Harry Tullett


Cuckfield (Dolphin Series)

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Photographer and picture frame maker, first at Three Bridges and then at South Road Studio, Haywards Heath. Harry Tullett was born in about 1868 at Three Bridges in mid Sussex, the third of nine children of Henry Tullett and Matilda Brooking. Henry, who had been born at Horsham in 1849, worked as a blacksmith in Three Bridges; Matilda, who was two years younger than her husband, came from the Three Bridges area. Harry had two older sisters, Jessie and Alice Tullett (both born in about 1866) and six younger brothers: John William Tullett (born in late 1869 or early 1870), Albert Tullett (born in 1872), Ernest Tullett (born in about 1876), Wilfred Tullett (born in 1878), Arthur Tullett (born in 1886) and Sidney Tullett (born in 1888).

On August 7, 1886 Harry, who was living at Albert Road in Horley in Surrey and working as a railway goods porter, married Alice Hoadley at Eastbourne Registry Office. Alice had been born at Horley in 1866 and was the daughter of Elizabeth and William Hoadley, an agricultural labourer, who worked at Sutton Farm in Seaford. On November 21, the couple had their first child, Charlie (Charles) Tullett, at Sutton Farm.

When the 1891 census was held, Harry, Alice and young Charles had moved in next door to Harry's parents in New Street at Three Bridges. Harry is described in the census as a "railway labourer". Harry and Alice's only daughter, Bertha Tullett, was born late in the following year.

In about 1894 Harry Tullett opened a photographic studio in the High Street at Three Bridges in partnership with John W. Slator. The partnership lasted only about twelve months, though why it failed is not recorded. By 1895, Tullett was running the Three Bridges Studio on his own, competing with John Slator, who had set up the Malvern Studio in Crawley Road.

The 1901 census confirms that Tullett was working on his own account, and records that he was not only a photographer but also a grocer. He and his family were living at 49 High Street in Three Bridges. In about 1902, Tullett gave up grocery work and moved with his family to Haywards Heath to concentrate on photography and picture frame making. The 1903 Kelly's Post Office Directory locates him at the South Road Studios, where he was to remain until he retired. The 1911 census notes that Bertha, who was still living with her parents, was a music teacher.

Harry Tullett became a very prolific publisher of postcards of Mid Sussex. Starting in about 1904, he issued large numbers of black and white and coloured halftones of Haywards Heath, Lindfield, Cuckfield, Warninglid and neighbouring areas. Most of the cards have printed titles either entirely in capitals or with capitals only at the start of words, and are labelled on the front "Photo by H. Tullett, Haywards Heath" or less commonly "Copyright. H. Tullett, Haywards Heath". The "Photo" cards have backs with black printing and lining (or more rarely green), while the "Copyright" cards have red printed backs. Commonly, there is a white border all the way round the pictures, but in a minority the border is confined to the base of the pictures. An uncoloured card of Paddockhall Road, Haywards Heath (on sale by 1904) and a feebly coloured card of Perrymount Road in the same town have all capitals captions, green lined backs and an unusually wide white border confined to the right side. They are labelled on the front "Photo by H. Tullett" with no reference to Haywards Heath.

Particularly popular were the "Dolphin Series" of coloured and sepia halftoned cards (some printed in Treves), which cover a wide area, ranging as far east as Uckfield. The Dolphin cards were on sale by 1907 and continued to be sold until after the First World War. Although Tullett clearly favoured the halftone printing process, for some reason he reissued a few of the Dolphin cards as collotypes (for example the cards of Lindfield Pond and Lucastes Avenue).

Tullett also sold real photographic versions of some of his halftone and collotype cards. These have handwritten titles, but do not name their publisher. In addition, Tullett issued real photographic cards of special events. For example, when the Vanguard Coach crashed at Handcross in July 1906, he produced a series of cards of the disaster, including an absurdly uninformative close-up of the tree that the coach hit. In 1908 he published some real photographic cards of the weathercock of Cuckfield Church, which had been taken down to be re-gilt. All these early, special event cards have captions written entirely in upright blocky capitals. Often they are discreetly blind stamped "H. Tullett Haywards Heath " in an oval on the front. Tullett also blind stamped cards of private houses that he supplied to their owners.

