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The Postcards of Robert Ainsworth Cheetham


The first trade directory entry for Robert Cheetham, the photographer of Woburn Sands, is in 1894 when "Rob. A Cheetham" appears as photographer, and a Miss H. Cheetham as infants mistress at the Board School (Aspley Heath).

Similar entries follow for 1898 and 1903, but by 1906, he also has an entry under private residents, at "Stoke  Albany", which is 52 ? Station Road. The entries continue in 1910 and 1914.  Robert was co-opted on to the Woburn Sands Parish Council in April 1918, but resigned in September 1918, on his appointment as assistant overseer. He was still overseer in 1920, when there is a commercial entry of "Assistant Overseer; office, High Street" and no photographers business under his name.

In 1920,  Robert was elected to be a trustee of the Woburn Sands Social Club, when it built new premises behind the High Street. By 1928, there is no mention of Miss Cheetham at the school, or Robert. 

In papers regarding the Aspley Guise & Woburn Sands Golf Club at the National Archives at Kew, his address is recorded as a company director, and this was Kingsbridge in Devon by 1933.

There are many Cheetham photos and postcards at the Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service at Bedford, particularly in catalogues Z50, Z251, Z608, as well as others.

An unknown portrait sitter, this photo was bought back from a dealer in America.

When I first began collecting local cards, I noticed some tiny embossing on some, usually in the lower right hand corner. You can just make out "R. A. Cheetham". Sometimes the cards have captions on the front, sometimes they do not, but they are always very good quality photographic images, and some are of one-off events, which make them extremely interesting.

These are all the Cheetham cards in my collection. Many are of Woburn Sands, but he also covered other local villages, such as Wavendon, Bow Brickhill, Aspley Guise, Woburn, and even as far as Cranfield. I am sure some of the other cards in my collection are 'Cheethams', but they do not feture the embossed name. Perhaps he was so busy, they sometimes went out from his shop before he could apply it to all the cards.

The rear of the cards varies greatly, depending on what photographic stock he bought, but he never had his details on the rear.

I am looking for other Cheetham postcards or examples of his studio portraits.

Cheethams advert in the 1905 Woburn Sands Guide book.


An early view in the woods, with a gate in view, possibly the gate at Woodside, Aspley Guise. Sent 1904.

A wide open woodland path, usually referred to as The Green Drive, unsent. People came from far and wide to take the airs in Woburn Sands woods.

[Image courtesy of Bedford and Luton Archives and Records Service.]

St. James's Church, Husborne Crawley. This was sent from Whitsable to Potsgrove. The sender, in 1906, thanks their friends for the fruit that arrived first post that day, but regrets that the box had given way, and some was missing!  I have seen another example from 1905.
The Fullers Earth Lodge, on the Woburn to Woburn Sands road. Posted in 1904.
The centre of Wavendon, with St. Mary's Church in the background. Used 1904, saying: "I think this is a very good view of our dear old Church. E. B."
St. Boltolphs Church, Aspley Guise. Used in 1904.
A view of a woodland walk, used in 1904
An interior veiw of St Mary's Church, Woburn. Sent in 1905.
Crossroads and All Saints Church, in Ridgmont. Unused.
A bright summers day in the Aspley Heath woods. Used 1905.
A view, possibly of The Old Coach Road, parallel to Woburn Road, in the woods, used 1905.
The junction where Weathercock Lane splits off to the left from Station Raod.  "The Cyclists Rest", a thatched shop, can be seen in the middle, with The Weathercock Pub on the extreme left.

[Image courtesy of Mrs M. Yates, Aspley Guise.]

"The Cyclists Rest" on fire, on the junction of Station Road and Weathercock Lane, in Woburn Sands. Sparks from a Foden steam lorry had caught in it's thatch.
Here, the building is well alight. Mr Cheetham must have been running around the event with his camera!

[Image courtesy of Mrs M. Yates, Aspley Guise.]

The aftermath: just a blackened shell remains. It was later rebuilt in brick, and was the office of 'Stonebridge and Foll', later 'Foll and Parker', before becoming Alexanders furnishings shop it is today. All four of these fire cards were sent in 1906, the year of this event.

[Image courtesy of Mrs M. Yates, Aspley Guise.]

