In 1900 a block of houses had been built in Vicarage Road, Lye, next to the church schools - Infants, Boys and Girls. My parents and four sisters moved into one of these from further up the same street. There were eight in the block each with its own entrance and separated by a wall running upward for the length of the garden; and each with their own privvy at the top with a two seater bench inside.
I was born on the 18th of September in the year of 1904, the last of our family for my mother was by then thirty eight years of age and my father was forty two. He had started out in his early life as a clay miner as I gathered from some of his recollections but he had for some time attended the School of Art which used to be held in the old music rooms at Stourbridge in his early years, and he was on friendly terms with another his age named Frank Short who later became the famous engraver and Royal Academician. Dad's uncle, Henry Pardoe, who lived in one of the three old cottages in the High Street opposite the Parish church, had a camera of some kind which gave my father his first insight into photography. Uncle Henry was always "messing and bodging" about with his camera taking pictures and making his own wooden "dark slides" etc. Father did the same and from about 1880 could "take pictures himself" and must have augmented his meagre earnings in this way.
|It was undoubtedly a hard life with four small children to provide for (I was not then born) but by the time he moved into No.6 Vicarage Road he was able to build a small studio with a few pounds left to him by Uncle Henry. He had given up his clay mining, much to the dismay of all the family's relatives who said he would not have a "Saturday Night" again giving up his job for that "sauny trade". Mother was wont to reassure them that every night was a Saturday night for her.||
6 Vicarage Road, Lye in 2008
|As far as memory serves me his studio was a shed about twelve feet wide and twenty feet long with a lot of windows on one side, oil cloth on the floor and a small darkroom opening out at the back. Dad was a dab hand at painting backgrounds which were all the rage in Victorian times with columns and balustrades rising into a kind of scenic picture and there were always two or three around. Outside, at the back of the darkroom, was a table which on dry days would hold about twenty frames.||Postcards and halfplate and most photographs in those early days were printed out in the daylight on paper known as P.O.P. which was afterwards toned with a gold solution, giving the photograph a pleasing purple-black colour. Most of the work consisted of either Carte de Visite types or halfplate mounted on a card with an elaborate border and name and address on the back. This was his staple work although later, as he progressed, he would go out with a large 12x10 camera and cover a wedding or a bowling club group (of which there were several around) which was a more lucrative job.|
|Bill in his father's studio about 1910 showing a typical painted background.|
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