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

Frank Whittington’s Forest Toys

The Forest Toys factory was established in Brockenhurst in 1922 by Francis (Frank) Whittington (1876-1973). Frank Whittington had moved to Brockenhurst at the end of World War I at the recommendation of a friend, due to the beauty of the area. The factory produced hand carved and painted wooden toys of people and animals.

All toys were carved, assembled, and painted by hand by Frank Whittington and his employees, and were made to scale to reflect the true proportions of the people and animals being made, with the typical scale being ¾ inch = 1 foot. They were carved out of pine imported from North America via the Southampton docks which was then transported to the Brockenhurst factory. They were most often made in several pieces which were then glued together and later painted.

The factory’s exhibit in a British Industries Fair caused a boost to business due to the toys catching the attention of Queen Mary and the Prince of Wales, who were in attendance. Queen Mary ordered two dozen of the Noah’s Ark set at the fair, news of which made its way into several newspapers, including the Evening Standard and the Evening News. The toys grew in popularity locally, nationally, and internationally with the factory receiving visitors from all over the world.

Frank Whittington at work in his Brockenhurst factory
Frank Whittington at work in his Brockenhurst Factory

Most of the toys were mass produced, however many people commissioned Whittington to make specific or personal carvings of, for example, pets, which were often made slightly larger than the mass-produced animals to allow for more detail. Each one would be carved using a photo reference, and particular attention was given to the details in order to produce a carving that was unique and looked like the person or animal in question.

While carvings of animals were immensely popular, carvings of people of varying professions were also produced, such as athletes, stagecoach drivers, and farm workers. Popular sets included The Meet and The Hunt, which depicted a group of riders with their horses, hunting dogs, and foxes, preparing for and going on a fox hunt, and Noah’s Ark, which consisted of a wooden Ark, Noah, and two of several species of animal. Attention was given to ensuring that the male and female of each species had their distinct characteristics, such as male lions with their mane, and female lions without a mane, while being slightly smaller than the males.

Dogs were a very popular choice, and at its peak the factory made upwards of 60 different breeds. They were both mass-produced and special ordered in order to resemble specific pets. Special attention was made in regard to the ear position, proportion, and colouring of each of the different breeds in order to ensure that the toys were realistic and of high quality.

The Forest Toys factory shutdown at the beginning of World War II due to the war causing a scarcity of resources required to produce the toys, as the wood used was imported from North America, as well as due to many of the factory’s workers being drafted.

The Forest Toys factory, Burley Road, Brockenhurst c. 1989
The Forest Toys factory, Burley Road, Brockenhurst c. 1989

Find more information at: https://nfknowledge.org/people/whittington-frank/

 

Gent, Janet (2017) The Forest Toys of Brockenhurst. Highwood Press.

Class number: N.750 BRO

Shelf mark: FF11/35.5

 

O’Donald Mays, James (ed.) (1989) The New Forest Book. New Forest Leaves.

Class number: N.100 MAY

Shelf mark: FF11/12.5

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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