William Avenell (born 1853)

William Avenell - a Tailor's Son

William Avenell was born in Chelsea, London in 1853, the son of George Thomas Avenell ( born c 1822 Lewes ), a tailor, and his wife Clara ( born c1818 Yoxford, Suffolk ]. William Avenell had at least three brothers and three sisters - Ann ( born c 1845, Chelmsford, Essex ) Alfred George ( born c1846, Chelmsford ) Ella ( born c1848, Saltford, Somerset )Thomas ( born c1852 London ) Henry ( born c1855 Chelsea ) and Clara ( baptised in Lewes ,13 Sept 1861). Alfred and Henry became tailors like their father. William's brother Thomas became a greengrocer and his sister Ann married William Packer, a grocer from Wimbledon.

Around 1861, after living in Essex and London, George Avenell returned to Sussex with his wife and children. The Avenell family came to live in Lewes, George Avenell's home town. Clara,probably the youngest daughter of George Thomas Avenell, was baptised at All Saints Church, Lewes on 13 September, 1861. In 1867, George Thomas Avenell was listed in Kelly's Sussex Directory as living at Clare Cottage, Friar's Walk, Lewes. Around the same time, Alfred George Avenell, his eldest son , was running the family firm of Avenell & Son, a tailoring business specialising in court,naval and military tailoring, located at 5 New Road, Brighton. By 1871, William's brothers Alfred and Henry were both living in Brighton and working in the family tailoring business. William's other brother,Thomas, also settled in Brighton and eventually ran a greengrocer's shop in Brighton. By 1878, the tailoring business at 5 New Road was known as A. G. Avenell & Son, but according to a census return, Alfred's father, George Avenell remained a "sleeping partner" in the tailoring firm.



Trade plate of W. Avenell & Co., Photographers of 48 West Street, Brighton , from the back of a photograph taken around 1900.in ffrom the back oo


William Avenell - Brighton Hairdresser


o(ABOVE) Cdv portrait of a hairdresser at work [c1880] .



(The back of a cdv portrait taken by C J A Davis at 48 West Street, Brighton

Before he took up photography, William Avenell was a hairdresser. In the 1881 Census, William Avenell is recorded at 48, West Street, Brighton and is described as a 28 year old hairdresser "employing 2 men and 1 boy" at his hairdressing shop in West Street. Also living at 48 West Street in 1881 was William's 26 year old brother, Henry, who worked as a tailor, probably at the family firm of Avenell & Son, the tailoring business located in New Road, Brighton. Around 1883, Avenell was joined at 48 West Street by a photographer named Christopher John Allen Davis ( born c1850 St Pancras ).

C J A Davis had previously worked as a photographic artist in Lewes. He did not have his own studio in Lewes and was probably employed by an established Lewes photographer, such as Edward Reeves or Daniel Blagrove. C J A Davis was active as a photographer in Lewes for over 10 years from around 1871 to 1881. The Avenell family had links with Lewes. The founder of the family tailoring business, George Thomas Avenell, had been born in Lewes and lived in the town from around 1861. George Avenell's eldest son Alfred George Avenell, a master tailor and head of the tailoring business in Brighton, also made his home in Lewes. In 1881, Alfred George Avenell was living in Grange Road, Lewes with his wife and family. For a time the photographer Christopher Davis, who later joined William Avenell at 48 West Street, Brighton, was lodging at a house in Grange Road, Lewes.

Between 1883 and 1888, the two men shared the same business premises at 48 West Street, Brighton - William Avenell working as a hairdresser and C J A Davis as a "Photographer and Artist". [ 48 West Street had been previously used as a photographic studio by Monsieur Minora in 1881 and in 1882 by George Coles ( born c1846 Oxford).]








.An advertisement for hair pieces placed by William Avenell , hairdresser of 48 West Street, Brighton in 1886. [ Avertisement in The History of the Theatres of Brighton by Henry Porter, published in 1886 ].


William Avenell - Art Photographer

In Pike's Trade Directory of 1889, William Avenell is listed as a photographer for the first time. An advertisement on the same page, below the listing of Brighton photographers, announces " WILLIAM AVENELL & Co; 48 WEST STREET, BRIGHTON - Art Photographers. High Class Work Only at Moderate Charges. An inspection of our studios invited. Appointments by Telephone, 48." Avenell had apparently purchased the photographic studio from Christopher Davis, who then left Brighton and set up as a photographer in Worcester.

In the 1891 Census, William Avenell is described as "Artist Photographer, age 37" and is recorded as lodging at 37 Grenville Place, Brighton. William Avenell is recorded as unmarried in 1891. At the time of the 1901 Census, William Avenell is still single, but boarding at the Eight Bells Inn at 49 West Street, next door to his photographic studio at No 48. William Avenell is described in the 1901 Census as "Photographer,Employer ( working at home ), age 48."

Some information about Avenell's photography business can be gathered from his advertisements. For some reason, early Avenell advertisements from the late 1880s call the studio at 48 West Street "The Don". An 1897 advert, is headed " W.AVENELL & CO. - ARTISTS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS - Day and Electric Light Studios, near the Clock Tower. 48 West Street, Brighton. " and provides a list of prices .The Cabinet format ( the large sized photographs, measuring 4 1/4 inches by 6 1/2 inches mounted on thick card ) were priced at 2/- for the first copy, 4/- for three copies, 12/- for twelve.( Avenell charged between one and two shillings extra for different poses and vignette effects i.e. gradual shading around the edges of the photograph to suggest a crayon portrait).Promenade Midgets ( tiny photographic portraits measuring 1 1/2 inches by 3 inches)could be had for 2/- per dozen.



