Last of the Yarmouth beach photographers

WITH regard to the letter from David Girdler about the photograph of a family on the beach in an old car (September 28). I have recently been researching commercial seaside photographers especially those that operated in the Great Yarmouth area.

Little Bill certainly is not trading now, but an old postcard in my collection does have contact information giving an address of 4 South Market Road and an outdoor studio location of “South side of Britannia Pier on beach.” The photograph you have published, from the direction of the shadows, indicates it was taken in this location near the Britannia Pier.

The car seems to be made from real car parts and may not be a mock-up. Little Bill’s pitch may have had other comic props such as a motorcycle and sidecar and painted head-through cartoons that holidaymakers could be photographed with.

The picture shows a hut with Little Bill’s name on it and I assume the processing of photographs took place inside and results be available later that day or following day.

I do not know who Little Bill was, but I know beach photography in Yarmouth in this comic style was undertaken by the Hollowell/Johnson family and the Fiddy family. The 1911 census has an entry for a William Fiddy, age 38, occupation “photographer” living with his wife and family at 8 Laughing Image Corner. William Fiddy could be Little Bill but this is pure conjecture. I wonder if a Mercury reader can confirm this?


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The use of postcard size prints by photographers became popular from around 1900. These were usually laid out for postal use.

I imagine David Girdler’s photograph was taken between WW1 and WW2. I do not know what would have been paid for the photograph but I know that before WW2 Cine Snaps took their very popular three in a strip walking photographs in Yarmouth and charged one shilling (5p) for the strip.

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I believe the last Yarmouth beach photographer was Samuel Hollowell who retired in 1965 and was the subject of an article in the Mercury about his retirement. I have a copy of the 1965 photograph taken by Mercury staff photographer Leslie Gould. This shows Sam Hollowell with a large mahogany and brass camera probably made by the Thornton Pickard Co.

I attach a scan. I hope David Girdler’s letter will stimulate loads of discussion on the pages of the Mercury and that someone will tell us who Little Bill was.

PAUL GODFREY

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