Edward Mudge, an interesting man? – Article

When I first heard of Edward Mudge, he was described as a photographer and wildfowler. People locally who know his name identify it with his iconic photographs. Many were made into postcards and their images decorate scores of local books and websites. It was said he kept a diary of his wildfowling activities in which he inserted illustrations. I must say he intrigued me and I decided to investigate him.

Records show that Edward was born in Southampton in 1881 to a family of tinsmiths. In 1904, he moved across Southampton Water to the Fawley area, in what is now known as the Waterside. He is known to have lived on a house boat in Ashlett Creek from then. There is a photo by him of Ashlett Creek, possibly taken in 1908, not long after he arrived there. The mill building shown still exists, now part occupied by a sailing club.

Nowadays Ashlett Creek is an environmental anomaly; a small muddy creek off Southampton Water. It is sandwiched between the chemical industry of Fawley oil refinery on one side and oil-powered Fawley power station, now closed, on the other side.

Back in the early 20th century it was a reed-filled creek with the tide mill milling corn, and indeed Mudge was known to have a dark room for developing his photographs in the attic of the mill. From this base he must have undertaken his photographic activities, and his wildfowling presumably among the reeds of Ashlett Creek, and elsewhere on Southampton Water.

I arranged some of interviews with people who had an interest in him, and found out no one has ever been close to publishing a history of him. One of the interviews was with Graham Parkes of Waterside Heritage Centre in Hythe, and another with a woman who I was told was Edward’s ‘niece’, which was at least one generation out of step. She turned out fortunately to be his granddaughter and remembered him well.

Ashlett Creek in the early 20th century

I tried to discover what wildfowling he did. Was it merely stalking the ducks, geese and other wildfowl and drawing them, or did he shoot them?

Admittedly somewhat naively, I did not know. Graham Parkes told me the answer. He said loudly, “bang, bang, dead”. Mudge sold the carcasses of the birds for their meat to a game dealer, probably to supplement a rather meagre income from photography.

Wildfowling and photography were the passions of his life. When he wasn’t shooting the fowl, he was to be seen out on his bicycle pedalling through the villages and countryside along Southampton Water. Over the decades he took many thousands of photographs. On the back of his bike he had a wooden box in which he kept his camera and other photographic equipment. Only much later did he have a small car.

Edward served in the Hampshire Regiment in the first World War, and his granddaughter has some photographs he took during the war. Research with the Hampshire Regiment has shown that he did serve as a Private, but no record of where he served. We wondered if he had an official capacity as a photographer, but there is no record of him having such a role.

In 1922 he married and moved to a bungalow he had built in Fawley. He had three sons. In 1936 he moved into a shop and photographic studio in Fawley High Street, which operated until 1955.

Initially at least, two of his sons joined him in the business, but as the years passed they left to pursue other careers. His granddaughter said he became very set in his ways, and somewhat obstinate; an example of which is his insistence on using a glass plate camera to the end of his life, even though the technology had moved on long before. His obstinacy is supposed to have created friction between the sons and their father. Two of the sons joined him in the business, but left after a few years. The story is told that, after his death in 1964, one of the sons buried a large number of his glass plate negatives in the garden! The sons are all dead long ago, and this cannot be confirmed. Certainly no one is aware of the negatives existing today, even though there would have been a large number. The plates are not available but many, many of his prints are.

Of course, we have been talking about his local photographs and postcards. He was also commissioned by individuals and families to take their pictures for their own use: portraits, births, marriages and deaths. These are all naturally in the hands of the families that commissioned them.

What about his wildfowling diaries? His granddaughter has lifted the fog. There are five diaries covering different periods through most of his life, all focussed on his wildfowling, although they naturally mention other aspects of his life too. Two covering the later part of his life are in the granddaughter’s possession, and the earlier three in the possession of another surviving relative. The granddaughter has shown me the two diaries she has, and indeed there are illustrations of the wildfowl, but only a few. They are in pencil or black ink and some of them are very fine. Being in private collections of course means that access to them is not available. But we can work on getting public access, with the owners’ permission.

This is where the investigation has got to. He is surely an interesting man and I feel compelled to find out more about him.

Click here to browse the New Forest Heritage Centre’s collection of Mudge images, purchased thanks to the generous assistance of the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

October 2018

The crash that saved my life!

Paul Simmons had a collection of photographs from his Grandfather’s (Arthur George Simmons) time in the fledgling British Air Force during the First World War. Paul was keen to find a new permanent home for this collection. After considering donating the collection to the IWM or The National Archive or even selling it at auction Paul’s family did a little online searching to try and find a more suitable long term home for the collection.

After searching they discovered one of our articles about the WWI airbase and flying school at East Boldre, then called RAF Beaulieu where Arthur was stationed and training.

Paul got in touch with the New Forest Remembers team to talk about donating the collection. On receiving Paul’s very kind offer the NFR team got in touch with the New Forest Heritage Centre as it was felt that they would be the best long term home for this wonderful collection.

All the photographs have now been digitized and are available to view via this online archive. And we can now bring you Arthur’s story:

 

Arthur George Simmons was born in 1898, aged 19 ‘Simmons A. (4975)’ joined the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in 1917. He was soon posted to RFC (later RAF) Beaulieu, a Training Airfield, at East Boldre, Hampshire. During the first six months of 1918 the flying training for the British pilots at RAF Beaulieu was carried out by three training squadrons, No. 1, 73 and later 29.

The majority of the initial training was conducted using Avro 504 aircraft, with pilots then progressing to fly the more advanced Sopwith Camel fighter. The airspace over East Boldre would have been busy as the American 93rd Aero squadron was also being trained by the RAF at Beaulieu during early 1918.

