Edward Lawrence Wood


Flooding at Colebrook Terrace on Bognor seafront after a storm surge, February 1, 1904. The Terrace was demolished in 1947

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Bookseller, stationer, Kodak dealer and sports outfitter, 19 High Street, Bognor. Wood was born at Bognor in 1878. He was the son of Edward Wood, born in 1855 at Ware in Hertfordshire, who ran a bookshop and post office at 25 High Street in Bognor, and also published two local newspapers, the Bognor Gazette and the Bognor Express, as well as acting as an insurance agent. Lawrence Wood's mother, Annie Wood, came from Ockley in Surrey and was about five years older than her husband. Annie and Edward's second son, Arthur Champion Wood, was born at Bognor in 1885.

When the 1901 census was held, Lawrence Wood was still living at home, but working as a bookseller, possibly helping his father. In 1904 he married Katrine (Katins) Ella Barrett, who had been born in Chichester and was eight years his senior. It was about this time that he set up in business on his own account, at 19a Bognor High Street. His son, Eric Wood, was born in 1906. When the 1911 census was held, he and his wife and son were living at Number 2 Albany House in London Road, Bognor. He was still in business at Bognor at the start of the 1920s, but seems to have left the area with his family by 1924.

Lawrence Wood was a much less prolific postcard producer than his fellow townsman, William Marsh. A fine collotype of the seafront at Bognor showing flooding "After a storm, Feb. 1st 1904" may mark his first venture into postcard publishing. Printed in Germany, it was labelled on the front "Published by E. Lawrence Wood". Another collotype produced in Germany of similar design recording the floods in "York Road, after a stormy sea", is labelled "Donald Massey, photographer, Bognor". Possibly Massey took both photographs and Wood commissioned the cards, or perhaps Wood and Massey independently ordered cards from the same German printer.

In about 1909 Wood introduced some glossy surfaced halftone cards of Bognor that had pictures only two-thirds normal size and very wide white borders. These were labelled on the back "Published by E. Lawrence Wood, The Royal Library, Bognor". He did not print the cards himself, but may have taken the photographs and commissioned the cards.

In about 1910 Wood started selling a series of sepia-toned real photographic cards of Bognor, including Aldwick Beach. Although the photographs are labelled in their bottom right corners "E. Lawrence Wood, Bognor", the handwriting on the captions matches that on numerous Sussex cards printed anonymously by the firm that many believe to have been Bender and Co. of Croydon or an associate firm. Although Wood did not do the printing, he may well have supplied the photographs and commissioned the cards.

Wood is perhaps best known for his black and white real photographic cards of a celebrated shipwreck at Bognor, described by Nicholas Thornton in his book, Sussex shipwrecks (1988, Countryside Books, Newbury). On Boxing Day in 1912, the French square-rigged schooner, Carnot, sailing from Calais to St Malo with a cargo of cement and salted herrings was disabled in a storm off the Isle of Wight and started to drift out of control. Eventually it ran aground on Aldwick beach, but not before the crew and the ship's dog had abandoned it and successfully made landfall in a small dinghy. Seawater mixing with the cement generated sufficient heat to start cooking the herrings, creating a strong stench. Although repeated attempts were made to refloat the Carnot, it could not be saved and was eventually sold off for scrap timber.

Wood photographed the Carnot with one of its sails still raised, evidently not long after its stranding, and also at a later stage with the sails removed. The cards are labelled "Photo. E. Lawrence Wood. Bognor" diagonally across their bottom right corners, and some have ornately handwritten titles. It is likely that Wood printed the cards himself since the shipwreck had caused much excitement in the town and he would have wanted to put them on sale without delay.

Wood seems to have been most active as a postcard publisher in 1912. In addition to the series of Carnot cards, he issued a group portrait of the Olympian Gardens entertainers and a joke card purporting to show flies skating on a man's bald head! Also memorable is a real photographic card of a road leading to the sea front at Bognor flooded after a storm in March 1912. Some examples (see Gallery) have no caption, but are labelled "Photo, E Lawrence Wood, Bognor" diagonally across the bottom left of the photograph. Other examples on sale the same year have captions in minute print.

By 1914 Wood had begun selling sepia-toned real photographic cards with white borders and printed captions. The R. A. Publishing. Co. of East London printed some of the cards for Wood, but appears not to have been the main supplier, who has yet to be identified. One particularly interesting card shows Bognor High Street and Wood's shop with numerous postcards on display. Francis Frith also photographed the High Street with the E. Lawrence Wood shop in 1914 (Martin Andrew, Francis Frith's Bognor Regis, 1999, Frith Book Co., Teffont, Wiltshire, page 28).

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