Paul Gibson’s Hull and East Yorkshire History

The postcards of Charles Pinchbeck

For many years I had the privilege of sharing my interest in collecting antique postcards of Hull and East Yorkshire with one of the world’s true gentlemen, with whom I spent many an afternoon or evening swapping cards and enjoying our shared hobby over a cup of tea. Due to increasingly poor health he found himself reluctant to travel to even the local postcard fairs, and I often collected postcards on his behalf from a short list of locations and publishers he was particularly interested in. Sadly my friend John Renton Heathcote passed away in May 2006, at the age of 78, and was buried at his beloved St Peter’s Church in Anlaby near Hull.

His large collection of postcards, consisting of as many subject cards as topographical, passed to his family and for reasons best known to them, many of his albums were sold at auction in May and September 2007. As a memory of my friend Renton – as he preferred to be known – I acquired one of his albums from auction, that was dedicated to the work of one Hull photographer and publisher named Charles Robert Pinchbeck. Renton had a particular interest in Pinchbeck, and as I recall he had always suspected there had been a family connection with Pinchbeck somewhere down the line. I have compiled this short appreciation of Mr Pinchbeck in memory of Renton. The images used in the article come partly from the album of Renton’s that I bought at auction, and partly from my own collection.

The poster on the right, detailing Charles' father's business, is courtesy of the Frank Farnsworth collection.

Charles Robert Pinchbeck was born at 76 Regent Street Hull in December 1876, the son of a successful draper George Pinchbeck and his wife Margaretta Helena; their Carr Lane premises were well-known as the poster shown here illustrates. By the time of the 1901 Census Charles had found employment as a grocers’ shop assistant and by 1903 – aged around 27 – had his own grocery and off-licence at 22 Finsbury Street. He was recorded as a ‘photographer’ in the trade directories of 1907 and 1908, based at a shop at 99 Walton Street, facing Hull’s West Park. From around this time he started producing cards with the title ‘West Park Studios’ printed on the reverse of his postcards, although the postmarks on many examples he produced date from as early as 1905, which suggest he may have had an interest in photography before setting up the Walton Street premises. The tenancy of the West Park Studio in Walton Street was short, and by 1910 it was the West Park Cycle Depot (see right), and Charles had moved to a more central location.

The former West Park Studio premises are seen here shortly after they left, in the hands of the new owners the Leadley family - cycle repairs etc.

By 1910 he was noted as an ‘artist and fancy goods dealer, based in a small shop at 17 Paragon Arcade, a small shopping arcade off Paragon Street in Hull city centre. Trade directories of the time noted his shop as a ‘fancy repository’ – no doubt similar to some of the shops that still remain in the arcade – and his home address as 36 Derringham Street. As appears to have been the case with many Edwardian postcard photographers and producers, Pinchbeck seldom advertised solely as a photographer, his postcards probably forming only a fraction of his business turnover.

In 1912 he left the Paragon Arcade and was advertising in the trade directories as a ‘picture postcard dealer’, under the title ‘West Park Studio (Hull) Ltd’, from a new address at 4 Collier Street, another very central location opposite the then new entrance to Hull’s Paragon Railway Station; his private address was listed as 86 Argyle Street from 1912. The shop in Collier Street can be seen in the photograph on the right, and in an enlarged detail below.

By 1916 Charles had left Hull and moved to Ripon; the trade directory of that year noted that the West Park Studio (Hull) Ltd was still in business at 4 Collier Street, but that Charles Robert Pinchbeck’s home address was 5 Park Street Ripon. Why Pinchbeck made the move north is not known, but his later cards bear the stamp ‘The West Park Studio Ltd., Hull & Ripon’, which suggests he continued to trade in both locations (does any reader have any cards by him from the Ripon area?).

