Percival Joseph Hammond


Tram at Dyke Road Hotel, Brighton (No. 21 Classic)

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Photographer, Brighton. Brighton and Hove experienced rapid growth during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century as large numbers of people flooded in from other parts of the country. Hammond was one of the many arrivals. The first address we have for him is in 1906 when he was living at 15a New Town Road in Hove. During 1907 he moved to 78 Beaconsfield Road, north of Preston Circus in Brighton. In 1909 he moved once again, to 33 Dover Road off the Ditchling Road, but he then left Brighton during the First World War.

Hammond published at least 500 high quality real photographic cards of Brighton and Hove, and nearby places such as Rottingdean and Lewes. Although he never put his name on any of his cards, he labelled many of them "Classic" or "C. P. Co.", which makes them instantly identifiable. The captions are invariably handwritten, and the lettering is quite distinctive. Some cards have plain rectangular or round-cornered photographs in a white border, while others (including some reprints of earlier cards) have no border. Sometimes the photographs are sepia toned, but more often they are black and white. Most of the cards have a serial number, but there is some unexplained duplication of numbers.

The earliest cards date from 1908 and much of 1909, and were labelled "C. P. Co." with no indication as to what the letters stood for. All was revealed, however, during 1908 when Hammond issued a card of St Augustine's Choir performing in Preston Park at Brighton, which was labelled "Classic Photo Co., 36 Dyke Rd. Drive" in the bottom right corner. Dyke Road Drive connects with Preston Road in Brighton and is close to Beaconsfield Road, where Hammond had his home.

An unnumbered card marked "C. P. Co." and dated March 1908 shows Brighton taximeter cabs and is likely to be amongst the earliest that Hammond published. Another (C. P. Co., 886), dated April 24, 1908, shows unseasonable snow in Preston Park. A series of cards (numbered C.P. Co. 887, 888, 889 etc.) record the return of the American millionaire Mr A. G. Vanderbilt's coach, Venture, to London on May 7, 1908, following its successful first run to Brighton in April. Further cards (numbered C.P. Co 9010 & 9011) show the coach crossing the Downs on June 10, 1908. Another card shows the Preston Circus tram in deep snow. The card is unnumbered and undated and no postally used examples have been found, but the photograph was presumably taken after the spectacular blizzard of December 29, 1908, which deposited almost a foot of snow on Brighton and temporarily bought the tramway system to a halt.

Two exceptional cards in the C. P. Co. series, numbered 803 and 804, show the village of Heyshott near Midhurst. As explained later, Hammond lived briefly in Heyshott before moving to Brighton. Card 812 shows Dunford Hollow at Midhurst.

Peter Booth (Withdean) has found a card of Preston Park in the snow that is blind stamped "Classic Studios, 36 Dyke Road Drive, Brighton". Millie Hammond (almost certainly Hammond's wife, Millicent, not his young daughter of the same name) sent it in January 1909 to Ivy Hammond, doubtless a member of her husband's family, at Cocking Mill near Midhurst. The records show that a John Hammond took over the mill in about 1832 and that after his death it remained in the family until 1918. Ivy, whose first name was Mary, was born at Cocking in about 1878 and in 1909 was helping to look after her widowed mother. One of her brothers operated the mill. Millie is known to have sent another Classic card to a friend on a farm at Heyshott in 1910.

In Easter 1909 a large contingent of Dragoon Guards was stationed at Preston Barracks in Brighton and attracted much interest locally, particularly because of the splendour of their uniforms. A series of 66 or more cards was published showing the Guards on parade and carrying out training exercises. Although most cards are anonymous, some are blind stamped '"Classic" Studios, 36 Dyke Road Drive, Brighton'. Hammond appears to have closed his Dyke Road Drive studios when he moved to Dover Road.

About half way through 1909, Hammond began labelling each of his cards as a "Classic" on the actual photograph. No. 3 Classic, for example, records the accident to the motor mail van at Preston Park on August 25, 1909. Confusingly, a card of Chanctonbury Road in Hove was also called No. 3 Classic! Further repetition of numbers followed.

By November 1909 Hammond started prefixing his serial numbers with the letter C, H or K. Brighton cards were allocated serial numbers prefixed by the letter C, for example "C49 Classic". Hove cards were often, but not always, prefixed by an H. Places on the edge of Brighton and Hove or further away, such as Lewes, were generally assigned numbers with a K prefix. About 10 to 15% of the cards with C, H. or K prefixes are labelled on the back:

            "Classic" Photo Co., 33 Dover Road, Brighton
It is this address that clearly establishes Hammond as the publisher of the Classic cards and before that the C.P. Co. cards. A few hybrid cards have even been found with backs labelled "Classic" Photo Co., 33 Dover Road but with photographs on the front labelled C.P. Co.

Postmarks indicate that many of the Classic cards went on sale in 1910. It is likely that the bulk of the photography for the Classic cards was completed in the course of the year, or in 1909. Prior to 1910, Hammond appears to have published relatively few cards, and his photography business could not have been his main source of income. Perhaps he worked as an assistant in another studio.

After 1910, Hammond seems to have been mainly concerned to photograph military camps on the Downs, for example, the Royal East Kent Yeomanry Camp at Lewes in May 1911 and other camps at Worthing in 1912 and Patcham in 1913. These cards are separately numbered from the main Classic series and lack the Classic tag after the number. An unnumbered card of a "Team of oxen, Falmer, Lewes" may be a late addition to Hammond's range. An August 1915 postmark has been noted.

The photographs on a set of cards of St. Martin's Church in Brighton, mostly interior views, are labelled "Bunney, Brighton". No photographer called Bunney appears to be recorded, but one card in the set has been found labelled '"Classic" Photo Co., 33 Dover Road' on the back, hinting that Hammond may have printed the entire set of cards.