Five ladies busy with their lace-making, once one of the principle trades in this district. This card is titled Cranfield Lacemakers. Used in 1906, but I have seen another from 1904.
This is St James's Church, at Husborne Crawley. Posted in 1906
A view of Wavendon House. Once the home of the Lords of the Manor of Wavendon, including the Selby-Lownes family, it was later owned by Henry Hugh Hoare, and is now split into flats. Sent in 1906.
The London Lodge, the ornate entrance into Woburn Park and the Abbey, home of The Duke of Bedford. Postcard unused.
Possibly one of the main walkways in Aspley Heath woods, known as Green Drive. Used in 1907. The writer on this card has written 'mirror-style' to disguise his message, but it just said he was moving again soon.
A game of living whist, using children as cards. They made their own entertainment those days! The Beds Times, June 21st 1907:- "A garden fete in aid of the Church of England Homes for Waifs and Strays was held in the Knoll grounds, Aspley Heath on Wednesday and Thursday....Woburn Sands Prize Band played...A feature of this entertainments was a game of living whist played by a number of children who looked very nice and smart. The movements were well executed and a good number of people watched them on the lawn. A public tea was served..."
The living whist game. Time for a shuffle.... 1907
A snowy scene looking up Station Road, Woburn Sands. Nicely dated for us, as 24th April, 1908.
Pinfoldpond, the area out from Woburn towards Leighton Buzzard. Posted in 1909, to The Fox and Hounds in Chiswick.
These two cards I call the "Calender Show", but what they called it, I don't know! Everyone is dressed as months of the year, seasons or hours of the clock, and some are holding "1909" signs. I doubt this was New Year, as they are dressed for summer.
Ladies dancing at the 1909 show.
I have seen another copy of this card, and the message refers to Dog Races at Woburn. Note the disused railway carriage used as a pavillion! Postally used 1905.

[Image courtesy of J. Gough, Woburn Sands]

Now here's a puzzle. Almost the same shot, same background, same bookie etc., but this was posted in 1909. Even the same parts of the tent in the rear are draped open. It must have been taken at the same time as that above, but used 4 years later.
Leighton Hollow, also known as Georges Square, was a collection of poor cottages towards the top of Aspley Heath on Sandy Lane. For many years home of the Lee family who made brushes from the woodland around them. Unsent.
According to the book 'Wavendon As It Was', this is Mrs Chance at the village pump. Lacemaker and school cleaner. Both the pump and house in the background now demolished. Sent in 1910.
Five ladies doing their lace work, different from the earlier one. Obviously a popluar topic which Cheetham revisited. This area was heavily involved with the lace trade. This one is titled Bedfordshire Lace Makers. Used in 1911.
"Now Ladies, I'll just take one more before I go, so could the lady in the middle please stand up. Now watch the birdie!"

This postcard has been used from Llandrindod Wells, but the stamp and date are missing. The writer says this card is "..where our kitchen maid comes from..."

[Image courtesy of Bedford and Luton Archives and Records Service.]

A Church youth group, dressed as people from all corners of the Empire. The sign on the shield on the right reads "St Michaels, Woburn Sands D.P.G." Possibly Drama Players Group? Unsent, so no clue as to year.
Alfred Dawborn, 1820 - 1919, a general agricultural labourer, supplemented his income. He became known as The Woburn Birdcatcher, as he trapped and sold all kinds of birds. Here he is at the gate of Birdcatchers Cottage at Pinfoldpond, just out of Woburn on the road to Leighton Buzzard. He had 13 children, six daughters and seven sons. Most of the daughters went into service, and two sons died of fever in India whilst in the army. Card unsent.
The font at St. Michaels, Aspley Heath, decorated for the Harvest Festival. Unsent.
This is the Crow Hotel, at Cranfield, which I believe burnt down. Unsent.
A composite of pictures: The Fullers Earth Lodge, Aspley Hill, the woods, and the Henry VII Lodge. Unsent.        
On Woburn Road, looking north towards Woburn Sands, with the entrance to Aspley Lane to leading off to the right. Unsent.
Quite far for our local photographer to go, this is the Red Lion Inn and centre of Milton Bryan village, just to the south east of Woburn.
From information pencilled on the rear of this card, this is Hulcote Rectory, or White Ladies, also known as Hulcote Manor.
Until just recently Marylands College, this was Woburn Cottage Hospital, commissioned by The Duchess of Bedford in WWI to care for injured soldiers.
An undated view from Aspley Heath woods.   
St. Mary's Church at Salford. Unposted.
The front of Woburn Abbey. Unused.
The interior of St Michaels, Aspley Heath. Undated.
Woods views were always popular with the daytrippers who had come to walk in the Bedford Estate woods. Unused.
The road towards Woburn Abbey, in Woburn Park, from Woburn. Unsent.
The Park gates going into Woburn Abbey grounds, with Lion Lodge on the right. Unsent.
...and of course, no photographer ever missed the The Henry VII Lodge, on Woburn Road! This example posted in 1906.
Originally the Bletchley Road Schools, with Fenny Stratford Board School, these are now Knowles Schools on Queensway, Bletchley. Posted from Bletchley, 1905, to Miss G. Brigden, West Hill House, Aspley Guise.

