John Wesley Wheeler


Opening of Horsham Bowling Club, May 17, 1906

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Photographer, North Street, Horsham. Wheeler was principally a studio photographer, producing cabinet prints and cartes de visite, but he published a few collotype postcards of local events, especially sporting occasions, for example the opening of the Horsham Bowling Club in May 1906. Another card records a five-mile race between Alfred Shrubb of Horsham (born 1879 at Slinfold) and A. Aldridge on August 7, 1905. Wheeler was also on hand to photograph the Warnham Football Club displaying the Horsham and District Challenge Shield that they won in 1905-6.

Wheeler issued a few of his studio portraits as postcards, especially if they were of general interest. A real photographic depicts Lord Turnour, the local M.P. A halftone card of Horsham's hero, Alfred Shrubb, "world's amateur long distance champion" runner, is labelled "Copyright J. Wheeler", who was evidently the card's publisher. Pinned to Shrubb's shirt and hanging round his neck are over 75 medals! In 1904 Shrubb broke seven world records in a single night! Wheeler overprinted the backs of some of his Shrubb portraits with publicity material for his studio offering "Xmas cards with your photo complete, from 1/6 per dozen". He started work at 9 am and remained open for business until 8.30 pm, taking photos even on dull days and after nightfall.

According to David Simkin at, Wheeler was a keen trumpeter and cornet player and founder member of the Horsham Recreation Band, which helps explain why he produced real photographic cards of the various town bands that gathered in Horsham for a festival in 1906. The real photographic cards generally lack borders; some are marked "Wheeler, Horsham" diagonally across a corner.

Wheeler published few, if any, view cards of his own, but supplied other publishers with photographs of Horsham to use on their own cards. A good example is a collotype of the King's Head Hotel at Horsham, issued by an anonymous publisher, which is labelled on the back "Photo by J. Wheeler, Horsham". A 1914 postmark has been seen.

Wheeler was born in Cambridge in 1874, the son of Henry Wheeler, a joiner. He settled in Horsham as a photographer in about 1896, and in the following year married Kate Charlotte Hayward, born in 1870 in Tunbridge Wells, the daughter of a local butcher. In 1899 the couple had their first child, Gladys May Wheeler.

Wheeler occupied a series of studios in North Street in Horsham - his first was at Number 44, but by 1899 he moved to Number 50, and in about 1904 he was at Number 4, where he remained for at least five years. By 1911 he and his family were living at 45 East Street. The census of that year records that, in addition to Gladys, the Wheelers had an 8-year-old son, Claude Wheeler. Two boarders shared the house; one was a teacher, the other, Martha Steer, worked as a photographer's assistant, presumably for Wheeler.

Wheeler seems to have given up photography when the First World War began, perhaps in order to enlist. Kelly's 1915 Sussex Directory lists Kate as offering apartments at 45 East Street, but makes no mention of her husband. There is no entry for him in the 1919 Electoral Register.

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