In 1919 the Hull business had moved to 31 Anlaby Road, opposite the Paragon Railway Station, in an area well populated with photographers, both portrait and otherwise; the West Park Studio was listed there as ‘photographers’ in a trade directory of that year – remaining until at least 1929 – although Pinchbeck was no longer listed. The West Park Studio was still at 31 Anlaby Road in 1936, but was listed as a ‘music dealers’ and not photographers; by this time Pinchbeck would have been 60 years old and perhaps his children were running the business. The postcard boom was over, and although some of his cards do date from this period, it is likely that production had ceased many years earlier; the latest postmark I have noted for a Pinchbeck card is 1929 although the majority date from 1908 to 1920. 

The postcard output of West Park Studios (Pinchbeck was almost certainly the photographer) was varied and prolific, ranging from comic cards to coloured topographical views of Hull and East Yorkshire, and the more familiar real photographic topographical cards that are so coveted by collectors.

His comic cards featured his not inconsiderable talent as a cartoonist, and he signed many of them with the pseudonyms Sauce, Elbon, Pop or Pippin. The cards were obviously popular at that time, and often featured local landmarks and phrases or strap-lines such as ‘My word – if you’re not off’ and ‘I’ll saw you’re legs off. This strange set of catch-phrases must have caught on, as some of his topographical cards had wording printed on the reverse that enabled one to personalise the phrase to the recipient by filling in details: ‘Dear … , My word! If you’re not off, I’ll saw your foot and leg off, From …’. If anyone can shed light on these strange phrases, which I believe were very popular with Edwardians in general, I would be obliged; the phrase was so popular in 1907 that a short (one minute and thirty-three seconds) film of the same name was made, illustrating the famous saying. Made by the Sheffield Photo Company, it was directed by Frank Mottershaw). These comic cards featured in the same numbered series as his early topographical cards, a series that ran to at least 208, the comic cards being in the range 155 to 180.

Pinchbeck also produced some mechanical novelty cards, very much in keeping with his trade as a ‘fancy goods repository’, often of the pull-out variety, although few have found their way into my collection as yet except for one card featuring a match-striker on a gentleman’s bottom!

The coloured and numbered series have postal dates, which I have recorded so far, ranging from 1907 to 1919, although those posted later could have been produced much earlier.

The cards were marked on the reverse ‘C. P. Series West Park Studio Hull’ and then the unique serial number. The topographical cards were often printed versions of original real photographic cards, that had been issued simultaneously as part of another real photo series. The coloured and numbered cards were in the main printed by Delittle, Fenwick & Co, and bear that company’s central logo and initials on the reverse, although the coloured comic cards were printed by a local company Mason & Jackson, and bear their logo and initials.

The first series of real photographic cards issued by Pinchbeck date from as early as 1905, and appear to cover the villages in the East Riding of Yorkshire, although he did stray into North Lincolnshire occasionally. This series featured the prefix ‘C.P.’ and a unique serial number on the picture side of the card, and I have noted numbers ranging from CP044 to CP785. The reverse of these cards usually bear no identifying details, and the CP is Charles Pinchbeck’s initials, a system borrowed from another Hull postcard producer Parrish & Berry Ltd. (PB), although first pioneered by Wellsted & Son (W&S), also of Hull. Cards with a CPX prefix, used for specific events, occasionally supplemented this series, e.g. a grand event such as the King’s visit to Londesborough or the humble Ottringham village sports committee.

Another numbered series of real photographic cards was issued that appears to feature just views of the city of Hull, which also utilised unique numbers on the face of the postcard, but had no CP prefix. Numbers in this series, which may have carried on from - or ran concurrently with, the earlier village series, range from at least 1061 to 2755, and the reverse sometimes, but not always, has the mark ‘C. P. Series West Park Studio, Hull’. The earliest postage date I have noted for these is October 1909.

Another series of real photographic cards by Pinchbeck and/or The West Park Studio have serial numbers that appear to utilise the date that the image was made; they appear to be consecutive at times, but several cards would have been made at some locations or events. This series of cards seems to cover just the villages around East Yorkshire again, with an occasional foray further a field, which may have been taken by the Ripon office. They are numbered but have no CP prefix, and range up to 4511 (4 May 1911). The earliest postage date so far noted is 1909, and the latest 1913, with a wide variation of marks on the reverse, but all featuring the company name in some way, most often marked with the legend ‘West Park Studios’, and the majority printed on paper marked ‘C. P. Series. West Park Studio, Hull’.  Some earlier cards often have the addition ‘Branch, 17 Paragon Arcade, Hull’, the reference to a ‘branch’ possibly an attempt to present the business empire as somewhat grander than it may actually have been.

