The wealth of excellent early 20th century photographs of Hungerford is largely down to the skills of one man - the local photographer Albert Parsons.
Albert Parsons was born in Bayswater, London in 1879. His father, John was a master grocer who came from Slapton, Northamptonshire and he had married Rebecca Jane Smith in 1871 in South London. In 1881, the Parsons family lived at 68 Moscow Road in Paddington, West London.
Albert had four brothers and three sisters: George, b 1872; William, b 1875; Frederick, b 1877; Ernest James, b 1880; Annie, b 1881; Ella Georgina, b 1882; Mabel, b 1886 and Ethel Lyne, b 1888.
In 1901, when Albert turned 21, his parents had moved to Lady Bay Avenue, West Bridgford, a few miles south of Nottingham, where Albert worked as a photographic assistant. Perhaps Albert had already served some sort of apprenticeship or training in photography.
In 1903, Albert married Elsie Lavinia Willis in Pewsey where they had three children, George Albert b 1904; Lavinia, b 1909 and Kathleen, b 1910. Their next child, Clara, was born in Hungerford in 1915, so it’s likely that the family moved to Hungerford between 1909 and 1915. However, he was taking photographs in the area whilst living in Pewsey, some years prior to his arrival in Hungerford.
During WW1, when he was enlisted into the armed services, he joined the Royal Flying Corps and his photographic talents were used as an aerial photographer.
After the war, photography businesses in general took a downturn and Albert started up his own taxi business which seems quite fitting as he was one of the first people to own a motorcar in Hungerford around the start of WW1.
Albert’s cremation took place in Reading on 28 Nov 1956 and his ashes were interred at St. Saviour’s churchyard, possibly at the grave of his son George Albert who tragically drowned in the local canal aged 12 years on 14 Jul 1916, whilst the family was living in Bridge Street.
Four years later, his wife Elsie Lavinia also died aged 77, whilst living at the same address. Like Albert, she was cremated in Reading and her ashes were interred in St. Saviour’s on 13 Dec 1960.
(With thanks to Dr Jimmy Whittaker for this information, Jan 2018).
In Church Street, c1902-c1910:
Albert Parsons came to work in Hungerford c1902, although he was still living in Pewsey.
Initially, he was unable to find ideal premises for a photographic studio, so he and his wife made their first home in Church Street, and built a studio in the garden.
He was still based in Church Street in Jun 1910 (the back of the postcards taken during the Funeral of Freddie Pratt, Jun 1910 give the Church Street address].
At 1 Bridge Street, c1910-c1916:
Within a few years, however, he was able to move to a prime site at 1 Bridge Street, next to the Hungerford Printing Works.
He had a keen interest in flying, and this explains the large number of photographs of aircraft landing on Hungerford Common in the years leading up to the First World War.
His 12-year-old son George sadly drowned in Hungerford Lock in July 1916 (and is buried in St Saviour's churchyard). After this tragic event the family felt they had to move from 1 Bridge Street.
At 30 High Street, c1916-1956:
Around 1916-17 the family moved to 30 High Street (now Barclays Bank), premises previously owned by William Mapson, a watch-maker and photographer who had worked there since 1891. This was effectively a swap - as Mapson moved down to 1 Bridge Street.
Albert Parsons joined the Royal Flying Corps 31 July 1917 as a photographer (with the rank of Air Mechanic 2).
The RFC became the RAF on 1 Apr 1918, where Albert Parsons rank was Air Mechanic 3rd Class (with a 2nd Rank of Photographer). His Service Number was 90300. It appears he served in the RAF for the remainder of the war. See Albert Parsons War Record.
On his return to Hungerford, Albert Parsons expanded his High Street business to include car hire. The photograph of the upper High Street shows his Rover car standing outside his shop and studio.
When Albert Parsons died aged 77 years in 1956, the business closed, and the property was used as the Gateway Café (run by Miss Catherine Rose) until being redeveloped by Barclays Bank, which opened in 1967.
The quality of Albert Parsons' photographic work was second to none, and his output was prolific, as can be seen from the many examples in the Virtual Museum.
- Albert Parsons, in his RFC uniform, c1917
- Albert Parsons at the wheel of his Rover car, c1914. In 1991 the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu identified this as a Rover 6hp. In 2011, Mike Evans, Vintage Registrar of the Rover Sports Register kindly contacted to correctly identify it as a 1907 Rover 8hp. It had dark green paintwork, with dark red upholstery, and was capable of speeds of up to 50mph! The vehicle was fitted with two brake pedals, whilst the speed was controlled by hand rather than foot pedal. The registration DU 1375 was a Coventry registration (where Rovers were first made).
- Brochure for the Rover 8hp, 1907. Kindly sent by Mike Evans
- Albert Parsons' Photographic Studio, 1 Bridge Street, c1914.
- Unknown Red Cross cadet, undated, c1914-18 (Albert Parsons).
- Albert Parsons standing outside his Photographic Studio, 1 Bridge Street, c1916.
- Albert Parsons' son George who drowned in Hungerford lock Jul 1916
- Upper High Street showing Parsons studio and shop (30 High Street) on the right, c1918.