Assorted notes on the Bull family of Witham. By Janet Gyford.
From Images of England, Witham by Janet Gyford
‘During the 1920s and 30s, ‘Billy’ Bull took over the studio at no. 34 Newland Street, where his wife had a ladies’ dress shop. His father William had kept the Red Lion. His was a ‘daylight’ establishment, specialising in portraits.’
[previously, 34 Newland Street had been occupied by other photographers, i.e. Harry Hall, Fred Hayward (briefly)]
Directories (these stop in 1937)
|1906||Bull William, Lion P.H|
|1908||Bull William, Lion P.H|
|1910||Bull William, Lion P.H|
|1912||Bull William Lion P.H|
|1914||Bull William, Lion P.H|
|1914||Bull William Ernest, photographer|
|1917||Bull William Ernest, photographer|
|1917||Bull Catherine (Mrs.), Red Lion P.H|
|1922||Bull William Ernest, Red Lion P.H.|
|1922||Bull William Ernest, photographer|
|1926||Bull William Ernest, photographer, 34 Newland street|
|1929||Bull Wm. Ernest, photographer, 34 High st|
|1929||Anita (Mrs. A. G. Bull), milliner, 34 Newland st|
|1933||Bull Wm. Ernest, photographer, 34 High st|
|1933||Anita (Mrs. A. G. Bull), milliner, 34 High st|
|1937||Bull Wm. Ernest, photographer, 34 High st|
|1937||Anita (Mrs. A. G. Bull), milliner, 34 High st|
1881 census, RG11/1809, folio 38, schedule 20, Collingwood Road Cottage
(one of 3 with this address)
|William Bull||Head||M||26||Coachman||born Essex, Rivenhall|
|Catherine Bull||Wife||M||25||born Lincs, Bourne|
|Kate Hemsell Bull||Dau||2||born Essex, Witham|
|William Ernest Bull||Son||9 mo||born Essex, Witham|
|John Kennett Hogben||Boarder||U||21||Postman||born Kent, Ramsgate|
1891 census, RG 12/1425, folio 49, schedule 30, Braintree Road
|William Bull||Head||M||36||Coachman, servant (employed)||born Essex, Rivenhall|
|Catherine Bull||Wife||M||35||born Lincs, Bourne|
|Kate H Bull||Dau||12||Scholar||born Essex, Witham|
|William E Bull||Son||10||Scholar||born Essex, Witham|
|Emily M Bull||Dau||8||Scholar||born Essex, Witham|
|Sidney G Bull||Son||7||Scholar||born Essex, Witham|
|Victor L Bull||Son||2||born Essex, Witham|
1901 census, RG 13/1725, folio 22, page 6, schedule 34, Newland Street
[between Angel Inn (39-41) and Spread Eagle (49-51)]
|William Bull||Head||M||46||Coachman, domestic (worker)||born Essex, Rivenhall|
|Catherine Bull||Wife||M||45||born Lincs, Bourne|
|Kate H Bull||Daur||S||22||Dressmaker (own account)||born Essex, Witham|
|William E Bull||Son||S||20||Photographer’s assistant (worker)||born Essex, Witham|
|Emily M Bull||Daur||S||18||Grocers cashier (worker)||born Essex, Witham|
|Sidney G Bull||Son||S||17||Grocers assistant (worker)||born Essex, Witham|
|Victor L Bull||Son||12||born Essex, Witham|
|Catherine Hunt||Aunt||Wid||75||Living on own means||born Leicester, Gt Glen|
|Gwendoline Starkey||Visitor||8||born Southwark St George, London|
These were introduced in 1916 during the First World War, when conscription into the army started. Men appealed to them to be postponed or excused altogether.
Essex County Chronicle, 26 May 1916
page 6, Military Tribunal. Hon C H Strutt presiding. Also ‘Messrs S Abrey, Q D Greatrex, P Hutley, JP, CA, E J Smith, Eb Smith, E Wood, with the military representative, Mr E Pelly, and the Clerk, Mr S Daniels’.
‘Wm E Bull, married, professional photographer, Witham, with a branch at Braintree, appealed on grounds of business hardship. The Chairman: The Government are meeting cases of hardship by a system of grants. Mr Pelly contended that photography was not of national importance in war time. Applicant urged that photographs were really a necessity, as soldiers and their relatives wanted photographs. Postponed two months’.
