Brislington Community Museum

A G S & Co, Bristol

A G Shortman & Co published hundreds of real photograph postcards of Bristol, and at least a dozen of Brislington.

The birth of Albert George Shortman was registered in Bristol (Barton Regis) in the final quarter of 1887 (all addresses are in Bristol unless otherwise stated). The 1891 census shows him as the youngest of five children of Rebecca and George (an engine fitter), living in the civil parish of St Philip & Jacob Out. Every member of the household had been born in Bristol.

The 1901 census shows the 13-year old Albert living at home (his mother had died), still the youngest child, and working as a solicitor's clerk. A decade later the census shows him - and also his brother James - as a shopkeeper working from home and an employer dealing in stationery. His three older siblings living at home are all single.

The 1914 edition of "Kelly's Directory of Bristol" lists "Shortman A. G. & Co. wholesale stationers" in business at 113 St Thomas Street, Bristol (page 267).

In April 1918 as an officer's cadet stationed near Plymouth, Albert married Nellie Shapland, a 28-year old spinster. The marriage was by licence at the parish church of St Mary Redcliffe. In 1911 the census shows Nellie as the eldest of eight children of Mary and John, a confectioner, living in Ashley Down. She was self-employed, working from home as a dressmaker. Her sister Gladys (18) worked as a photographer's assistant.

The register of 1939 shows Albert and Nellie living together in Redland - his occupation was cited as a commercial traveller, dealing in stationery. He died at that same address in 1972, and Nellie died at a different house number in the same street, in 1976.

Brislington postcards (all in the "Chatterton Series")

These postcards have been sequenced in the order a visitor might see the sights, travelling on the Bath Road coming from Bristol, and occasionally exploring side roads.

Bath Road - Tram Depot Brislington Bristol. Series number 344. Earliest known picture: 26 Sept 1922.

Black Castle - Arnos Vale Castle, Brislington, Bristol. Series number 442. Earliest known picture: 17 Aug 1922.

Bath Road - Arnos Vale Castle Entrance, Brislington, Bristol. Series number 340. Published online at Bristol Archives. Earliest known picture: 15 Sept 1920.

Sandy Park Road - Sandy Park Road. Brislington, Bristol. Series number 314. Published online at Bristol Archives.

Sandy Park Road - Sandy Park Road, Brislington, Bristol. Series number 315.

Bath Road (Kensington Hill) - KENSINGTON HILL BRISLINGTON. Series number 272. Earliest known picture: before 3 June 1918.

Talbot Road - TALBOT HILL BRISLINGTON. Series number 274. Variant published online at Bristol Archives. Earliest known picture: 27 Aug 1912.

Bath Road (Bristol Hill) - Top of Bristol Hill. Brislington, Bristol. Series number 438. Published online at Bristol Archives. Published in print by Crimmins, Graham et al, 2008, page 37. Earliest known picture: 1921.

Bath Road (The Square) - Brislington, Tram Terminus. Bristol. Series number 316.

School Road - School Road, Brislington Bristol. Series number 342. Published in print by Fisher, Janet & Derek undated, page 19; and also by Fisher, Janet et al 1985, page 27. Earliest known picture: July 1922.

Church of St Luke - Brislington Parish Church Bristol. Series number 341. Published online at Bristol Archives. Earliest known picture: May 1928.

Bath Road (The Square) - Tram Terminus, Brislington, Bristol. Series number 343.

Some notes on the postcards

The only example seen so far of the postcard of Talbot Road (number 274) is a misprint - the negative was printed back to front, so the image is reversed (left to right). This isn't a difficult mistake to make when the printer is unfamiliar with the location.

Although the large gaps between series numbers are filled by postcards of other places, it's practically certain there are some Brislington postcards yet to be catalogued.

Some notes on printing equipment

The leading supplier of real photograph printing machines to the postcard publishing industry, Ellis Graber of Tunbridge Wells, regularly advertised in the annual British Journal Almanac. Between 1913 and 1933 the adverts cited notable customers that used their machines, and Les Waters has published a list of them. Shortman. A.G. & Co, Bristol, had bought more than one machine, and was included in Graber's adverts from 1918 to 1921 (Waters undated, page 19). Waters points out that we shouldn't expect the adverts to name every customer, and neither should we see the date range as precluding previous and subsequent use of the machines, which were robust and built to last.

Waters provides a wealth of information on Graber's machines, which produced real photograph postcards directly from a negative as early as 1909. A model advertised in 1910 printed them at a rate of 1,000 per hour, and could also print lines of text or images from a block on the reverse of the postcard. By 1912 the "E Graber Acme" could print from four negatives simultaneously, boosting production up to 8,000 postcards an hour (even so, it could cost-effectively work with a print run of just 50 postcards). This innovative company continued to trade until the death of its founder, Ellis Graber, in 1946.

The bibliography below has a link to Water's paper at a website celebrating Cambridgeshire's old photographs and photographers - Fading Images.

Ken Taylor


Waters, Les undated, Ellis Graber, an Unsung Hero of the UK Postcard Trade, Cambridgeshire, Fading Images, (accessed 24 September 2022).

Regrettably 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.