William Wood


Southwick tradesmen "on pleasure bent", outside the Cricketers' Arms on the Green

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7 Pier Terrace, Kingston-by-Sea. Active as a photographer by 1904, and listed as such in Kelly's 1905 Sussex Directory, but not in later editions. He, or else a namesake, appears to have been a ship's captain, presumably retired, who by 1907 moved to a house in Kingston called Cherbourg.

Wood produced such small numbers of real photographic cards of Kingston-by-Sea that examples are now quite difficult to find. Most, if not all, the cards have sepia-toned photographs, which are often rather faded. The photographs have white borders and often round corners within the borders. Captions, if present, are written entirely in capitals. The cards often have "Published by W. Wood, Kingston-by-Sea, Sussex" printed on the back at the base of the correspondence space, only occasionally up the left side as is more usual for publishers' labels. A few cards are labelled "W. Wood, Kingston" diagonally across the bottom left or right corners of the pictures.

The cards tend to record subjects that would have mainly interested local residents, and would not have had a wide sale. A card of the "Gypsy Queen" in a local pageant carries a 1904 postmark. Another shows a rag and bone man in Kingston Lane. A winter scene in Kingston Lane has a slanting caption superimposed on a dark hedge that crosses the picture at an angle.

Fewer of Wood's cards have a nautical or marine theme than might be expected given his suspected career as a mariner and Kingston's seaboard location. One card reproduces an interesting painting by T. Henning of a square rigged sailing ship entering Shoreham harbour. Another card shows the Grisette leaving Shoreham Harbour for sea trials. Built in Southwick in 1904, this graceful yacht had a series of owners, and was sailed to Hawaii in the early 1960s. Whether it still survives is uncertain.

Featuring on at least two different cards that Wood published is a little ketch, the Brighton, which a Southwick firm of shipbuilders modified so that Arthur Napper (born 1872), an experienced Brighton sailor, could undertake long distance voyaging with his friend and fellow Brightonian, James Langford (born 1876). The shipbuilders greatly strengthened the hull of the ketch and shortened the masts because for safety reasons smaller sails would be carried. A crowd cheered the two intrepid seamen as they set off in their little boat in August 1904 from Brighton's West Pier to sail to Fremantle in Western Australia via Cape Town, South Africa. Captain Napper and Mate Langford told newsmen that they planned to explore the South Sea pearl fisheries after reaching Australia and on the way to search for Horace, James's younger brother, who in 1903 had boarded a barque in Fremantle bound for Cape Town, but like the ship had vanished without trace. Some members of his family clung to the hope that Horace had been washed ashore on a lonely island and was a Crusoe awaiting rescue.

Arthur and James had many adventures on their way south, experiencing violent storms and gaining a stowaway in the Cape Verde Islands, who was made to earn his passage as cook. Arthur lost his dog when it suddenly went berserk, jumped overboard and was never seen again. On another occasion a whale repeatedly dived under the ketch lifting it out the water.

Arthur and James managed to reach Cape Town in early January 1905, but then seem to have abandoned their expedition. Arthur returned home and is listed in the 1911 census as a Yacht Captain living in Ditchling Road in Brighton, but James Langford is not mentioned. Perhaps he chose to stay on in South Africa, having given up the search for Horace.

That Wood did not confine his publishing attentions to Kingston is demonstrated by a real photographic card of the "Southdown Brewery, Upper Portslade", with a 1904 postmark and his usual label at the base of the correspondence space: "Published by W. Wood, Kingston-by-Sea, Sussex".

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