Brown & Woodley (B. & W.)


Hastings Beach, painted by Borrow (Water Colour Post Card Co.)

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Stationers, booksellers and dealers in fancy goods, 27 White Rock, Hastings. William Woodley, the founder of the business, was born at Newcastle under Lyme in the Staffordshire Potteries in 1844, one of eight or more children of Jane Woodley and George Woodley, a draper. By 1871 he was working as an assistant to his elder brother, George Lattimer Woodley, who was a bookseller and stationer at Llandudno in North Wales. By 1881, he had set up as a stationer and bookseller on his account in Hastings, where he employed two men. The 1881 and 1891 censuses record that he was unmarried and lived in a boarding house at 19 Cambridge Road. However, Directories indicate that his shop was located on the sea front at 27 White Rock at the latest by 1895, if not much earlier.

In about 1903 the business was renamed Brown and Woodley. It is unclear who Brown was and whether he worked in partnership with Woodley or took over the business in its entirety. As Woodley was nearly 60, he may have decided to retire. From 1904 onwards the revitalised firm began selling postcards. The earliest may be some black and white collotype views of the Hastings area supplied by the London firm of Frederick Hartmann, which were probably printed in Germany. The cards are marked "Brown & Woodley's Library, Hastings" on the back. Hand coloured versions were also sold. Some variant cards, possibly reprintings, are labelled "Brown & Woodley's Library, Hastings" on the front. Other black and white collotype cards are known, dating from 1904 onwards, which are marked "B & W Series". Another venture was "The Outdoor Series, B & W, Hastings" black and white collotypes of such subjects as the horse fair at Robertsbridge. The firm also sold hand-coloured collotypes with green backs labelled "B. & W. Hastings", which were printed in Saxony.

Brown and Woodley's most successful venture was their "B & W Series" of facsimile watercolour views of Hastings, Rye and Winchelsea painted by the well known Hastings artist, William Henry Borrow, who lived for many years in a house overlooking Alexandra Park. The first cards appeared in 1904 and were quite high quality three colour halftones. Anthony Byatt in his Picture Postcards and their publishers (1978, Golden Age Postcard Books, Malvern) records that Borrow, who also painted in oils, exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. Borrow was born in about 1841 at Aachen (Aix la Chapelle) in Germany, but came to Hastings to attend his Aunt's school in the Old Town. He died at Hastings in 1905, aged 64.

Borrow also painted Sussex scenes for the Water Colour Post Card Company of 17 Paternoster Road in east London, who, starting about a year later, issued cards of essentially the same design as those of Brown and Woodley. The London firm, however, did not restrict its attention to Sussex and reproduced the work of other artists besides Borrow. By 1909 it began listing its address on its cards as both London and Hastings. Evidently, Brown and Woodley had a close business link with the London firm, but the nature of the link needs further investigation, especially, as Byatt has discovered, the Paternoster address seems to have been merely that of an agent. Despite its name "Water Colour Post Card Company", it reproduced at least one oil painting by Borrow.

William Woodley died at Hastings in 1923, aged 79. The Brown & Woodley shop was still selling books and stationery in 1924, but card production may have ceased ten years earlier. By 1926 the shop had changed hands and was trading under the name of F. W. A. Goulden Ltd. The new owners were the sons of Henry James Goulden, who was running a very successful stationery, bookselling and fancy goods business in the centre of Canterbury ("Goulden's of Canterbury"). Brown & Woodley had had dealings with H. J. Goulden as early as 1904 (see Tina Machado's website on historic Canterbury at

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