Chambers, Weymouth

Chambers Weymouth walking pictures.jpg

Chambers are poorly documented. This walking picture business was operating during the 1920s and 1930s judging by surviving examples. All their cards are postcard size, and of good quality, and they were taken on Thornton Pickard Ruby Reflex cameras using glass then later paper negatives. One of the cameramen was famous for his use of his bowler hat as a shutter, counting the exposure seconds by waving it in the air before covering the lens.

The firm was run by John Chambers and later his son became involved. It is thought that John started out as an engineer at Whiteheads Torpedo Works as an engineer. They snapped people on their own, as couple or in groups. Their postcards carry either the wording Chambers Kiosk Weymouth, or Chambers Esplanade Weymouth on the back.  The Esplanade is a lengthy stretch of the seafront so this doesn’t help us too much! However many of the walkies show the large towers of the Royal Hotel in the near background (seen in the street view below), which suggests they were based close by. There is a nice surviving kiosk still on the esplanade not far away which could have been their base but equally there seem to be some wooden kiosks on the left in the walkies here, which have been replaced by a more modern brick building today.

John Chambers also had a conventional photography business which included panoramas and fleet reviews.  As well as walkies, Chambers also photographed groups of bathers in the early 1920s, and holiday-makers in charabancs. I have also see a group of trippers in a small pleasure boat, and this is dated 1922.  So Chambers were clearly in the seaside photo business quite soon after WW1 and like other firms may have begun before as a studio portrait business although if so I have not seen any examples.

Royal Hotel Weymouth.jpg

This nice set of four Chambers walkies above I found recently, all of the same family, date from 1932, 1933 and (top right) 1934. They show Mum, Dad and daughter (with a friend in one) with various buckets and spades in tow. Half the terrace in the background next to the hotel was clearly modernised with a rendered deco look. This change is captured in these walkies and must have taken place in late 1933 which could help dating other Chambers walkies in the future.

The business stopped during WW2 but restarted afterwards and was still going into the 1970s. One cameraman working there in the late Sixties says Chambers had a license for the west half of the beach, the east side was worked by other firms (one of which was based in Bournemouth). At his time they used a Leica 350 and Ilford FP3 then later FP4 film. The Chambers kiosk was near the town’s George III statue and had a large model of a Leica 250 on the roof to help it stand out. They had five or six photographers, usually students doing holiday work, kitted out in red blazers, which prompted Butlins to try and sue. They lost as Chambers had been going much longer. Even in his 80s, John used to come out and check up on the staff from time to time. He is said to have destroyed all his negatives and prints when it closed

Other firms known to work in Weymouth include Empire Films and Lumenart, both detailed on the site.

If you have any info on the firm or examples do get in touch and as always more examples in the walking picture book Go Home On A Postcard.

I’m grateful to Paul Godfrey for the new information from the post WW2 era.