Reginald Bateman


Collotype of Steyning High Street sold by Bateman, showing his shop. A type (2) card

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Stationer, High Street, Steyning. If only labels on postcards could always be believed! At his High Street shop "Reg" Bateman stocked at least four different sets of postcards of Steyning and district that bore his name, and in some cases were actually labelled "Published by R. Bateman" on the back. The difficulty is that postcard publishers anxious to gain favour with retailers often claimed that the latter were the true publishers when they were not. It remains unclear in Bateman's case precisely what role he played, though he was certainly selective in the cards he sold and probably commissioned some of them.

1) One set of cards that Bateman sold was printed by the Photochrom Company of London and Tunbridge Wells and carried their "P" trademark on the back. Despite being labelled "Bateman's Library", it is doubtful whether Bateman played any role in the publication of these quite ordinary cards. He does not seem to have stocked them for long.

2) More problematic is a series of collotype cards of the kind shown above that are labelled on the back "Published by R. Bateman, Stationer, Steyning, Sussex". Some of the cards are hand coloured, but the majority are plain sepia. The card backs are printed in blue and the "D" of "Post Card" is strangely asymmetric, and is followed by a prominent full stop. The cards were "Printed Abroad", by an unidentified firm that also manufactured some cards of Pulborough for P. E. Wilmer, who had a stationery business in the village. In addition this mystery firm printed some of the Arrow Series cards.

3) Bateman also sold halftone cards of Steyning with white borders and a glossy finish that can be easily mistaken for real photographics. These too are labelled on the back "Published by R. Bateman, Stationer, Steyning, Sussex". The pictures are in many, if not all, cases the same as those on the blue-back collotypes, which suggests that both series of cards may have been manufactured by the same mystery firm, though the design of the backs is very different with black (not blue) printing.

4) A fourth set of cards consists of real photographics. Some have captions with capitals only at the start of words, but later examples have captions written entirely in capitals. Although marked "Bateman's Photo Series", they were initially produced by a firm that supplied numerous shops up and down Britain with postcards from 1908 onwards. The firm, which traded anonymously, is believed by some postcard experts to have been Bender and Co. of Croydon. Some of the photographs were taken in full summer, other in winter.

John Arthur Cornwell, a newsagent in Steyning High Street, sold under his own name photogravure cards that shared the same pictures as some of the cards in Bateman's Photo Series. The firm that manufactured the Photo Series cards for Bateman did not, as far as is known, produce photogravures, and neither did Bateman sell photogravures.

The later cards marked "Bateman's Photo Series" with captions written entirely in capitals date from the First World War when Bender & Co. had changed hands. It is unclear who undertook the printing.

In the case of Photochrom it is possible the firm paid a quick visit to Steyning as part of a national sales drive, took photographs and then printed cards that they took to Bateman and persuaded him to stock in his shop. But the pictures that appear on the other types of Bateman card include somewhat unusual subjects that would not immediately attract the attention of a visiting photographer. There is no evidence that Bateman ever owned a camera, but he may well have commissioned a Steyning photographer to take pictures for him, which he then arranged to have reproduced as postcards. He may even have escorted the photographer around the village pointing out which views he wanted taken.

Bateman ran a small printing works, where he produced the local parish magazine, wedding invitations and other ephemera. Colin Inman (his great nephew) has found a little booklet about Steyning that Bateman wrote and printed himself. Six cards were included with the booklet, but frustratingly these have disappeared. The existence of the booklet suggests that Bateman was an enterprising stationer, who took trouble with his work. He was certainly not a full-blooded postcard publisher, supplying numerous retailers, but nor does he seem to have been a mere passive stockist of cards that others created.

Reginald Bateman was born at Horsham on June 24, 1886. When the 1891 census was held, his father, Henry C. Bateman (born at Farnham in Surrey in about 1855), was the licensee of the Norfolk Arms Inn in Church Street, Steyning. His mother, Emily Bateman (formerly Flint), had been born in Ifield in Sussex in about 1854. He had a younger brother, Charles Bateman, born at Horsham in August 1888, and two sisters, Annie and Francis Bateman.

In the 1901 census Reg Bateman is listed as living with his widowed mother at the Norfolk Arms, where she had become the licensee (she died in 1908). Although only 14, he had left school and was working as a carpenter's assistant. Family tradition holds that he tried his luck in Canada but soon returned. There is a record of a Reg Bateman, born in about 1886, travelling steerage on a vessel called the Victorian from Liverpool to Halifax, Nova Scotia on March 23, 1907. He was on his way to Toronto, and was described as a joiner.

Bateman was back in Steyning and in business as a stationer in the High Street by 1909. The 1911 census records that he had two employees and boarded with his brother Charles at the house of John and Ellen Groves in Station Road. John was a fellmonger, probably working at the local tannery. Charles was an auctioneer's clerk.

Reg Bateman married Alice Brewster in August 1913. There were no children. Colin Inman reports that Bateman "served as a private with the Sussex Yeomanry and as a sergeant with the Royal Sussex Regiment, including time in the Balkans in 1915".

In 1930 Reg Bateman was trading in Steyning High Street under the name "Bateman's Library". He retired in 1931 or 1932, handing over his business to Dennis and Percy West, who continued operating as newsagents, stationers and printers under the name "West's Library". Following the example of their predecessor, the Wests sold real photographic postcards of Steyning that were manufactured for them by Photochrom.

By 1930 Charles Bateman had become Secretary of the Steyning Permanent Benefit Building Society, and Colin reports that Reg later joined him as Director. In the 1930s Reg and Alice lived in a house called "Uppingham" in Mill Road: Charles lived at Crescent House in Steyning.

Alice Bateman died in 1956 and Reg followed fifteen years later in 1971.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Special thanks are due to Colin Inman (Wadhurst) for providing much useful information about his great uncle as well as the portrait photograph reproduced here.

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