By Dr Clive Dalton
A wonderful self portrait of W.P. Collier made into a post card. The halfpenny stamp clearly shows it was received at the Post Office at 4.15pm on 1 August, Year ??
Walter Percy Collier was born in Newcastle in 1875, and moved to Liverpool after his father's death in 1891 where he lived with the younger of his two sisters. He then went back to Newcastle to work for the industrial photographer, Harry Ord Thompson. After his wife died in 1910 Walter went to set up a photographic business in Bellingham around 1913, serving the last year of the war in 1914 as an aerial photographer with the Royal Flying Corps.
Postcards were very popular between 1900-1935 as a means of keeping in touch, and then as collectors’ items, and Collier was able to base his business on this, travelling around the county with his large camera on his back, and tripod fastened on the back of his Raleigh motor bike. He had a great interest in the wide open spaces and farms of the North Tyne, Rede valley and the Coquet, all within reach of his shop in Lock-up Lane in Bellingham, which also sold, sweets, chocolate, writing paper, tobacco and cigarettes.
He did some wedding photos and groups, but preferred rural scenes including local people. He took sample photo albums around with him calling in at local shops, and he then delivered orders on his motorbike in all weathers.
Information from Edie Lyons of Bellingham who worked for W.P. Collier in the introduction to ‘Northumbrian Heritage, 1912-1937. The photographs of W.P.Collier of Bellingham. Selected by S.F. Owen’. 1996. Keepdate Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-899506-25-X.
The companion book is ‘North Tyne Traveller, 1912-1937. The photographs of W.P.Collier of Bellingham. Selected by S.F. Owen’. 1998. Keepdate Publishing Ltd. No ISBN number.
The Bellingham Heritage Centre holds the Collier collection of photos and has a permanent display of his work, including a reconstruction of his shop and an exhibition of photographs. Some photos can be accessed via their website www.bellingham-heritage.org.uk.
Collier’s photos can be identified by their clarity, and those printed as postcards usually carried the caption on the bottom in his characteristic backhand hand writing with an identifcation number. His business closed around the start of the 1939 war.