Essex Weekly News, 26 May 1916, page 5
Married professional photographer, Witham, with a branch business at Braintree, applied on the grounds of business hardship. He was working single-handed with the exception of an apprentice, who, however, would be leaving shortly to join the Army. He was the only photographer over a wide radius, and if he had to go the business would be closed. – The Chairman pointed out that the Government were meeting cases of hardship by their system of grants; and Mr Pelly argued that photography was not of national importance in war time. Two months were allowed.
William E Bull, Military Tribunal. Chairman Hon C H Strutt.
The Witham Muster Roll recorded the men who served and survived in the First World War- see a copy on this website at:
The original is in the Braintree and District Museum.
It shows that, “W Bull” from Witham served in the Forces but I don’t have any more details.
Bill to Mrs Sneezum, 9 September 1916
Two of Mrs Sneezum’s sons had died in the First World War. George was killed in action in May 1916 and his brother Charlie had died from wounds in 1915. So Mrs Sneezum’s large photographic order may well have been for photos of her sons.
I have a copy of the bill to Mrs Sneezum from W Bull for photographs. I haven’t yet succeeded in putting it onto this website.
Essex Weekly News, 12 September 1919, in Scrapbook of newspaper cuttings compiled by Mrs Ena Macpherson
“Died in husband’s arms. Mrs Annie Gertrude Bull, aged 66, wife of Mr W E Bull, photographer, Witham, died suddenly on Sunday evening. She had been in bed with heart trouble for three days. Telling her husband she felt faint, she died almost immediately in his arms. Mrs Bull, who before her marriage 40 years ago, was a Miss Kent of Maldon, had lived in Witham 50 years. She was employed in the milliner’s shop of Mr Lake near the Old Post Office, and in 1926 opened her own shop under the title of “Anita”. There is one son”.
Comments from people who knew the Bull family.
From tape 190, interview with Mrs Ena MacPherson
“And there was Mr Bull, who was a friend of my father’s, who had a photographer’s just by his, [near the George] Yes, Billy Bull. And his wife, she opened a little dress shop called Anita, in that corner [near the George]. He was a great friend of my father’s. They used to play billiards once a week in each other’s houses, you know…
He had a little studio in Braintree. He used to go there once a week and have, yes, photographs, yes portraits, that would have been. I don’t think he went out. No, he had a studio at the bottom of the garden.
“Where did they live?” Bulls? Next to the, what’s the pub on (Q: George, the George). The George, yes That was, she had that little shop, she had a little shop built in that corner, a little gown shop. And everybody was pleased …
From tape 41 interview with Mr and Mrs Ager
Mr A: “I mean the pubs were open at six o’clock in the morning. (Q: Yes?) Six o’clock in the morning old Billy Bull, at the Red Lion, he used to dump his matting on the path, that was to let people know he was open. Great big old door mat. And they see that laying there and in they’d go. (Q: Yes.) That’s six o’clock in the morning.”
From Tape 122 ‘The Good Old Days’, meeting held 30 November, 1988
Dr Bill Foster: ‘Can you remember the photographer, in Newland Street, called Mr Bull. I got my first passport photograph from him. He seemed quite surprised when I went in, I said ‘Can I have a photograph please’ and he stood there, he had a big room and enormous apparatus, put the black thing over his head and there was dust blew these things, dust blew all over the place. Produced a very good picture though.’
Letter from Peggy Blake (former photographer)
(nee Butcher) 5 March 1999
There was another photographer in Witham during my childhood – he was still going, I think, in 1936. His name was Billy Bull, and he had a daylight portrait studio above his wife’s dress shop. He had no shop window beyond a wall-hung showcase, exhibiting sepia postcards, at a time when they were fast following the Dodo. He was a nice man….. Billy Bull and wife lived and worked in Newland Street, their premises right next door to the George pub.
There is a photo of the Studio when it was occupied by Harry Hall, the Bull’s predecessor (Roy Poulter’s photo 59)
Photo M428 (on this website) shows the George, and in the corner to the right of it is Modes, which used to be Anitas run by Mrs Bull, and then part of what was Bull’s studio behind that.
I am having trouble inserting the first onto this page so it will have to come later, but you can see the second one at
and in fact I see in the published version of this post it has inserted itself !