JOHN TIMS AND FAMILY

John and Annie Tims with their two oldest children, Annie and Herbert, 1892.
John and Annie Tims with their two oldest children, Annie and Herbert, 1892.
Image courtesy of The A E Tims Collection. ©2014.

Introduction

John and Annie Tims lived at Cleeve Cottage in Chessington Road, West Ewell for almost all of their married life. Their grandson, Mr Alric E Tims, has written their story, which appears below. As you will read, amongst other things John was a talented photographer and a small selection of his local images appears at the end of this article, along with images of some of his photographic equipment, which is held at Bourne Hall Museum.

Cleeve Cottage
Cleeve Cottage
Image courtesy of The A E Tims Collection. ©2014.

Cleeve Cottage interior.
Cleeve Cottage interior.
Image courtesy of The A E Tims Collection. ©2014.

The Tims Story, by Mr A E Tims

The earlier links are still the subject of research and the history, beginning in 1749, lacks firm detail, but what has been revealed is that James Tims (1760-1794) had eight children, many seeming not to have lived beyond forty years.

Our narrative begins with the third son, George Thomas Francis Tims (1788-1826), who died at the comparatively young age of 37 years, having fathered two sons and three daughters. It was his eldest son, also George, who transcribed the early family history from the family bible - a major source of birth and death information in those times.

George Junior (1814-1882) married twice: his first marriage, to Dorothea in 1834, ended in tragedy as she died shortly after their only child, a daughter, who died in 1838 at the age of three years. He is recorded as being an innkeeper of the Duke of Leeds Arms at Welham Green near Hatfield, Hertfordshire. His second marriage, in 1847, was to the nineteen-year- old Mary Ragge (1828-1903). George and Mary had eleven children.

The Ragges were prosperous leather merchants in Leatherhead, conducting a business of saddlers and harness makers for some 300 years; they owned significant parcels of land in and around Leatherhead and dispensed their goods from a shop in Bridge Street, alongside which was a rope walk. The documents of their time described them as 'collar makers', which would be collars for draught horses in which rope would form part of the lining.

Mary TimsGeorge Tims
George and Mary Tims, photographed in 1879.
Image courtesy of The A E Tims Collection. ©2014.

John Tims (1860-1944), the sixth child of George and Mary, was born in Battersea. By now, his parents had moved to Elsey Road in Battersea and the Census of 1881 shows George to be 67 years of age and having six of his children living with him. John was, by profession, a schoolteacher at the Battersea Park Road School. He lived, successively, in Battersea, Wimbledon, Hook and West Ewell: his last home in Chessington Road, West Ewell survives amongst new developments of the 20th century. He travelled daily from Ewell station and was sometimes the only passenger on the 8.08 am train which was, then, a workman's train. He had issued to him the first six workman's tickets from that station.

His older brother, James (1851-1937), was at some time employed by the London County Council, but lost his job on being sent to prison for attempted theft of banknotes from the Bank of England in 1900. James's wife died in an air raid on London in 1941 and was survived by two daughters, Mary and Daisy. At one period John supported two of his brothers from his modest schoolmaster's income because of severe unemployment at the turn of the century.

In his younger days John Tims was a keen cyclist, his first bicycle being a penny-farthing which he purchased in 1879. He was also a skilled photographer, his first camera having been bought in 1886 when photography was in its infancy. He developed and printed all his own work and his collection of photographs includes many scenes in West Ewell while it was still a rural hamlet and shows farm fields where there are now streets and houses. He was a Gold Medallist of the London Polytechnic and became an instructor in 1912. His cameras, accessories and hundreds of photographs now form a special exhibit in Bourne Hall Museum. A further collection of some twenty albums is still held by his family.

City and Guilds Medal 1City and Guilds Medal 2
Two of John's medals from the City and Guilds of London, Technical Education Institure.
Image courtesy of The A E Tims Collection. ©2014.

John's experience as a car owner was limited to a few months in 1906 when he purchased a 1905 Swift - a two cylinder petrol driven car. In the days before garages with petrol pumps became a feature of towns and villages the petrol was purchased from a chemist and on one occasion, when he ran out of fuel, he asked for assistance from a passing lorry driver and was obliged to tip him with a ten shilling note for the tow to the nearest fuel supply. He had no small coin with him and this unfortunate expenditure was equal to more than a week's wage!

John in his 1905 Swift
John in his 1905 Swift
Image courtesy of The A E Tims Collection. ©2014.

John retired from teaching in 1923 and devoted his time to his hobbies, which now included painting in oils. He rapidly became skilled but many of his best works were, in fact, improved copies of other work. His wife, Annie (nee Thring), died in 1936 but he remained active and was a frequent traveller on coaches to the south coast and to visit his sons and daughter, in whose families he had a close interest.

