Brislington Community Museum

Elson, L T

Uniquely among local publishers of Brislington postcards, Louis Thomas Elson also published postcards of other parts of Bristol. This broader scope was no doubt facilitated by his shop in Victoria Street (close to Temple Meads railway station).

Louis was born in Bristol in the spring of 1871 and was baptised in August of the following year at the parish church of Holy Trinity church, in the St Philips area of Bristol. The 1871 Census shows him living at Pennywell Road, St Philips, the youngest of three children, all boys, with their father William Elson (aged 28, from Farrington in Devon, working as a salesman in a china shop) and mother Emma (30, from Bristol).

The 1881 Census finds the family in Lower Castle Street, St Philips, intact with an addition two sons and a daughter. The father was now working as a French polisher. The Census a decade later shows Louis himself working as a French polisher and visiting Churchill Place, St George, Bristol.

In the spring of 1901, at the time of the Census, Louis was boarding in St Martin's Road, Knowle, Bristol, and working as a foreman French polisher. He was engaged in the same profession (but living at York Road), in October that year when he married Emily Shepherd at the parish church of St Luke, Bedminster, Bristol. Emily, a spinster, was living at Spring Street, and her father worked as a carpenter. Louis' father now worked as an antique dealer.

Emily, daughter of Joseph (who already worked as a carpenter) and Susan Shepherd, was baptised at the parish church of St Cuthbert, Wells, Somerset in September 1874. The 1881 Census shows her as the youngest of five children, all daughters, living in the hamlet of Dulcote, Wells with their father (aged 40, from Stogursey, Somerset, carpenter) and mother (41, from Bristol).

A decade later the Census shows Emily's family in the same hamlet, and Joseph in the same occupation, but now Emily was the only child living at home - she worked as a school teacher. The 1901 Census shows her staying with her sister Lucy (who was eight years older than Emily) at 25 Wells Road, Knowle. Lucy was married to Louis' brother - Walter Elson - who was self-employed and working from home as seller of fancy toys. Emily was described as working from home, self-employed, and a shop assistant at a fancy toy dealer's.

The shop in Victoria Street could make an interesting research project in its own right. For example, the main sign outside the shop in Victoria Street is shown in an as yet undated postcard (neither is the publisher yet known) and reads "ELSON'S BAZAAR and at 25 Wells Rd Totterdown", which as we've seen is the address of Louis' brother Walter. He may even have been publishing postcards of Bristol in or around 1907. The 1914 volume of Kelly's Directory of Bristol, though, has an entry for Louis Elson: "toy dealer, 148 Victoria street, Temple and stationer, 14 Sandy Park road, Brislington".

Louis and Emily had moved to Brislington by the time of the 1911 Census, when they were living at 14 Sandy Park Road. They had three children, all born in Knowle (sadly, another child had died), the youngest of whom was six years old. One of Emily's other sisters was also living with them (she was of independent means). Louis worked at home as a shopkeeper, specifically as a stationer, newsagent, and toy dealer, and Emily assisted in the business.

While living at the same address, in October 1912 Emily gave birth to a son - Kenneth - who was baptised the following month at the parish church of St Anne, Brislington. In December 1916, while still at the same address, Emily gave birth to another son - Douglas - who was baptised in March the following year at the church of St Luke, Brislington.

Sadly, Emily's death was registered in Bristol in 1938. The following year, at the time of the Register, Louis (now a retired stationer) was living in St Martin's Road, Knowle, with four of their children. He was living there still in November 1952 when he died, leaving an estate worth not far short of £10,000.


Postcards published from Brislington (alone)

Repton Road (looking north) - Repton Road, Brislington.

Church of St Cuthbert - St Cuthbert's Church. Brislington. Published online at Bristol Archives.

Holymead - Holymead Meadows, Brislington. Published in print by Williamson, B 1985, page 2).

West Town Lane - Waterfall & Orchard, West Town Lane, Brislington. Printed before 3 June 1918.

West Town Lane - The Waterfall. West Town Lane. Brislington. Printed before 3 June 1918.

Church of St Anne - St. Anne's Church Brislington. Earliest known picture: 6 Sept 1918.

Church of St Anne - St. Anne's Church, Brislington. Printed before 3 June 1918.

St Anne's Park Station - First Avenue & Station. St. Annes, Brislington. Published online at Bristol Archives. Printed before 3 June 1918.

St Anne's Park Station - St Annes Park Station, Brislington.

St Anne's Wood - St. Annes Woods. Brislington. Printed before 3 June 1918.

St Anne's Wood - Nature's Garden. St. Annes Woods Brislington. Earliest known picture: 5 Sept 1917.


Postcards published from Sandy Park Road and Victoria Street (together)

Repton Road (looking south) - Repton Rd Brislington. Earliest known picture: 24 May 1923.

Winchester Road - Winchester Rd. Brislington.

Winchester Road - Winchester Road, Brislington.

Wick Road school - Wick Rd. Council Schools Brislington. Published online at Bristol Archives.

Grove Park - The Crescent, Brislington. Published in print by Fisher, Janet & Derek undated, page 8). Earliest known picture: Mar 1924.

Grove Park - Congregational Church, & Grove Park Brislington.

Water Lane - Church Hall, Brislington. Published in print by Chard, Judith et al 1995, page 122), and Fisher, Janet & Derek undated, page 9), and Fisher, Janet et al 1983, page 45).

Bristol Hill - Bristol Hill, Brislington. Published in print by Fisher, Janet & Derek undated, page 13). Earliest known picture: 1924.

Panorama - Bristol Hill from West Town Lane Brislington. Published in print by Fisher, Janet & Derek undated, page 21).

Church of St Luke - Brislington Parish Church. (St Luke's.) series number 7316.

Church of St Luke - Brislington Parish Church, (St Luke's.) series number 7317. Earliest known picture: 1924

St Anne's school - St Anne's Council Schools, Brislington.


Some notes

Although Louis Elson's pictures of Bristol are often produced by many other publishers, his Brislington pictures are all (so far as is known) uniquely his. His career as a publisher saw postcards crediting him at Sandy Park Road, and at Victoria Street (presumably at "Elson's Bazaar" which appears to have been run by his brother Walter), and also at both Brislington and Victoria Street simultaneously. No pictures of Brislington were published from Victoria Street alone.

Although his postcards include the usual visitors' souvenirs such as St Luke's church, and St Anne's Park railway station; and included subjects popular with local homeowners such as schools and even residential streets, his postcards also demonstrate an interest in the natural beauty of the locality. This is evidenced in his postcards of St Anne's Park, others that show the orchard and waterfall where Brislington Brook flows beneath West Town Lane, and yet another that depicts the rural scene succinctly captured in the title "Holymead Meadows, Brislington".

His later postcards carry serial numbers, and the gaps in the known sequence show there are more than a few not yet included in this survey - so we can all look forward with some enthusiasm to see what other local scenes Louis Elson selected to immortalise.

Ken Taylor


Regretably we can't exhibit these postcards until either the identity of the photographer/s is known (and perhaps also the copyright status of their pictures), or we secure funds to apply for a batch of orphan works licences.