Brislington Community Museum

Foster B'ton

A survey of more than 1,100 local postcards reveals "Foster B'ton" to be the most successful Brislington-based publisher to print his name on local topographic postcards. His success here is measured simply by how many postcards have survived. At time of writing (July 2022) there are 97 Foster postcards in the survey, and the publisher with the next highest number is Edith Coe of St Anne's, with 59. These are postcards that have been valued enough to have been kept by generation after generation, over the course of a century of more.

Charles Joseph Foster, publisher of postcards under the name Foster B'ton, was born in 1848 at the village of Braughing, Hertfordshire. His mother Martha (nee Wilkerson) was from Bassingbourn, Cambridge, and his father Charles Foster was from Gt Totham, Essex. In the 1851 Census the two-year-old boy had one sibling, a baby brother. They lived at Warren Farm where their father (33), employed ten labourers to help manage 315 acres. His mother was aged 30.

By the time of the 1861 Census his family had moved some 50km southeast to Maldon, Essex, where they lived in the High Street. His father's occupation was listed as a grocer and draper, and his mother worked as a milliner. In addition to the children already noted, the family now included another brother and a sister. Seven employees also lived on the premises.

By the time of the 1871 Census the family had moved again, this time to Witham, Essex, some 8km to the north. Charles' father was now occupied as an iron founder employing 12 men and 3 boys. Charles himself, now aged 22, was manager at the iron foundry.

In the summer of 1879 Charles married Ann Ellen Heath in the registration district of Atcham, near Shrewsbury, Shropshire. Ann had been born to Sarah and John Heath, both from Shrewsbury, and her birth had been registered there in 1856.

At the time of the 1861 Census Ann's family lived at Pride Hill, Shrewsbury where her father (46) was occupied as a tailor and draper employing 18 men and 2 boys. Her mother was aged 44, and Ann had eight siblings. A decade later, at the time of the 1871 Census, the business employed only 8 men and 2 boys, and only five of the children were living at home.

The married couple - Charles and Ann - had made their home at Fordington, near Dorchester, Dorset, when the 1881 Census was taken. He was occupied as an iron founder and agricultural implement maker, employing 45 men and 5 boys. Ten years on, at the time of the 1891 Census, the family, now at High West St, Dorchester, had grown to include a daughter and a son, both born in that county town. Charles was still an employer occupied as an iron founder and iron monger.

By the time of the 1901 Census the family had moved to Park Road, in the Heavitree area of Exeter, Devon, and had grown to include another boy and another girl (both also born at Dorchester). Charles was now working as a travelling mechanical engineer.

The 1911 Census shows the couple living in Brislington, Bristol, with two their children (including Joseph Harvey, now aged 21). They lived at Coniston, 39 Kensington Park Road, and their other two children were listed as still living. Charles (62) described his occupation as agricultural mechanical engineer, sometimes travelling. Ann (55) was occupied attending to the house, and Joseph worked as a mechanical and motor engineer.

Sadly, on 7 Feb 1912 Charles Foster died while residing still at Coniston. He left nearly £250 in assets. In 1918 when the couple's son Joseph Harvey married, he declared his late father's profession as Traveller. Ann's death was registered in January 1949 in Bristol, she hadn't remarried.


Village Square - HIGH STREET, BRISLINGTON. Published online at Bristol Archives, and published in print in Fisher, Janet & Derek undated, page 17. Earliest known picture: 19 Sept 1904.

Church of St Luke - BRISLINGTON CHURCH (also titled "Brislington Church.") Earliest known date: 29 Oct 1904.

White Hart Hotel - Bowling Green, White Hart Hotel, Brislington. Published online at Bristol Archives, and again at Bristol Archives. Earliest known picture: 07 July 1906.

Methodist chapel (demolished, formerly at south corner of School Road and Church Parade) - WESLEYAN CHURCH. BRISLINGTON (also titled "WESLEYAN CHURCH. BRISLINGTON.") Published in print by Chard, Judith et al 1995, page 66; and also by Jones & Chown 1977, plate 54. Earliest known date: 19 Oct 1904.

Brislington Railway Station - RAILWAY STATION, BRISLINGTON published in print by Fisher, Janet & Derek undated, page 12, and also by Williamson, B 1985, page 8. A variant is published online at Bristol Archives, and in print in Chard, Judith et al 1995, page 94. Earliest known picture: 31 Oct 1904.

Railway Station, Brislington - GARDENS, BRISLINGTON STATION. Published in print by Williamson, B 1985, page 9. Earliest known picture: 24 Dec 1904.

Water Lane - Water Lane, Brislington. Published online at Bristol Archives, and in print in Williamson, B 1985, page 7. Earliest known picture: 08 June 1906.

Bristol Hill - GROVE PARK ROAD, BRISLINGTON. Earliest known date: 24 Apr 1912. This postcard, in spite of its title, shows part of Bristol Hill.

Grove Park, United Reformed Church- CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, BRISLINGTON. Earliest known date: 18 Oct 1904.

St Anne's Park railway station - PEAR STONE AND TUNNEL, ST ANNES PARK STATION, BRISLINGTON. Published online at Bristol Archives. Earliest known picture: 13 Oct 1904.

St Anne's Park railway station - APPLE STONE AND BRIDGES, ST. ANNES PARK STATION, BRISLINGTON. Earliest known picture: 18 Oct 1904.

St Anne's Well (St Anne's Wood) - ST. ANNES WELL, BRISLINGTON. Variant published online at Bristol Archives, and in print in . published in Taylor, Ken 2014, page 16. Earliest known picture: 30 Nov 1904.

Some notes

The rather enigmatic choice of name "Foster B'ton" took considerable time and a stroke of sheer good fortune to unpack. For a long while it wasn't even certain the publisher was a man (his closest rival in terms of his legacy of the sheer number of surviving postcards was a woman). The question as to Foster's identity was settled by two postcards, seen years apart and obtained from different sources... In one the sender - who signed himself "Harvey" - declared his father had published a set of postcards (ten for sixpence), and the other was from the same sender and gave his full return address - Coniston! His signature on the second postcard was JHF, which was swiftly deciphered to Joseph Harvey Foster.

That happy accident of the two postcards being brought together simply wouldn't have happened without the project to catalogue all the local postcards. This project collates information from a wide range of people and organisations, making its discoveries very much a community achievement. This breakthrough is certainly a milestone in the project's history, and perhaps it's also the foundation stone of much more to come.

Ken Taylor

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.