Charles Edwards - a Fishguard photographer
Charles Edwards could be described as an early pioneer of photography – not perhaps on a national scale but certainly one of the first to record people and events in and around Fishguard. Not only did he operate portrait studios but he also took landscape photographs and even produced postcards for sale.
He was born in Wolfscastle to a labouring father (and a labouring mother too – he was one of thirteen children!!!). With so many mouths to feed, the children were all put out to work at local farms and houses. By the time he was 11, Charles was employed as a servant at Treffgarne Hall.
Coming from the background that he had, quite how he had the opportunity to train as a photographer is not known nor indeed with whom he learned his skills, as despite best efforts he has not been traced on the 1881 census. In 1881 he would have been 21 years old and presumably working as a photographer’s assistant or perhaps even as a photographer.
At that time there were two other photographers in the area but both seem to be fairly small scale in that they do not appear to have had a permanent studio. One gentleman was William Oulson, a Norwegian living in Tower Hill, Fishguard who was described as a travelling photographer. The other was Henry Jackson of West Street. It is possible that Charles Edwards did his apprenticeship with one of these gentleman.
In 1887 he married Mary A Bowen, the daughter of Levi Bowen who was a clog maker in Fishguard. In 1891 he and his wife together with two of his siblings were living with his father in law, Levi Bowen in Mount Pleasant, High Street. It is here that he established his first studio.
An advertisement in the County Echo in August 1895 recorded that he also had a studio in Newport.
Mr Charles Edwards, Photographer, Fishguard visits Newport every Friday. His studio is at the entrance to Parrog Road
In 1907 he expanded his business by opening a purpose built studio in West Street (see Charles Edwards Studio) and then in 1910 a further studio in Quay Road, Goodwick.
Charles and his wife Mary had two daughters but sadly one died at the age of 7 weeks. His surviving daughter Lilian went on to assist in her father’s business as in 1911 she is also described as a photographer. Charles Edwards played a very active in the community as not only was he a founder member of Bethel English Baptist Church but he was also a Urban District Councillor and an accomplished competitor in many of the local Eisteddfodau. A remarkable achievement for one from such humble beginnings.
Charles Edwards died in 1931 aged 71 years. His widow Mary left Fishguard to live with her daughter Lilian who by this time was married and living in Buckinghamshire. Lilian had married into the Gomme family who had a furniture manufacturing business. Her son Edwin, (grandson of Charles Edwards ) went on to design a very famous style of furniture still familiar to most of us today – G Plan (taken from the surname Gomme)
You might wonder how Lilian came to meet up with her prospective husband who lived in High Wycombe but a look at the census records reveals that Edward Gomme was a travelling furniture salesman for his father’s company. Now it may be putting two and two together and making five but perhaps Edward Gomme came to Fishguard to promote his father’s furniture and met up with young Miss Edwards – certainly in later years A & E Nichols sold G Plan furniture so its not an unreasonable guess that they had dealt with Gomme Furnishers for many years!!