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Warner Gothard History

Warner Gothard was born in Littleport, Isle of Ely, Cambridgeshire in 1835. He was one of five children, William, born 1830, James, born 1831, Charlotte born 1844 and Ann born 1849. After studying photography he started his photographic business in Great Grimsby with his older brother William in 1852. In 1866 Warner Gothard moved the business to Wakefield after the birth of their second child and traded from King Street. According to the Kelly's Directory of 1881 he was listed as a photographer now trading at Wood Street, Wakefield.

Warner Married Annie Howlett and they had 12 known children according to census data naming his first son after himself.

Thirza Born 1864 in Grimsby - Died 1866 Grimsby
Warner Jr Born 1865 in Grimsby - Died 1940 in Barnsley
Ruth Born 1867 in Wakefield - Emigrated to Canada
Joseph Born 1869 in Wakefield - Died 1921 in Leeds
Lily Born 1871 in Wakefield - Died 1930 on the Isle of Man
Annie Born 1873 in Wakefield - Died 1957 on the Isle of Man
Bertha Born 1874 in Wakefield - Died 1874 in Wakefield
Arthur Frederick Born 1876 in Wakefield - Died 1948 in Barnsley
Flora Born 1878 in Wakefield -Emigrated to Canada
Edith Born 1880 in Wakefield - Died 1927 in Hemsworth District
Ethel Born 1882 in Wakefield - Emigrated to Canada
Ernest Henry Born 1885 in Wakefield - Died 1955 in Barnsley

Portrait photograph of Warner Gothard Jnr who was responsible with the assistance of his brothers for the famous montage postcards depicting events and disasters from 1905 - 1916.

Warner Jnr never married and lived over the studio moving to better accommodation as his income increased. He ceased trading at 6 Eldon Street, Barnsley in 1924.

In 1893 he moved his business to Barnsley but according to the 1901 census Warner Gothard was also trading at 166 Yorkshire Street, Rochdale where he lived with his wife Annie and children Arthur Frederick, Ernest and Ethel. A studio at John Street, Rochdale is also mentioned on the reverse of a CDV. His name is also associated with No 50 Clarke Street, Rochdale which is just an ordinary terrace house. More research and information is needed on the Rochdale connection.

The main studio was at 6 Eldon Street, Barnsley with the works being at 3,5 and 7 Wesley Street, Barnsley. Business grew rapidly and more photographic studios opened at: 11 Park Row, Leeds - Victoria Chambers, Westgate, Dewsbury and 21 Bull Green, Halifax. Warner Gothard must have been an accomplished photographer because part of his impressive portfolio included the Royal Family. Warner Gothard continued the business expansion with the help and support of his four sons. It is also noted that Warner Jr's daughter Ethel who was born in 1884 was skilled as a photographic re-toucher. The famous montage postcards were actually accredited to his sons though it could also be possible Warner Jr's daughter also played a part in their design and development.

One of his sons Joseph had previously been trading as a photographer in his own right from 45 Plumstead Road, Woolwich, London from 1899 to 1904. He returned back to the family business after his fathers retirement in 1902 and he was able to put into practice some useful knowledge and photographic techniques he mastered in London. The first montage postcard was produced in 1905 recording the railway accident at Cudworth. This early example was a little crude and basic compared to the later more artistic styles and could be compared more to a multi-view postcard. But this was only a starting point of what was to become a series of pioneering montage postcards that captures the imagination even to this day.

Their natural artistic talents allowed them to experiment more and more until they fine-tuned a design technique that could be utilized to cover any event from Royal Visits to major mining, railway and shipping disasters.

The early montage postcards all circulated around the local Barnsley area but when an incident they wanted to cover happened hundreds of miles away they had to use agents or local photographers to do the initial work for them because time was such an important factor. They had to compile all the information and publish the postcards while the event was still fresh in the minds of the buying public.

The image here shows the Warner Gothard Photographic Team with Warner sitting in the middle and possibly his brother Frederick standing immediately behind him with the moustache. Warner's daughter Ethel, a photographic re-toucher would probably be on this image but we are not sure which one. Other family members could also be on this image though need to be identified.

It is not known the reason for the large time gaps in the montage series production. 1908 and 1909 were the peak years of production with only one event produced in 1910 and then a long wait for the next one in 1912. Due to the work involved and overheads to cover they had to charge a premium for their postcards to return a profit so they were more expensive for the retailers and public to buy. Many of the montage postcards remained unposted possibly because of their cost and were just purchased as souvenirs of historic events and were never destined to enter the postal system. Their decline is certainly a mystery and maybe covering national events was just not financially viable anymore which could be the reason for later postcards being more local to the area. It is also noted that many of the later events were covered with just one postcard which may back-up the financial theory.

Warner Gothard died on the 10th July 1909 though the sons continued with production until the last known montage postcard was produced in 1916. Warner Gothard Jnr ceased trading at 6 Eldon Street, Barnsley in 1924. He never married and seemed to have good business sense because he purchased significant amounts of land in the Barnsley and Wakefield areas. He purchased Seckar Wood near Wakefield from A.V. Eyre who was a colliery manager. His plan was to build a house next to it, however this never happened except for a summerhouse and ornamental pond. The ruins still remain of this venture.

Warner Gothard Jnr was a very generous person and donated land he owned at Moorthorpe near Wakefield to the local authority and in his will he left Seckar Wood to the councils of Wakefield and Barnsley for the use of the general public.

Any further information on Warner Gothard history would be very much appreciated.

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Ken Keen, Brian Lund and Peter Curle for their assistance in compiling this information.

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