Postmark evidence suggests that the Classic Photo Co. ceased trading early in the First World War when Hammond moved from Dover Road. Few cards have been seen with 1916 or later postmarks, and these may have been hoarded and not postally used until long after purchase. Alternatively, they may represent old stock that shops with low turnover continued to sell long after production of the cards ended.

Hammond was born on the last day of January in 1871 at 12 Stanley Terrace in Southsea, Hampshire. He was the second child of Joseph Hammond, a brewer's clerk, and Annie Maria Hammond, née Smith. Both parents had been born in Cocking in West Sussex, Joseph in 1840 and Annie about 6 years later. Their first child, confusingly also called Annie M. Hammond, was born at Southsea in 1866. By 1881 Joseph had become a brewery manager and had moved with his family to a house called "Lambourne" in Albert Grove, Southsea. Two more children had been born: Cyril A. Hammond, who was 3 and Herbert Hammond, who was 11 months old.

In the late 1880s Hammond's sister, Annie, married John Lorrance Dawes, a draper in Lambeth, south London (Dawes had been born in 1861 in Norfolk). Doubtless because of his wife's prompting, Dawes invited Hammond to work as his assistant. The 1891 census locates the Dawes family and Hammond at 117 Cornwall Road in Lambeth. Having learnt his trade, Hammond left Lambeth and set up in business on his own as a draper in Woolwich. On January 3, 1897 at St John's Church in Woolwich he married Millicent May, daughter of Louisa May (formerly Bright) and Alfred May, a builder and decorator. Millicent had been born at 2 Morley Road in Greenwich on June 10, 1878, but when she married Hammond she and her family were living at Charlton, next to Woolwich. Two years after her marriage, she gave birth at Woolwich to her first child, Percival Stewart Hammond.

The 1901 census lists Hammond as "head cowman" at Broom's Farm at Chilgrove, near West Dean, north of Chichester. It was a surprising career change. That he should have gone on to become a Brighton postcard publisher is still more remarkable. However, the 1911 census confirms that Percival Joseph Hammond of 33 Dover Road was indeed the ex cowman and draper. It describes him as a "trade photographer and postcard publisher". Percival Stewart Hammond was at school, aged 12. He now had a sister, Millicent May Hammond, born on August 15, 1902 at Heyshott (where his father had been a farm bailiff) and a 10-month-old brother, Sydney Horace Hammond, born at Brighton. Another child had died in infancy. A card that Hammond published of St Ann's Well Gardens at Hove shows a small girl, who is very likely to have been his daughter Millicent, patiently posing for the photographer.

Hammond is not listed in Sussex or Brighton Directories as a commercial photographer, even though postcard publishing and photography appear to have been his main source of income from 1910 onwards. Another postcard publisher, A. K. Pink, lived at 29 Dover Road around the time of the First World War. He and Hammond presumably knew each other, but no evidence has been found to suggest a business relationship.

At least two of Hammond's real photographic cards were re-issued, possibly after the First World War, as printed cards in the Carlton Series. Card K40 of Ashcombe toll house acquired the new title: "The old toll house, Brighton Road, Ashcombe, Lewes". Peter Booth (Brighton) reports that Card C162 showing the Drove Cottages and Ladies Mile at Patcham was also reprinted in the Carlton Series. An anonymous publisher produced a printed version of a Hammond card (C18 Classic) of the entrance to the Copse at Woodside Avenue near Preston Park.

Until recently, many postcard collectors guessed that Hammond stopped producing cards and left Brighton in order to fight in the First World War and then was killed in action, which is why the cards, with the possible exception of the three mentioned above, were not re-issued in the inter-war period. However, we now know that he survived the war. It is not even certain that he ever enlisted (he was already into his forties), and quite possibly he left Brighton simply to seek civilian employment elsewhere. Because he no longer lived locally he may well have decided to stop publishing his postcards of Brighton and district. Most postcard publishers found that their sales slumped badly during the war, and this may have been an additional reason why Hammond decided to halt postcard production.

Details of Hammond's life after he left Brighton remain obscure. Electoral registers show that in the 1920s he and Millicent lived at 58 Victoria Road in Greenwich, which as already noted was the town where Millicent had been born. His profession has still to be established. His final home was at 214 Mayplace Road at Barnehurst in Bexleyheath. He died aged 75 on 24 December 1947 at Crook-log, Bexleyheath. The probate register records that his estate was worth £3240. His elder son, who in the late 1920s and early 30s is known to have lived in Greenwich, was reported to be a railway station master. His younger son worked as an insurance broker.

Collectors of old postcards of Brighton and district have good reason to be grateful to Hammond. As a photographer he may not have been in the top rank, but he was certainly very competent. True, some of his pictures could have been more imaginatively composed and more carefully cropped. A surprising number suffer from insufficient tonal contrast or an equally ill-judged excess of contrast. A few pictures are delightfully animated, but for the most part Hammond seems to have kept a cautious distance from people and animals, perhaps because experience had taught him that they moved at inopportune moments, just when he opened the shutter! Despite his farming background, he took curiously little interest in downland agriculture and land-use. He was not concerned to photograph sheep gathered around dewponds, horses straining to pull the plough or farm hands bringing in the harvest from the fields. His main interest was to record the urban scene and downland beauty spots. To his credit, he worked not only in summer but also in the depths of winter, unlike many of his less energetic contemporaries. And because his pictures mostly date from about 1910 they provide a valuable glimpse of what Brighton and the Downs were like in a clearly defined and some would say halcyon interval, before the First World War abruptly changed life in Britain for ever.

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