A good example of a serial number compiled from the date, is a card that shows the proclamation of King George V, which has the serial number 1051012; it is noted on the back in contemporary handwriting, that this was Tuesday 10 May 1910, and it appears to have been picture 12 of that event - see above right - (I have at least four others from the set).

All in all, Charles Pinchbeck must rate amongst Hull’s most prolific postcard producers, and this is born out by the sheer number of cards – and illustrated by the serial numbers of each series. The quality of the real photographic cards he produced varies considerably, with some very poorly exposed, poorly developed, poorly composed and often poorly printed examples, but it must be remembered that his contemporaries were photographers by trade, and had many years experience of their profession prior to the postcard craze. Pinchbeck appears to have been simply a small business entrepreneur, who added postcards to his portfolio. However, his cards have a charm of their own, often a bit skewed or hurriedly produced, but always with character. The examples I have chosen to show here give a good cross section of his work, and I hope my old friend Renton would have approved. 

© Paul Gibson 2007 (updated for internet August 2010)

Figure 1

This comic card was drawn by Pinchbeck, and has that phrase – ‘My word if you’re not off’ – numbered C.P. Series No.155, and posted in October 1907. It was printed by Mason & Jackson of Scott Street Hull.

Figure 2

The reverse of a coloured card of Hull Fair, showing the comic caption with spaces for personalisation; C.P. Series No.80, and again printed by Mason & Jackson.

Figure 3

A colour printed card, being C.P. Series No.14, showing the site of the ancient boat ferry at the hamlet of Howdendyke near Goole. This was printed by Delittle Fenwick & Co and has not been posted.

Figure 4

A rare multi-view by the West Park Studio, showing a selection of their images of the village of North Cave, and posted in 1914. All of the images shown were also issued full size with their own serial numbers and sold locally.

Figure 5

Servants can be seen waiting on the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable at a hunt meeting at Welton House, on which the sender notes: ‘this is our house, it is very long, I am standing in the window top left’. It has an unmarked front with ‘C.P. Series – West Park Studio’ printed on the reverse. 

Figure 6

From the supplementary CPX series, a card showing the members of the Ottringham sports committee in all their finest. Ottringham is a small village to the east of Hull, and the card has the serial number CPX 73 on the front, and no other marks.

Figure 7

An exception to the numbering system, being CPA196, and bearing no other marks, although the caption on the back notes that it shows the ‘gunners of the 2nd East Riding of Yorkshire Royal Garrison Artillery volunteers heavy battery on their way to summer camp’. Their destination is unknown although they are shown in Patrington, near the East Yorkshire coast.  

Figure 8

This card is marked ‘The West Park Studio (Hull) Ltd, Hull & Ripon’, confirming that it is a later card, and shows the staff of the Electric Theatre, which opened in Hull in 1909. A cut-out model of Charlie Chaplin is shown in the centre of the group, and this probably dates the card to circa 1915 when his first films were shown.

Figure 9

CP682 showing an old post-mill in the village of Wetwang, some miles north of Hull. The card was posted in 1906 and bears no other marks than the serial number.

Figure 10

The NER railway station at Eastrington, to the west of Hull, posted in 1918 and one of the latest cards I have recorded by the West Park Studio.

Figure 11

CPA204, another exception to the simple numbering system, posted in 1905 and showing the interesting location of Spurn Point at the mouth of the River Humber, with lighthouse, coastguard cottages, explosive battery and even an inn in the distance. 

Figure 12

Possibly the furthest location for a Pinchbeck card from the city of Hull, this card shows troops ‘crossing to the Isle of Man, and is numbered curiously S114, although the reverse bears the familiar C.P. Series, West Park Studio, Hull. 

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