Charmouth in 1922

Claud Hider was one of a number of photographers who supplemented their livings by producing small quantities of photographic cards of their neighbourhood. During the first three decades of the 20th century there had been a golden age of postcards with many hundreds of millions bought every year and often collected in albums, some of which have survived to this day. Before the telephone, they were used as a way of sending a message, as the postal service was cheap, regular and reliable. Often on the back of a card you would read that someone was inviting a friend for tea the same day and would expect them to receive it in time for them to come. As well as the large firms, such as Tuck, Valentines and Frith, there were smaller publishers who would sell real photographic cards. These had a glossy finish, the photograph having been developed directly onto a piece of card with a postcard back. Many village photographers were able to produce their own postcards. It was their local knowledge that allowed them to capture the kind of scenes that are so eagerly sought after today. Claud Hider was the most prolific of these in the Bridport area. He could produce small quantities, often no more than ten or twenty of each card that would be sold in his shop or other outlets. The location would be handwritten on the negative and thus appear in white on finished card with a reference number. Though only 4inches by 6 inches, when scanned and enlarged their quality is so good that even at poster size they are very sharp.
Hider has provided a unique and comprehensive record of Charmouth almost 100 years ago that I have only now been able to piece together. He had covered most of the village with his camera and there are few areas that he had missed out and even these may still turn up in time. Claude Robert Hider is something of an enigma to collectors of postcards and lovers of local history as thanks to him we have such a marvelous record of Bridport and the villagers around. He is particularly relevant to Charmouth as he seems to have recorded the village from as early as 1922, sometimes returning to the same building or view after many years. He would often photograph a significant event such as the 1926 Landslip, which closed the Lyme Regis to Charmouth Road for which he produced a series of postcards.
He was born in Gravesend in Kent to Robert and Clara Hider in 1888. His father appears as a professional Photographer in Directories of the time, and no doubt Claud learnt his trade from him. Robert Hider had photographic studios at 22 Banks Town in Sheerness and also 183 Parrock`s Street in Gravesend. His 
Cartes de Visite, which were the size of visiting cards showing Victorian sitters in his studios from these times come regularly on to the market and I have shown some below. These were very popular and by the 1860s every small town had its professional photographers and it has been estimated that up to 400 million cartes de visite were produced each year. Topographical views occasionally come to light, and I am fortunate to own some of Charmouth dating back to 1870 produced by William Barrett of Bridport. They provide some of the earliest images of towns and villages in the area.
The 1901 Census shows that the family were living in Chatham in Kent, which would have been near the two studios. By 1911, the next Census shows Claud, aged 23 boarding with Charles Speight, a photographer in Kettering in Northamptonshire and working as a darkroom assistant. Three years later he marries Edith Wilkin in Kettering. Later they have moved back to Kent and their first child is born to them in Maidstone in 1916.They then move on to Bridport in Dorset, where two further children are born in 1922 and 1925. My earliest postcard is dated September 1922 when he teams up with another photographer named Lawrence (H&L) and record Charmouth from Cains Folly, shown below. This must be one of a series as another view of Charmouth shows the former Battery at the bottom of Higher Sea Lane that was demolished in 1922. The following year Claud shows the same view with the newly built Thalatta, where I live, as part of a panoramic view spread over 4 cards. I am also fortunate that at the same time he took a close up of the house, which I treasure. The first directory entry for Claude is in Kelly’s of 1927, He would travel around the area in his Model T Ford open top car, which often appears in his images, photographing all that he felt was saleable and produce small quantities for resale probably through his shop at 42 South Street in Bridport. He had a wonderful eye for taking superb studies of the views, often with people in, which was unusual at the time. The fact that they are real photographs and not printed allows us today to enlarge them and almost relive the village as it was between the wars. He appears to have run his business until at least 1952 and a directory for that year shows him still using the 149 Bridport number. His wife, Edith sadly died in 1948 and Claud is shown as passing on in 1954, aged 65 at Kingston On Thames. He left a magnificent legacy in all the many hundreds of photographic postcards that have survived to reveal a long lost era in our village history.