THOMAS EDWARD GREEN - HORBURY'S PHOTOGRAPHY PIONEER

Thomas Edward GreenThomas Edward Green was born on the 27th March 1862, to parents George Green and Mary (nee Stringer). Their address at his time was Elmwood Street, Leeds, although Thomas Edward was baptised in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Wakefield.

One month old Thomas is recorded on the 1861 census, along with his siblings, Martha 14, Sarah 12 and George William 3. The census of 1871 shows a move to High Field, Horbury.

George Green was a carpet merchant and farmer of 4 acres of land. The census shows that Thomas had other siblings not recorded at the same address in 1861, Fanny 20, Maria 18 and John Henry 15. He also had a sister Mary born in 1862, who died the following year. The next census in 1881 shows the family actually lived at Highfield House, Highfield Road, Horbury. 20 year-old Thomas is described as a warehouseman.

The 1891 census shows 30 year-old Thomas is still single and living with his parents. His father George is now a woollen manufacturer and Thomas is working for his father as a travelling salesman. George Green had been a partner in the business Rayner & Green, Horbury which became Hartley & Green, Leeds when Colonel Hartley joined the company, selling heavy woollen cloth to coach building firms.

Thomas Edward Green was by all accounts an elegant, charismatic gentleman, an excellent raconteur and very successful salesman. He worked on commission, earning more than his elder brother John Henry. The business eventually took him to the United States, where he probably caught the travel bug. The family business did not run entirely smoothly. After the death of Col. Hartley, John Henry became Managing Director and dismissed his younger, more successful brother. Thomas however, won an action for wrongful dismissal against him and received compensation. Using his business contacts, Thomas set up his own company and whilst travelling abroad he began to develop his keen interest in photography.

In the spring of 1895, Thomas Edward married Lillie Miers, daughter of wealthy Leeds businessman John Samuel Miers of Scarcroft Manor. In fact his elder brother George William had married Lillie’s older sister Fanny. The family were well known for painting silhouettes and supplying artist materials to the trade. When her father died in 1904, Lillie inherited enough money to enable Thomas Edward to eventually give up his business and concentrate on his photography.

Willow Grove, HorburyThe 1901 census shows Thomas and Lillie Green living at Willow Grove, Cluntergate, Horbury (now demolished and a new housing development built in its place). They had two sons by this time, Edward Valentine 3 and Alan Roy 2. By the 1911 census, Thomas and Lillie also have a daughter, Florence Maris 6. This census paints a picture of an affluent family. Willow Grove has nine rooms and the family employs two live-in staff, Nora Wild 18, a cook and Emma Jowett 16, a housemaid.

Thomas Edward built himself a photographic studio over an outbuilding at his home, which was equipped like a cinema, with seats and a projector. He pioneered the art of painting lantern slides and his lectures, featuring the slides took him all over the country.

During the First World War his lectures took him to France where he showed his slides to the troops. This gained him The British War Medal. The "Ossett Observer" dated 15th April 1916 reported that he had returned from a lecture tour at the front where his interesting lectures and splendid slides provided an entertaining diversion for the troops behind the British lines. It went on to say that after visiting troops on Salisbury Plain, he was to go on a tour to include Devizes, Bath, Bristol and Bromley where he would lecture in aid of the YMCA Hut fund. He ultimately achieved the accolade of being appointed to Fellowships of both the Royal Photographic and Royal Geographical Societies.

Thomas Green Lecturer

He also had a keen interest in archaeology. One of his projects involved reconstructing, single-handedly, the huge stone urn which fell from St Peter’s Church spire and broke into 25 pieces in 1866. He displayed the urn outside his home, in full view of passers-by so that everyone could appreciate it.

A life member of the Paxton Society, he was a devoted gardener, producing a rare geranium which bears his name.

His eldest son Edward Valentine Green served in the Army Service Corps (Mechanical Transport) in Salonica (Greece). Edward Valentine survived the war but Thomas’ nephew, Geoffrey George Miers-Green (George William and Fanny’s only son) was not so fortunate. A Lieutenant with the West Yorkshire Regiment attached to the 5th Battalion KOYLI, he was killed in action near Bucquoy, France on 28th March 1918. He is remembered on the family grave, which reveals George William Green lived at Elm Lodge, further down Cluntergate from Thomas Edward.

After suffering failing health for a couple of years, Thomas Edward Green passed away at Willow Grove on 29th November 1943, age 81. The Ossett Observer dated 4th December that year, published his obituary, which informed the reader that T E Green had been involved with the Horbury Literary Society and had arranged all the lectures for the Wakefield Mechanics’ Institute and the Co-operative Societies of Barnsley, Thurnscoe and Lytham, coming into contact with most of the leading lights of exploration and drama of the day.

Green Graves

Above: Top Left: Horbury cemetery memorial for Geoffrey George Miers-Green, Thomas Green's nephew, who died during WW1. Top Right: Highfield House, Horbury, home of the Green family. Bottom Left: Thomas Green's grave in Horbury Cemetery and Bottom Right: the reconstructed urn that fell from St. Peter's Church spire in 1866 at Green's Willow Grove home. Grave pictures by Helen Bickerdike.

In the final years of his life he became a little reclusive. His funeral took place at Horbury Methodist Church, followed by interment in the family vault in Horbury Cemetery, where he joined his parents and sister. T. E. Green took many photos of Horbury during the early 1900s and thanks, in part to him we have a photographic record of our town as it was over 100 years ago.

Helen Bickerdike, November 2017

References:

1. "Looking Back on Horbury", by Christine M. Cudworth.
2. "Ancestry.co.uk"

Helen Bickerdike, October 2017