As is so often the case, this article was triggered by the purchase of a postcard – in fact, the one you see below.  The connection here is that the card was published by the aforementioned lady although, sadly, there is no date on it.

The first port of call I made was to a website,, which gave me the following potted history, and I quote:

‘Proprietor of the Selsey Drapery Stores, High Street, Selsey, established in 1895 and still in business in the late 1920s. In addition to selling drapery, the industrious Mrs Gardner was a stationer, newsagent, fancy goods dealer, and proprietor of a lending library! She retired in the 1930s.

An anonymous publisher, perhaps Gardner herself, issued a collotype card of Selsey High Street with her corner shop in the foreground. Postcards are prominently displayed in the windows. In a 1912 advertisement, reproduced by Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith in their book Branch line to Selsey (1983, Middleton Press, Midhurst), she claimed to offer “the largest assortment of local view post cards in the district” and promised “any view taken at the shortest notice”.

Gardner’s name first appears on a set of black and white collotype cards of Selsey with wide white borders. The backs are mostly printed in green, more rarely red. Postmarks suggest that the cards first appeared in 1903 and by the following year had achieved good sales. W. H. Barrett of Chichester issued a set of Selsey cards of very similar design. He was a wholesale stationer, and it is possible that he placed two orders for cards with the same supplier, one for himself and another to send on to Mrs Gardner. Over the following years, Mrs Gardner sold many other sets of cards of Selsey seemingly independently of Barrett. Some were black and white collotypes with red captions at the base of the pictures (these were on sale by 1905), others were coloured cards, such as “E.Gardner’s Copyright Series”, produced by a combination of collotype and half tone printing. Mrs Gardner’s name also appears on some Valentines cards and even on some aerial views of Selsey published by Aerofilms in about 1929.

The variety of cards that Mrs Gardner sold with her name printed on the back and the fact that she was able to take views to order implies that she was no ordinary retailer. It is likely that she actively commissioned cards from some of her suppliers, and was the source of at least some of the photographs. There is thus good reason for regarding her as a genuine publisher.’

I have tried several times, unsuccessfully, to contact the owner of the website, Rendel Williams, but hope he will forgive me and be pleased I have shared the information with you all, particularly the fellow enthusiasts who collect Selsey postcards.

Not only did Mrs Gardner publish postcards but she also appears to have published booklets, specifically Edward Heron-Allen’s notes for two lectures which were delivered in London on 17 January and Chichester on 4 February 1911 entitled ‘Nature and History at Selsey Bill’, which must surely have been an advert for Selsey Bill 1911.  Mrs Gardner’s name appeared on the front cover and again on the inside cover and it was priced at One Shilling.  It even ran to a second, revised edition which included a map.

On 24 February 1911 Elizabeth Gardner wrote to Edward Heron-Allen as follows:

‘Dear Mr Heron Allen

Thanks for note received this morning.  I should think the book will sell very well.  As you know I shall do my best to push them.  I should like them by Easter if possible.

Kind Regards

Faithfully yours

E Gardner’

Image courtesy of WSRO

A further missive followed on 17 March 1911:

‘Dear Mr Heron Allen

In reply to your note of today I cannot say how many books I am likely to sell at present, they are going very well so far sold about twenty six copies as yet.  I think it is very good (don’t you).  They will (be) sure to take as the season advances.

We are having some dreadfully cold weather this week, colder than at Xmas.

Kind Regards

Yours very truly

Elizabeth Gardner’

Elizabeth Gardner was born Elizabeth Mullin, daughter of Richard and Ann, in 1861 in Bristol and appeared in the 1861 census aged just 4 months with an assortment of siblings including Lucy, who was 5 years old.  This will become important later in the story.  The family lived at 5 Pile Street, Redcliff, Bristol and Richard was a nailmaker. 

They were still there in 1871, Elizabeth was 10 years old and a scholar while Lucy was 15 and a pupil teacher.