On 1 April 1918 the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) amalgamated to form a new service the Royal Air Force (RAF).

 

The Collection:

The Arthur Simmons collection comprises of two photograph album, loose paperwork (relating to his training), his book ‘Technical Notes – Royal Flying Corps’, his Aviator’s Certificate and his two medals. The two photo albums date from 1917 to around 1920 and hold some personal family photos as well as images for such places as East Boldre (RAF Beaulieu) airfield, Lymington, the No.1 New Zealand Hospital in Brockenhurst, the aerodrome at West Blatchington and a number of crashed aircraft to name just a few.

 

That crash

Arthur had already survived an earlier crash. But on 13 April 1918 while flying an Avro 504A (A8600) Arthur crashed for the second time. Following this severe crash landing at East Boldre he was discharged. Paul (Arthur’s grandson) recalls his grandfather commenting “That crash saved my life!”

 

Arthur Simmons’ crashed Avro 504 (A8600) bi-plane at RAF Beaulieu (East Boldre). 13 April 1918.

 

The report from the official enquiry of Arthur’s last crash.

Avro 504A, A8600, 13.04.18, Stalled on turn and spun. A/Sgt: A.G. Simmons inj.
Court of Enquiry             22/03/1918                   A/SGT: A.G. Simmons.

The court, having viewed the wreckage and examined the evidence, are of the opinion the Sgt. Simmons the pilot of Avro N0.8600. lost flying speed whilst turning to the left & that owing to lack of height, he was unable to extricate his machine from the resultant spin.

 

RAF Museum Archives – Casualty Card: RAFM 285302

RAFM 285302 Casualty Card (RAF Museum Archives)
Full name Simmons, A.G.
ID OC0241910
Object CC2_21826
Collection Archives
Classification Casualty Record Series
Series Casualty Card Type – Incident
Initials A.G.
First names
Surname Simmons
Service no
Rank Ac Sgt
Organisation Royal Air Force
Prisoner of war No
Casualty date April 13th 1918
Accident
Result of accident Injured
Remarks
Terms of enlistment
Awards
Attached from
Place UK
Death details
Aircraft serial A8600
Engine type Gnome Monosoupape
Manufacturer
War Department

 

Arthur’s aircraft was an Avro 504A, serial No. A8600. It had a Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine. The aircraft was made by A.V. Roe & Co of Manchester during contract 87/A/1213 dated: 24 November 1916

Avro 504A was the first modified variant of the Avro 504 with smaller ailerons and broader struts and a Gnome Monosoupape 7 Type A seven-cylinder rotary engine offering 80 hp (60 kW) of power.

 

The collection is now held and looked after at the: Christopher Tower Reference Library
New Forest Heritage Centre
NFC Ref: E0409

More photographs from this collection will be added over the coming weeks.

You can see them by following this link: Simmons Search

 

Since the Simmons collection went live, we’ve been contacted by descendants of those included in the photos with some of their stories. Here is one of those relating to the photos of the crashed Bi-plane E.2602, 9 June 1919: James Gamble in Arthur Simmons’ Images.

 

 

The Drivers’ Map of the New Forest

Published 1789 by William Faden, Geographer to the King. Surveyed by Thomas Richardson, William King, and Abraham and William Driver.

Scale: three and a half inches to one mile

One of the oldest maps in the Christopher Tower Library collection is known as the Drivers’ map after two of its original four surveyors. It was published in 1789 by William Faden, Geographer to the King, in support of a parliamentary report into the New Forest. At that time the forest was in a desperate condition, pulled apart by powerful conflicting interests. The Lord Warden of the New Forest was appointed to preserve the Forest for the King’s sport but was mainly concerned with dispensing patronage to loyal cronies. The Surveyor General of Woods had responsibility for the development of timber, mainly for the navy, and the generation of revenue for the state. Almost in despair at the contradictions within the management of the Forest, the Report draws the conclusion that no person would manage their own property in such a manner.

Parliament was determined to resolve this problem and commissioned a large scale map to help clarify the exact state of the forest. As well as marking the timber enclosures in the Forest, encroachments on Crown property were shown in red, crown leases in purple and intermediate land holdings in yellow. Such is the attention to detail in this map that even a misplaced boundary stone is recorded. Such is the accuracy that it was used as a base map for most parliamentary reports into the Forest for the following 75 years. Several later copies are also available in the library, showing the rolling program of enclosing and dis-enclosing parcels of woodland over the years.

The Map

Click on a tile to view a larger image. In some browsers a low resolution image may appear. Clicking again on the image will give a clear view of that tile. Each tile corresponds with one of the original 18 linen panels from which the map is constructed.

For a modern audience it is interesting to see the detail of the development of villages such as Burley, Wood Green and East Boldre from their original encroachments. Landmarks such as Puttle’s Bridge and the Naked Man near Wilverly Enclosure are clearly visible. It is also interesting to note that the word Enclosure is spelled on the map in the orthodox way as it is in Johnson’s Dictionary rather than Inclosure as it is written locally.

The Cartouche, the decorative title in the top right corner of the map, offers a summary of the political vision for the Forest’s future, confirming its role to be a place for growing naval timber. Components of the image include:

  • a crown at the top centre of the image
  • two woodsmen with axes
  • the broad arrow on a log in the foreground designating government property
  • a warship under construction
  • a plough and a harrow, the tools for preparing the enclosures for timber growth.

The only reference to the Forest’s previous function as a royal sporting ground is on the mound between the woodsmen and the oak tree. It is an image of the memorial to King William Rufus who died a violent and mysterious death while hunting in the Forest.

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