Early Life, Business and Family

William Scorer was born on the 19th October 1854 and lived at "Woodlands" later called "Southleigh House" near Emsworth where his father was head gardener for Captain Rudolph Spencer. William was educated with the Spencer children by their tutor. Later he attended a local school in Emsworth.

William had a flare for inventing. He would experiment and communicate with other members of his family by telegraph across the estate. Later he started work on the estate with his parents and took up watchmaking in his spare time.

He was so successful in his spare time work, that he set up in business as a Jeweller and Watchmaker in Emsworth in the 1870's. He had a very mechanical mind and constructed several clocks, one designed as Westminster Tower with Westminster chimes. At least one of his long-case clocks still exists. Below is one of the clocks he built and still in working order in 2004 and keeping perfect time.

Whilst on holidays in South Wales he met Martha Howells and they married in 1876. They had a family of eight children Alice, Annie, Caroline, Gwen, Kathleen, Lillian, John and William.

In 1885 William Scorer took up photography professionally and opened a shop first at 4, North Street, Havant . Within a few years, with increasing business, he moved further up the road to number 14, a much larger premises. It once stood on the east side of the road on the north end of the site, where in 2004, Waitrose store now stands. This photograph shows one of the local parades passing his shop.

He built his own studios, dark and printing rooms at the rear of the shop. He imported lenses for his cameras from Germany and built the rest of the cameras himself.

Two of Williams daughters. Alice who later married L.F. Clarke, the owner of a building and undertakers business on Hayling. He made his own coffin and kept it in his office. When he died, he left instructions that he should be interred at St Mary's Hayling and that his coffin should be concreted in "to avoid future molestation!" Caroline married W. Standing, owner of a grocery store in North Street Havant.

In 1900, in a small room in the rear of the North street shop, Mr Scorer set up an exchange for the National Telephone Company. Gwen, his eldest daughter ran the exchange, she combined the manipulation of the switchboard with her household duties, she was later joined by her sister Kathleen. When the various private and public telephone systems were taken over by the Post Office in 1913, both ladies were taken on and continued with full time careers as Telephone supervisors. John worked with his father from 1910 to 1926 excluding the war years when he served in the Royal Navy.

Photographer, Inventor and Councillor

William Scorer was a very inventive man and this patent 14,537 was taken out in 1889 and entitled "Improvements in and connected with Photographic Cameras" it included an adaptation to the front of a camera shown here. Some of his inventions were lodged but never completed. For example in 1893 he lodged one called the "Cycle"!! His son John remembers his father building a motor tricycle with a large tray on the rear to carry big his cameras. Perhaps it was while doing this he tried to patent the idea!

Below are two of William Scorer's local photographs which have so much character and detail in them. Note in one photograph the penny farthing being ridden by the Postman and in the other the wonderful children's pram and all the costumes. William was also interested in local politics and served on the local town council from 1904 to 1923. He played cricket in a match between Havant and Emsworth Councillors in 1907, where the local paper reported "…..he (Mr Scorer) seemed to fall over his bat…..he was a trifle forgetful, once or twice he seemed quite oblivious of the fact that he was a player not a spectator!"

His daughter Lily, grew up helping in the photographic side of the business. In the early days of flying William invented a camera which could take pictures from the air, but he loaned it to and acquaintance who ran off with it! During Queen Victoria's Jubilee celebrations in 1897, he took some moving pictures on a cine camera which he built himself. He also visited local groups giving Magic Lantern shows with a lantern lit by an oil lamp.

Portraits were the main source of his income and here are some examples.

Wm Scorer took these two pictures of paintings for a client. Note the expressions on the children's faces! So far we have not been able to identify these paintings

This photograph shows a tableau at the local Emsworth Carnival and Illuminated Fete. The winners of the Comic Boys section entitled "You Dirty Boy" is portrayed here by Mr Lloyd and Mater J. Chignell.

Local Scenes

Whatever local event happened Mr Score was on hand with his camera as seen here at the rail crash at Farlington junction in July 1894.The photograph was copied by hand and produced nationally as a sketch in the DAILY GRAPHIC to illustrate the story. A guard was killed and several passengers injured in this incident.

During the great freeze of 1895, Mr Scorer recorded Langstone mill surrounded by a frozen sea!

The photographs below are very evocative of life at the turn of the century.

William Scorer took this photograph of the old Hayling lifeboat "Charlie and Adrian" at the end of the nineteenth century.

Mr Scorer was very involved in the local community and would always help out if possible. The local cinema was originally opposite his shop, near the corner of Elm Lane. When they had problems and lost electrical power, because of a breakdown in its generator, he would fix up a power line from his shop to keep the show on the road!!

The adverts above show the range of goods he sold and the prices charged.

In the photographs below the bearded man standing outside the house is Mr Preston Watson with his shop on the right. William Scorer's shop can be seen on the left of the picture. The internal photograph shows Preston Watson's shop , and on the original print you can see the price of 2s 5d (approx 14 new pence) on the label of a bottle of Gin!

Special Events

While visiting France for one of the Great Exhibitions in the 1880's, Mr Scorer took several pictures including these of Paris and the Seine.

William Scorer recorded the aftermath of the devastating fire at Stanstead house which gutted the building. Standing in front of the house can be seen the Havant Volunteer Fire engine, which you can imagine was no match for this fire!

This a small section taken from the original print, and shows the amount of detail recorded. You can see the oil lamps on the engine, and a pile of leather buckets on the right.

William Scorer was involved in many things during his life for example he took X-Ray pictures, one of his daughters remembers having her hand X-rayed by him!

He bought an old Dockyard Cutter and built an engine for it. Only recently we have come across this photograph although not of high quality does show the boat involved in the next incident!

He took the family sailing one evening in Langstone harbour and they went aground on the falling tide. They had to sit around in darkness for several hours until the next high tide next morning!

William Scorer's legacy lives on

Adverts for his business were produced and printed on the reverse of the photographs which he produced for his clients.

The picture shows a photograph taken by Mr Scorer, which has been mounted on a copper disc and embedded in enamel.

This was found under his shop when it was demolished in the 1970's and is now in the Hampshire County Museum collection.

He retired in 1926 and died in 1929. He had taken thousands of photographs during his lifetime but when he retired he cleared out his shop and destroyed most of his negatives and photographs.

Only a small but unique collection survives, saved by the family which they passed to the Hampshire County Museum Service. They are a wonderful legacy of memories of the Havant area and its people frozen it time!

Geoff Salter 2005

Last amendment date: 02/07/2015

Bookmark and Share
Write Your Story