1881 seems to have been a difficult year for census returns but in 1891 Elizabeth re-surfaced at 3 Culling Road, Rotherhithe at the home of William Evershed Gardner and his wife Lucy.  She is described as sister-in-law although whether she was visiting or lodging there we cannot tell.  Lucy, of course, was her sister.  William was brother of Edward Picton Gardner.  Elizabeth was a Draper’s Assistant.

Edward was born on 11 January 1862 in Bermondsey and baptised on 21 April 1889 at the Seaman’s Church in Calcutta.  He is described as AB (Seaman).   However, I can find no further records of this Naval Service.

On 10 February 1888 he was admitted into the Freedom of the City of London by the Company of Fishmongers.  This was something of a family tradition as his own father was admitted on 14 February 1845 as were brothers William, John, Arthur and Robert.

Edward and Elizabeth married on 20 December 1891 at Eastville, St Thomas, Gloucestershire and on 14 April 1894, in Selsey, Edward Robert was born.  Rendel Williams tells us that Mrs Gardner opened her shop in 1895 and in 1895 she appeared in Kelly’s Directory.  Having said that, however, there is also a Chichester Guide of 1921 which states that she was established in 1893.  She describes her shop as ‘fancy repository, stationer, newsagent and confectioner’ in the High Street (where a clothes shop is today, 2019). 

Edward Picton died on 10 September 1898 aged 36.  In 1901 Elizabeth and Edward Rupert lived ‘over the shop’ as the census showed that she was an employer ‘at home’.  With them also lived Dorothy Gardner who was a niece and Caroline Homer was a servant aged 14.

In 1911 Elizabeth lived with Edward Rupert and Violet Victoria Perry was the servant.  We know that the 1911 census was usually completed by the occupier of the house and the handwriting is very neat.  We also discover that they had 8 rooms.

The card is postmarked  1910 and is one of Elizabeth’s own ‘Copyright’ series.

The picture quite clearly shows the ‘drapery’ hanging in the side window.  It looks like vests and drawers to me. 

From the outset, Elizabeth was a prolific advertiser and appeared in the Selsey Parish Magazine as well as Chichester Town Guides of 1911 and 1921.

Taken from the Chichester Town Guide of 1921 and published with the kind permission of Chichester Town Council. The advertisement is almost identical with the 1911 version except that it contains the date of establishment.  The images and wording is the same.  Quite clearly a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

And here’s another advert from the Parish Magazine of uncertain date.

The following photograph purports to be circa 1912 and Rupert Gardner is thought to be standing next to Dr Barford, second from the right in the back row.  

On 5 March 1915, Rupert (as he was called by those who knew him) enlisted with the London Regiment.  He was 5 ft 9¾  inches tall, weighed 158 lbs (ca.10 ½ stone) and had a 37½  inch chest measurement with an expansion of 3½  inches.  His physical development was deemed to be good.  He was with the Royal Army Service Corps, 245th company Mechanical Transport, Reg. number 052508.  He was 20 years old and he described himself as a Master Draper.  From 6 April 1915 he served in Egypt (I wonder if he knew my maternal grandfather?) and after the conclusion of WW1 he received the British War and Victory Medals along with the 1915 Star.

On 27 September 1917 it was Edward Rupert’s turn to be admitted to the Freedom of the City of London and the said Company of Fishmongers.  One day, I must really try to trace where the Fishmongers enter the family!

At the beginning of 1918, Edward Rupert married Winnifred Gladys Docker, born  26 July 1896,  in Lewisham, Kent.  She was the daughter of John William Docker (who is variously described as a Licensed Victualler or a Turf Accountant).

This card is dated 1919 and here we can see a window full of hats!

From later documentation we can establish that Rupert went to Halifax in Canada on the SS Baltic, arriving there on 9 November 1919.   The 1921 Canadian Census shows he lodged at 179 Smith Street, Winnipeg, the home of William J Grant, with his wife and he worked as a Mechanic.  Presumably his Army service came in handy.  His income was $1000 although there is no clue as to whether this was per annum or not.  While they were there, son John Edward Gardner was born and was 2 years old at the time of the census.

