William (Bill) Alvey was born in 1909 and died in 1986 at the age of 77. He left
school when he was 13 or 14 and joined his father's (Joseph) cobblers business on
Main Street to became a cobbler himself, eventually taking over the business when
his father retired.
Bill married Pansy Offord in 1936; Pansy was a parlour maid at
the home of Col. Potter at Lambley House on Bank Hill. They led a quiet and ordered
life; meals had to be on the table at 8am, 12 noon, 4pm and 8pm. They had a beautiful
garden and the grass was cut every other day!
He was seemingly a private man who was self-taught in most of what he did. Regrettably
we only have one photograph of Bill in our archives and that can be seen above [courtesy
of the Nottingham Evening Post].
Besides being a cobbler all his working life he had many and varied interests, these
are listed as:-
The countryside, nature and the study of plants.
Playing in the Woodborough Brass Band
On the right, Bill & Pansy in 1983 inside the cobblers shop just three years before
Bills’s interests in more detail:-
He loved the countryside and nature and either walked or cycled to various locations
around Woodborough. He also went to Lincoln, but most probably he must have taken
is cycle on the train as it is some 40 miles away. He would combine his trips with
taking photographic studies of trees and fields. His trips to Lincoln would have
been because Pansy was from Hackthorn near Lincoln.
Shooting, he was a very successful shot and won the England Home Guard Championship
at Bisley during the last Great War.
Reading was a passion, however Charles Dickens was the only author he would read
and he had a full set of his books. He would read in the winter months when not spending
time in his dark room developing photographs. He could quote chapter and verse from
many of the novels.
Bill learnt how to play the tenor horn and played in the Woodborough Brass Band,
he also taught others to play.
Clocks were a life long interest and customers would leave him their clocks in their
wills. He had a display of clocks in the shop all set at different times so they
would not all chime together. He would also repair clocks for customers; this was
a self taught skill.
In his middle years Bill became a very accomplished photographer and we will comment
on this later, he built his own darkroom and developed his own films. At first he
would take his camera around on foot often returning to a favoured spot to capture
a scene in different seasons or light conditions. Later he would cycle and later
still he either borrowed or bought a motorcycle and went further afield.
The cobblers shop and attached house in
1990 following considerable alterations.
The Woodborough United Brass Band in 1955 playing in the Woodborough Hall gardens.
When needing further supplies of leather he would go to Nottingham (8 miles away)
on the 8 o’clock bus and return on the 11am service from Nottingham. Stitching bottoms
(soles) and buckles on shoes was “a tanner” (half a shilling). He worried that when
leather went up in price he would say in his broad north Nottingham dialect, “folks’ll
not pay 7 and a tanner [7 shillings and six pence] for men's boot soles and 4 bob
[4 shillings] for ladies”. Children could take their whip and top to have a new leather
lace put on the whip and a metal stud for the top to spin on. When asked how much
that would cost he would say “nowt”.
When asked to describe Bill’s nature, the replies
would be, a great but quite character, dry-witted, good sense of humour, self taught,
well read (but only Dickens), and someone who could make something out of nothing,
who spoke in a broad north Nottingham dialect and of course as we shall describe
below, had a wonderful eye for composing photographic scenes.
We now come to the man
as an accomplished photographer, who achieved many a wonderful photograph with such
modest camera equipment and then who went on to develop, enlarge and mount his prints
in a very skilful way.
Some of Bill's photographic equipment, from left to right, 3 Kodak cameras, lenses
and viewfinders, developing items film and photographic paper. These seem very basic
to the digital cameras of today.
Bill’s love was clearly the countryside and from the 280 prints and negatives that
have been donated to this Group, there are a few scenes of Nottingham, a few of Lincoln,
a few agricultural buildings, but the majority are of rural settings, with the River
Trent and of course ‘his’ trees. People rarely feature in his photographs; one is
more likely to see a horse or cows grazing. He would often take pictures in winter
because of the strong low light and the effects that were possible with trees without
leaves; he would also take frost and snow scenes and in the summer months he would
be looking for suitable cloud effects. Unfortunately it has only been possible to
identify the location of about 50% of the scenes.
Bill was convinced he would die at the age of 77 because most of the male members
of his family had died at that age. As he approached his 77th birthday he sold his
collection of clocks so that Pansy would not be left with that to do. He died in
1986 aged 77.
Bill’s photographs: Now to give you a flavour of Bill’s photographic art, it seems
he took most of his photographs in the winter months, often returning to the same
place at different times of the year. Most of his subjects are of fields and trees.
However, although in very much the minority, he did photograph other subjects, for
example, the River Trent, Lincoln, Nottingham, farm buildings, and snow scenes. What
follows are just two examples from each of the seven subjects that he covered the
Taken from recollections of several people who knew Bill as a neighbour or friend.or