The numbers of halftone and collotype cards that Harry Tullett published is remarkable, given the high costs of preparing the printing plates. The coloured cards in particular were very ambitious. He must have enjoyed considerable sales on each card to justify the set-up costs. Tullett was even willing to resort to machine printing for special event cards, despite the fact that these tended to sell only for a limited period. Early in 1908, for example, he published six black and white collotype cards showing the havoc caused by a blizzard that brought down telephone lines in Haywards Heath, blocking roads with fallen poles and festoons of trailing wires. In addition to the collotypes he issued some real photographic cards of the "telephone disaster", perhaps to try and satisfy demand while the collotypes were being printed.

Tullett employed his son Charlie Tullett to help him run his business. Charlie lived with his wife and daughter, Daisy Vera Tullett, at 46 Gower Road in Haywards Heath. During the First World War photographers suffered both loss of trade and staff as young men came under increasing pressure to accept the King's shilling. Charlie enlisted in the 12th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, only to be killed in action at Ypres on October 19, 1917. The loss of his son must have been a terrible blow to Tullett, but he carried on his photographic business until his mid fifties before selling up and retiring.

Kelly's Directories of Sussex show that George Banbury acquired the South Road Studios from Tullett between 1922 and 1924, and was still operating it in 1934, but had left by 1938. Further research is needed to discover Banbury's background. Was he a newcomer to Haywards Heath? Or was he a former assistant at the South Road Studios, perhaps a replacement for Charlie?

For many years Tullett and his wife lived at a house called Hova in Ashenground Road in Haywards Heath. Tullett died in 1941, aged 74. His will drawn up in 1934 left three houses in Hazelwick Road at Three Bridges to his granddaughter, Daisy Vera Tullett, and the residue of his estate to his daughter Bertha to pass on her death to her three children: Norman John Isted, Dennis Eric Isted and Kenneth Brian Isted. Bertha was married to John James Isted and the family lived at 43 Gower Road, close to Daisy. When her grandfather died, Daisy was living at 38 Foredown Road in Portslade. She was unmarried.

Collectors of Mid-Sussex postcards have long puzzled over the identity of the publisher of an extensive but unnamed series of real photographic cards that were published almost entirely anonymously. The majority of the cards have serial numbers prefixed with the letter "W", "A" or "F", and for this reason it seems appropriate to call them the WAF cards, although other prefixes were sometimes used (such as "X" and "R") and some cards have serial numbers without prefixes. The handwritten captions are overlain on the photographs, and all the letters lean backwards (i.e. to the left). Most cards have captions with capitals only at the start of words followed by lower case, but a few have captions written entirely in capitals (for example "HIGH STREET, CRAWLEY, F314") Ruled guidelines for the lettering are sometimes visible on the photographs.

The WAF cards cover a wide sweep of Mid Sussex from Balcombe, Crawley and Horsham in the west to Danehill and the western edges of Ashdown Forest in the east. They extend from just inside the Surrey border (Charlwood, Ewhurst and Newdigate) on the north to the chalk escarpment in the south (Offham, Westmeston, Ditchling, Pyecombe etc.). Although no cards of Lewes, Falmer or Brighton seem to have been issued, the series includes coastal views of Hove, Portslade and Rustington. The Mid Sussex towns of Haywards Heath, Lindfield, Cuckfield, Burgess Hill and Hurstpierpoint are strongly represented, but there are also many cards of the Wealden countryside, including remote beauty spots that the photographer would have had quite a long walk to reach.

Postmarks suggest that the first WAF cards, which lacked a letter prefix, were issued in the summer of 1909. By 1911 publication of the W series had started. By the start of the First World War almost all the WAF cards may have been on sale. Publication of the cards continued (though perhaps at a reduced scale) into the 1920s and possibly the 1930s, but seemingly as reprints - there is no evidence that any new cards were added to the range after the war. None of the women in the pictures wear the cloche hats that were so popular in the 1920s, and no cars built or registered in the 1920s are visible in the photographs. The cards show roads largely empty of traffic, implying that the photographs were taken well before cars became common. The occasional cars in the pictures are all pre First World War models.