John and Annie had four children - Annie Junior, Herbert, Arthur and Basil (my father). Arthur died in 1916 from epilepsy but his brothers served with credit in the Great War. Herbert joined the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and saw service on the Western Front and Basil joined the Royal Naval Air Service where, surprisingly, he was involved in the manufacture of the first tanks to be used in the war. Annie's husband, WaIter Nurse, served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in treating wounded soldiers after action in the trenches.

Walter Nurse resumed his career as a teacher after the war, Herbert became an accountant with W.H. Smith, Basil joined the Civil Service and rose to be Assistant Secretary in the India (later the Commonwealth) Office, being awarded the Order of the British Empire in June 1953.

Grave of John, Annie and Arthur Tims in the churchyard of St Mary's, Ewell.
Grave of John, Annie and Arthur Tims in the churchyard of St Mary's, Ewell.
Image courtesy of The A E Tims Collection. ©2014.

John's photographs

John's photographs are highly evocative of a long-lost era and here is just a small selection from the A E Tims Collection.

Annie Tims Junior in Cleeve Cottage, 1892.
Annie Tims Junior in Cleeve Cottage, 1892.
Image courtesy of The A E Tims Collection. ©2014.

What might he be doing?
What might he be doing?
Image courtesy of The A E Tims Collection. ©2014.

All Saints Church, West Ewell.
All Saints Church, West Ewell.
Image courtesy of The A E Tims Collection. ©2014.

Ruxley Splash
Ruxley Splash
Image courtesy of The A E Tims Collection. ©2014.

Pack Horse Bridge
Pack Horse Bridge
Image courtesy of The A E Tims Collection. ©2014.

The Bonesgate Public House, Chessington Road, Ewell
The Bonesgate Public House, Chessington Road, Ewell
Image courtesy of The A E Tims Collection. ©2014.

Snow scene of Ruxley Farm
Snow scene of Ruxley Farm
Image courtesy of The A E Tims Collection. ©2014.

John's photographic equipment

This is some of John's equipment, which is held by Bourne Hall Museum.

One of John's camerasOne of John's cameras
One of John's plate cameras c.1920s
Complete with an Aldis Butcher Anastigmat f4.5 lens and a Compur Shutter
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum.

The firms of Houghtons and W Butcher & Sons merged in 1915 and later became Ensign. The original Houghton factory in Walthamstow was at one time the largest camera manufacturing facility in Britain. The base of John's camera confirms that it is a Houghton-Butcher and the model may be an Ensign Cameo. Cameras of this period had a bewildering (to the non-expert) variety of components and, even leaving aside the range of focal lengths for lenses, there were many different combinations of manufacturers involved.

The base of John's Houghton-Butcher
The base of John's Houghton-Butcher, showing just how compact it is when folded.
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum.


A YouTube video showing how a similar camera was used.

Mr A E Tims still has an extensive collection of his grandfather's equipment, including an amazing little camera called the Ernemann Miniature-Klapp or Baby-Kamera, dating from about 1913. If you thought that the Houghton-Butcher was impressive for its size (it would fit into a large coat pocket), then the Miniature-Klapp was even more so: it boasted a shutter speed of up to 1/1000th second, focused down to 1.5 feet, and had an f/6.8 lens … and its folded-down dimensions were a mere four by two by one and a half inches.

Box Of Glass Plates
Box Of Glass Plates
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum.

In the very early days of photography wet plates were used in cameras: these were large and the process was messy. First of all, they had to be coated and sensitised, then you took your picture and developed it. All of this had to be done straightaway, so exterior shots required a portable darkroom. Roll film had been invented way back in 1881, and eventually led to the invention of 'movies', but it was initially used in cheap cameras for amateur snapshots. For example, the first Eastman Kodak Brownie, made of cardboard, retailed for $1 and a roll of film cost 15 cents. Serious photographers moved from wet to dry plates, the advantage being that they were pre-coated, could be stored away for future use and then developed later back in the darkroom. The Imperial Dry Plate Company of Cricklewood was started in the early 1890s and sold to Ilford in 1917, although the name continued.

A Glass Plate Holder
A Glass Plate Holder
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum.

Exposure Calculators
Exposure Calculators
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum.

Even today, when cameras have an automatic exposure option, your photo can often be spoiled. In John's day the exposure had to be worked out and there were various little gadgets based on slide rule principles for this purpose, three of which are shown above. Two of them are the Hurter & Driffield Actinograph, patented in 1888, and the Ensign Posometer from 1930 (information about f stops is on the reverse).

Magnesium Ribbon Printing Gun
Magnesium Ribbon Printing Gun
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum.

Magnesium ribbon was once used in flash photography, since it burns very brightly, having properties similar to daylight, but it could also be used in developing the prints. There is a short film of magnesium ribbon being ignited on YouTube

We are most grateful to
(1) Mr A E Tims for use of his text and permission to use his images;
(2) The Leatherhead & District Local History Society for their help with this article.
(3) Bourne Hall Museum
Additional Source: The Surrey Comet

Linda Jackson 2014.



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