[Image courtesy of J. Gough, Woburn Sands]

Wavendon Manor, at Cross End. The mesage reads: "My dear Kitty, please accept sincere thanks for yours of this morning and your good wishes for today. This is a picture of Wavendon Manor, I thought it may interest you. With fondest lover ever, your devoted sister Nan." It was addressed to Miss K Tasker, in Highgate London. Posted in 1910.
This card shows a very rare view of Woburn Sands windmill, which blew down in 1900. It stood on Mill Lane, on land now occupied by the Aspley Guise & Woburn Sands Golf Club. The local paper wrote "The old wind mill at the end of Mill Lane, which has stood for as long as anyone can remember, was blown down during a heavy wind. It was a very picturesque relic, which attracted numerous artist to Woburn Sands to capture it in oils or watercolours." This card was used in 1907.

[Image courtesy of J. Gough, Woburn Sands]

"South Wood" is a house on Aspley Heath, used for many years as a boarding house, run by Mrs Emma Tyers. She also ran Heathview as a similar business. This card was sent in August 1909. The writer, Elsie, comments to her friend Nellie how nice the woods are, but how wet the weather is!
St Mary's Church, Wavendon. This was sent to Miss L Buxton, the daughter of Henry Buxton, the schoolmaster at Wavendon, for her birthday. He had come to the village in 1889, and did much to improve the school and its pupils. He retired to Woburn Sands in 1924. Looks like it was posted in 1908, but the stamp has been pilfered by collectors and its difficult to clearly see.
The interior of St Mary's church, Wavendon. Although unsent, we can safely say that this was during the time that the Revd. Philpotts was at St Marys, as he was there from 1893 - 1947! He was famous for wearing a boater hat and riding around the village on his green bicycle.
A slightly different view of the exterior of St. Marys, Wavendon.
Duke Street in Aspley Guise, looking towards Woodside. No parking problems then! Unsent.

[Image courtesy of Bedford and Luton Archives and Records Service.]

Crow Lane Chapel in Husborne Crawley. This was the Primitive Methodist Chapel, built in 1867. Postally used in 1913.

[Image courtesy of Bedford and Luton Archives and Records Service.]

Another of Husborne Crawley, this time with the Bull Inn on the right, which closed in the 1960's. Unsent.

[Image courtesy of Bedford and Luton Archives and Records Service.]

The road north from Woburn towards Woburn Sands, once part of the Turnpike Road from Hockliffe to Newport Pagnell. Unsent.

[Image courtesy of Bedford and Luton Archives and Records Service.]

The Knoll began life as a private residence, before becoming a school in the early 20th century, eventually becoming the home for Bury Lawn Senior School. This it remained until 1987, when it closed, and was later converted to flats. The grounds are still large, and this shot is from the end of the lawn. This card was used sometime after 1940, it must have been tucked away for many years.
On the London Road, just south of Woburn. With The Royal Oak, (still with us) and the Sun Inn (now set) in the distance.
Salford Road in Aspley Guise, with the Aspley Guise Railway Station just in the distance. Unsent.

[Image courtesy of Bedford and Luton Archives and Records Service.]

A view from Cranfield Church, looking at the Charles Wells pub "The Carpenters Arms", middle right. Unposted.
One of the entrances into the Bedford Estate woods, possibly on Woburn Road?
Looking west from Aspley Guise Square, the Post Office is just to the right. I wonder what was being sold from the barrel on the handcart? Unposted.

[Image courtesy of H. Sutcliffe, Aspley Guise]

A lovely view down Chapel Street in Woburn Sands, long before the houses were built on the south siode of the street. Bert has marked his house with an 'X', and sent this in 1905.

[Image courtesy of H. Sutcliffe, Aspley Guise]

A very rare view of the thatched cottages that stood in Hardwick Road. These faced the remaining houses that are on the cul-de-sac part of Hardwick Place. Today it is part of Mowbray Green.
Sent to "A. H. Lambert, A.B
Mess 8
HMS Dominion
Channel Fleet. c/o GPO" in 1907.

[Image courtesy of H. Sutcliffe, Aspley Guise]

The houses at Crow Lane, Husborne Crawley made an interesing picture of rural England.  I bet all the occupants bought a card!

[Image courtesy of H. Sutcliffe, Aspley Guise]

Here's a view of Sandy Lane in Aspley Heath, just below where the oyther end of Narrow Path meets it, with an entrance into the Duke of Bedfords woods on the right. Unsent.

[Image courtesy of H. Sutcliffe, Aspley Guise]

Two examples of Cheethams private work. On the left is a couple of unknown children, but the other is Fred Spratley of Wavendon.

If you have any Cheetham cards that I can add to the display here, I would be pleased to hear from you. Check the corners carefully for embossing!