The Gardner family left Canada 20th June 1921, citing ‘business reasons’ for the departure.  Rupert’s agent during this trip was Sgt. Major Bicknell, Strathcona Horse Barracks, Toronto.  They are recorded as crossing from Canada to the United States of America (New York City) to embark on the SS Berengaria, a ship of the Cunard Line and return to England.

On 21 March 1924 Rupert left England again, departing from Liverpool and arriving in St John, New Brunswick, Canada aboard the Montcalm, a ship of the Canadian Pacific Steamship Line.  He was 29 years old and Freddie Phipps, who was possibly his sponsor, was recorded as being in High Street, Selsey.  Rupert stated his intention to become a farmer despite the fact that he recorded his occupation in England as ‘contractor’.  With him he took 21 year old Ronald Smith who also stated his intention of being a farmer.   They arrived on 29 March 1924.  There is no sign of Winnifred or John Edward.

Here’s another football photograph dated around 1928/9 with Rupert Gardner wearing the goalie’s sweater in the back row.  Can anyone confirm or refute this identification of him?

We can track Elizabeth in Selsey until Kelly’s Directory of 1931, still steadfastly running the shop despite her son’s wanderings.  By 1933, Frank W Nottage was in charge of The Drapery & Stationery Stores.  And William E Gardner lived in ‘Tedfold’ in East Street.  Was this Elizabeth’s brother-in-law?

Ca. 1939 we can see that Geo. B Smith was now the newsagent.  I can’t make up my mind whether the things with spindly legs are ironing boards or deck chairs! 

Rupert’s marriage with Winnifred was over and in Bournemouth in 1944 he married Doris Matthews, nee Troke who had two sons of her own.    

On 19 August 1948, Rupert (aged 54), his wife Doris (aged 38), step-sons John Michael and Alan Fredric Matthews , their own two sons Denby Richard (aged 6) and Graham Edward Gardner (aged 1) embarked on the Strathaird of the P & O Steamship Line bound for Sydney, Australia, travelling first class.   Rupert was still declaring himself to be a farmer.  With them was Elizabeth Gardner, now an 87-year-old lady.  They had been living at 189 Burgess Road, Bassett, Southampton.

The family history recorded on the website of theAustralian National Maritime Museum, Feemantle informs us that Rupert et al settled in Perth, Western Australia.  His original occupation was Master Draper while his occupation in Australia was Publican.

Initially the family was housed in Graylands Migrant Hostel and subsequently lived in wheat belt towns and the Metro area.

Elizabeth Gardner of 349 Marmion Street, North Cottesloe, Western Australia died, aged 91, on 11 September 1951 at Claremont, WA.  Edward Rupert was granted probate and his occupation was that of Storeman.  This is interesting because the address given on the ship’s manifest indicated that they had contact with Cottesloe Store, Cottesloe before their arrival.

While researching Cottesloe to see if I could find any pictures I came across this snippet of information!

‘In 1911 Mr Claude de Bernales purchased Judge Pennefather’s property and renamed it Overton Lodge. Mr de Bernales transformed the Lodge into a Spanish style mansion that has become the principal building of Cottesloe – better known nowadays as the Cottesloe Civic Centre.’

‘Mr de Bernales was forced to dispose of his assets following the collapse of his companies in 1949 and the Municipality of Cottesloe purchased Overton Lodge in 1950.  After some structural alterations, it was renamed the Cottesloe Memorial Town Hall and Civic Centre and officially opened by WA’s Governor, Sir James Mitchell on 30 September 1950.’

This name will, of course, be familiar to our older Selsey residents.  But that’s quite another story.

Edward died aged 86 in 1980.  As at 2004, Graham lives in Port Hedland, Denby in Perth and John and Alan are in Esperance. 

©Ruth C Mariner