Friday 29 November 1985

An Old Postcard Album Of Warminster


Last May I announced in the ‘Wylye Valley Life’ my plans to publish an album of old picture postcards of Warminster and the surrounding district, with a view to donating the proceeds from the sale of such a book to local charities and community projects. My initial thought was that this would be an excellent way of producing a keepsake of Warminster for residents and visitors alike and in so doing raise funds for several good causes in the community. In short, something about Warminster, for the people of Warminster, with the proceeds being returned to Warminster. However, I did think at the time I would be lucky if I received, in quick response, the hundred cards I needed for the project in answer to my plea to readers of the magazine to loan me their treasured cards so that I could make a copy of each for inclusion in an album. How wrong could I have been? The response to the idea was rather overwhelming in several ways. Within four days of making the suggestion public I was shown over three hundred old postcards, a total that increased to over four hundred by the time I had commenced researching and writing the captions to accompany each picture. Not only did so many cards come my way so quickly but the generosity and trustworthiness of those who loaned them was encouraging and certainly restored my faith in human nature. Whole albums and collections, as well as individual cards were left without receipt at my office usually with “Keep them as long as you like” or “Use whatever ones you want” uttered by their owners as they left me to get on with selecting what I thought was useable material. Surprising really when you consider that some of these avid collectors had spent years gathering their collections and had paid up to £8 each for some of the cards.

Having so many cards meant that I had in fact enough material for not one but four albums, which called for a few decisions to be made. A large number of old photographs have also come my way and although I was tempted to include some of these too, I decided to stick to my original aim and to make this album, and others to follow, postcards only. No doubt the photographs will appear in some other form at a later date. It would be foolish to release four albums all at once from a sales point of view and the production costs of so much at one time would be crippling to my limited resources. Not only that, the time it would take to research over four hundred cards in one go, would make it an almost endless task. The number of cards also meant that I was spoilt for choice when it came to selecting what to use and what to discard. Knowing that there were enough to fill three other albums at later dates I had to choose a varied selection and not just the best of the bunch for this first album. I’m sure someone somewhere will say “Oh you never included so and so” or “Why didn’t you include my favourite part of the town?”. I can only answer this by saying every card I have received will hopefully be appearing in the future in other albums to come, so maybe your particular street or favourite place, relation or maybe yourself if you were depicted on an old postcard will be published in due course.

The cards I have received include Warminster and the surrounding villages and date between 1895 and 1945. I have included in this, the first album, cards of Warminster only, as a start to the series. I have enough cards at the moment for a second volume of Warminster and two volumes of surrounding villages as ’out of town’ companions to the series. Publishing these over say the next couple of years will allow me to do the best with the cards and writing the captions to go with them and will be a little easier on the purses of those who wish to purchase a complete set. Not only will these albums record for posterity how the area around our homes looked in days gone by and what our ancestors did (as well as some of us when we were younger) but they will serve as a useful guide to collectors of what has been documented in this way.

Having chosen a hundred cards for this album I was faced with what seemed at first a daunting task, writing the captions to accompany each card. I say daunting because most of the cards had nothing written upon them, particularly those that portrayed people and sometimes the only clue to a possible date was a postmark. It is interesting to note that some of the cards were originally posted to places as far away as India and Australia and are now back in the safe hands of local people. What began as an uphill climb soon became something else - a labour of love - and I have gained a great feeling of personal satisfaction researching and recording the events and times of Warminster’s history during the first half of this century. I have spent several hours looking through old newspapers and documents, and even more hours being side-tracked by these to other interesting things. I have also spent several afternoons and evenings calling on many of the town’s senior citizens who were more than pleased to tell me about the good old days. Their enthusiasm for this album spurred me on no end and I have met some wonderful people and made a few more friends along the way. Needless to say I gathered more information than I needed for this particular book and I hope to publish these extra memories in another form in the near future. Hopefully the sales of this book will raise as much money as possible for several good causes in and around Warminster. As yet the eventual beneficiaries are undecided until I have the final total in the kitty for sharing out but will be announced in the ’Wylye Valley Life’ in due course.

I have arranged the cards in this album in a near continuous walk around the town, starting at Coldharbour which is believed to be the oldest part of the Warminster and ending at Boreham on the other side of the town. Where our travels will take us and who we shall see on the route as we turn these pages has largely been dictated by what the early photographers captured on film in days gone by and what survives thanks to the collectors and those who love our town enough to keep such things. I hope that you will find the text interesting; in some cases I could have written reams and reams but owing to space I have had to edit my notes to fit everything in. However, it would be pleasing to think that the captions are enough to whet your appetite to discover for yourself a little more of the history of our delightful town. Perhaps too, this album will prompt a few more of you to hunt out your old postcards for inclusion in future volumes. I hope so.

Danny Howell, November 1985.