[ABOVE] A carte de visite portrait of a woman taken at Avenell & Co's studio at 48 West Street around 1890.


ABOVE & BELOW .Two Promenade Midget Portraits taken at Avenell's studio.


[ABOVE ]A carte de visite portrait of a woman taken at Avenell's portrait studio around 1905. This vignette portrait would have been more expensive than a standard portrait.

William Avenell and Brighton Football

From the late 1890s, William Avenell was a significant figure in the development of professional football in Brighton and Hove. Avenell was a shareholder and leading fundraiser for Brighton United ( Avenell secured a covered stand for Brighton United before the club folded in 1900). William Avenell was also instrumental in forming the amateur club, Brighton & Hove Rangers, which eventually evolved into Brighton & Hove Albion. William Avenell was Chairman and Treasurer of Brighton & Hove Rangers until the club collapsed in 1901. Avenell was apparently the subject of an FA enquiry and so was not directly involved in the formation of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club. However, Avenell did address the initial meeting of Brighton & Hove Football Club on 24th June, 1901, when he gave what he believed were the reasons for the failure of Brighton & Hove Rangers Club, citing in particular the large size of the club's committee and the predominance on that body of "working men" who held a "diversity of opinion".


Team photograph of Brighton United Football Club, 1898-1899.William Avenell was a shareholder and leading fundraiser for Brighton United until the club was wound up in March 1900.Billy Longair, the United captain stands on the far right .

Given his involvement in local football clubs and his work as a professional photographer, William Avenell was an obvious candidate to photograph the footballers of Brighton. Around 1899, Avenell published a portrait of William Longair, Brighton United's centre half. From 1901 to 1905, Avenell took team photographs and individual portraits of leading players such as Frank McAvoy and Billy Roberts .Avenell's involvement with Brighton & Hove Albion came to a sudden end around 1905. From the 1905-1906 season onwards, photographs of Albion teams and players were taken by Ebenezer Pannell. 1905 was also the last year of Avenell's tenure at 48 West Street .

Avenell's Footballer Portraits


[ ABOVE ] A portrait of William Longair (1870- 1926) taken by Avenell & Co of Brighton around 1898. Originally from Dundee, Scotland, Billy Longair joined Brighton United in 1898. Longair played centre half for Brighton United and was made captain of the side during their first season of football. Longair returned to Dundee in May 1899. [Photograph, courtesy of David Ticehurst]




[ BELOW] A portrait of Frank McAvoy taken by Avenell of Brighton around 1898. McAvoy was born in Ayrshire ,Scotland and signed for Brighton United in May 1898.When Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club was formed in 1901, Frank McAvoy was made captain.[Photograph, courtesy of David Ticehurst]




[ ABOVE ] A portrait of Billy Roberts taken by Avenell of Brighton around 1904. Billy Roberts was born in Liverpool and joined Brighton & Hove Albion as a 23 year old in 1903. [Photograph, courtesy of David Ticehurst]




Team photograph of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club, 1904-1905, taken by William Avenell [Photograph, courtesy of David Ticehurst]


Football Photos

The local newspapers made use of Avenell's photographs of footballers.A series of written profiles and portrait drawings of Brighton &Hove Albion Football Club players appeared in the Sussex Daily News during 1905. Under the heading FOOTBALL PHOTOS, the Sussex Daily News printed the first player profile on Saturday 14th January 1905 and then every Saturday for the next twelve weeks. No 1 was goalkeeper Mark Mellors and the line drawing was taken from " an excellent photograph by Messrs. W. Avenell & Co., of West Street, Brighton." Nearly all the pictures are drawn from photographs taken by William Avenell & Co. The players who had been photographed originally by Avenell included Joseph O'Brien,Andrew Gardner, Archie Livingstone, Arthur Millar, Bert Lyon and William Roberts ( the picture of Billy Roberts seemed to be an idealised version of the portrait that appears on the Avenell postcard pictured above. The series ended in April 1905 with a profile of Mr George Broadridge, the Chairman of Directors of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club.



William Avenell ran his photography business at 48 West Street until about 1905. Avenell is not listed as a photographer under Photographic Artists in the Brighton & Hove Professions and Trades section of Towner's Directory of 1906 and 48 West Street is not used as a photographic studio from 1906 onwards.
Bennett's Business Directory of 1907-1908 lists, under the heading of Photographers, the name W. Avenill at 40a North Street, Brighton. This address had been the site of a photographic studio since 1859. In 1905, the studio at 40a North Street had been in the hands of Albert Kimber (born c1868 Croydon, Surrey), a cousin of Henry Thomas Edwards ( born c1857 Hurstpierpoint ) a prominent Brighton photographer, but it soon passed to Walter Littlewood who remained at 40a North Street until 1906. I am assuming W. Avinill is identical to William Avenell, but there is no further reference to him in Brighton after this entry in Bennett's Directory. William disappears from the historical record after 1907.




Website last updated: 30th July, 2003


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