsden Brothers cards the credit on the back was usually, though not always, just the initials R. B. W. Worthing postcard collectors are indebted to the detective work of Geoffrey Godden, who made the identification between these initials and Ramsden Brothers in his book, Collecting Picture Postcards. The ‘W’ stood for Worthing. Ramsden Brothers, a firm of stationers, was located at 7 The Broadway, Brighton Road, from 1903 until 1922, and then moved to 11 Chapel Road, as ‘Ramsden’s Library’.

Walter Brothers – which had premises at 2-6 South Street and 58-60 Montague Street – announced itself in the 1905 edition of Kelly’s Directory as ‘family & furnishing drapers, clothiers & fancy drapery bazaar; large assortment of useful articles for presents’.

By 1911, the firm had opened an additional branch in South Street, Tarring.

L. Mason, too, was a Worthing shop – sometimes described as ‘a toy and fancy warehouse’, and sometimes known as Mason’s Library – run by Mrs Lucy Mason at 1-3 Montague Street.

The Dew Pond at Chanctonbury Ring (Wardell's, posted August 5, 1952)

The Dew Pond at Chanctonbury Ring (Wardell's, posted August 5, 1952)

Unlike the other two shops, Mason’s always published postcards in its own house style. Indeed the firm had two successive styles, the one that appears on the card seen here being the later of the two.

• Antony Edmonds is the author of Worthing: The Postcard Collection (Amberley, 2013).

The Castle Slope at Bramber (Harold Camburn, the Wells Series)

The Castle Slope at Bramber (Harold Camburn, the Wells Series)