Although the WAF cards are nearly all anonymous, occasional examples (fewer than one in 500) have a printed label on the back: "G. BANBURY. South Road Studios, Haywards Heath". Some collectors have concluded that Banbury created the WAF cards, but there are several reasons why this cannot have been the case:

1) When Banbury took over the South Road Studios from Tullett, no new WAF cards had been issued for years. The cards marked Banbury seem to be just reprints of cards that were first issued long before he became proprietor of the Studios. When he acquired the Studios, it can be assumed that he also acquired the negatives of the WAF cards and decided to continue publishing them, adding his name to the back of the cards for a brief period before having second thoughts.

2) Other cards are known with Banbury's name on the back that have captions written entirely in upright capitals, which makes them distinct from the WAF cards. These were undoubtedly Banbury's own creation.

3) In May 1911 two pioneer aviators daringly landed their planes in the grounds of the Oakwood mansion at Haywards Heath. One of the aviators, Oscar Morison, crashed his plane in trees near Oakwood while trying to take off. Various photographers published postcards of these exploits. Some cards with WAF type captions were issued with the name "Tullett" embossed in the bottom right corners.

4) Before the First World War Tullett published a booklet of photographic views of Mid Sussex (entitled "Book Post View Souvenir" and labelled "Published by H. Tullett, Photographer, Haywards Heath), which reproduced in miniature a selection of his machine printed cards as well as some WAF real photographics. This implies that he owned the copyright on the WAF photographs.

5) The WAF cards stray into Surrey west of Horley, which is where Harry's wife, Alice, was born, and presumably had relatives who were willing to sell the cards.

Although this evidence indicates that Tullett was the publisher of the WAF cards, it is very probable that his son Charlie took many of the pictures, including perhaps all the pictures on the W series cards. Harry Tullett may have taken the pictures on some of the A series cards, including several views of a flat-capped young man, probably Charlie, who can be seen, for example, at Beacon Lake near Chelwood Gate in Card A268, and at Ashfold Lake near Handcross in Card 1010. The fact that no new cards with the distinctive backwards-sloping captions appear to have been added to the WAF range after Charlie died suggests that the cards were his initiative and not his father's.

This leaves the question of who wrote the captions, which are very neatly handwritten in a distinctive lettering style. Lower case "t"s are crossed at a jaunty angle, recalling an old fashioned railway signal in the "all clear" position, the "a"s simulate typeface and are not round bubbles as in normal handwriting, the "i"s are usually dotted, and "g"s and "y"s have tails that bend through a right angle to point left so that their ends lie parallel to the line of the lettering. The captions usually end with a full stop. Lettering of similar design appeared on cards printed by Bender & Co. of Croydon in the years leading up to the First World War (see the article by George Webber in Picture Postcard Monthly in January 1996). But the handwriting on the Bender cards is invariably upright, whereas the WAF cards all have left-leaning captions and the inference must be that they were produced by a different person, perhaps Charlie Tullett himself

An interesting late addition to the WAF range is a card "Snow scene, High St, Crawley No 7 W.T. Dean". The text before the serial number has the usual backwards-sloping lettering, but the number and Dean's name are in upright handwriting. An example of this card has been found postmarked February 1915. The writer remarked, "This is a view of the storm we had a month ago..." Presumably, this was a card that the Tulletts produced exclusively for W. T. Dean, the stationer at The Square in Crawley. If the correspondent is to be believed, Charlie Tullett may have taken the photograph early in 1915 and we can guess that it was he who started writing the caption, leaving his father to add Dean's name in upright lettering shortly afterwards.

The real photographic cards that Tullett and his son produced are much sought by collectors today, though few are aware of the identity of the photographers. Pictorial history books of Mid Sussex towns, such as Haywards Heath and Hurstpierpoint, include interesting selections of the cards - a testimony to the Tulletts' skill in recording the mid Sussex scene in the halcyon days before the First World War.

The two Tulletts were amongst the most prolific publishers of Sussex cards that the county has known. The W, A and F series may each have contained about a thousand cards, the E series about 750, and the series with no prefix letter around 1500. The Dolphin Series and other early cards may have numbered 1500 or more, which suggests that Tullett and his son published between 6000 and 7000 cards.

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