Yeovil People

William Alexander Mitchelson Ross

An enterprising Yeovil photographer

 

William Alexander Mitchelson Ross was born on 29 March 1883 at St Denys, Southampton, Hampshire. He was the son of Scottish artist Alexander Mitchelson Ross (1816-1907) and Maria née Biddlecombe (b1861 - 45 years his junior!!).

In the 1891 census the family were listed at 21 Dover Street, St Mary's, Southampton. His 75-year old father Alexander gave his occupation as an artist. William was a scholar, his mother was aged 30 and his younger brother, Fred, was aged 5 and also a scholar.

I couldn't find William in the 1901 census (he may have been the Sapper of that name in the Royal Engineers registered in the Stanhope and Wellington Lines at Aldershot - who knows?).

Certainly by 1906 he was living in Yeovil working as a photographer. He captured the aftermath of the destructive fire of 23 February 1906 which, apparently, was started by an unattended candle in a rear store-room of Thomas Clement's shop in High Street, that backed on to the cottages in South Street that were destroyed (see Gallery).

In the advertisement in the 2 March 1906 edition of the Western Chronicle announcing his photographs of the fire damage he gave the address of W Ross & Co as 30 Reckleford but in a small-ad placed in the 13 July 1906 issue of the Western Chronicle the address of W Ross & Co was given as 21 Princes Street.

In Collins' Yeovil Directory of 1907 Ross & Co was listed as "Photographers of Princes Street".

On 15 April 1908 at Holy Trinity church, William married Rose Wilhelmina Langdon (1885-1968) of Yeovil. They were to have three children; Harold William Alexander (b1908, Yeovil), Gwendoline R (b1914, Yeovil) and Cecil RJ (b1918, Amesbury, Wilts).

The record of Harold's (William and Rose's son) baptism at Holy Trinity church on 7 October 1908 (a 6-month baby), shows that at this time the family were living at 16 Wyndham Street.

In the 1911 census William and Rose, together with two-year old Harold, were living at 82 Earle Street, with another family in the same house. William gave his occupation as a photographer and Rose gave hers as a gloving machinist. His photographic studio was still at 21 Princes Street.

It is not known when William left Yeovil but it must have been between 1914 and 1918 (the birth  years of the two youngest children), moving to Amesbury, Wiltshire by the time of his son Cecil's birth. He later moved to the small village of Shrewton, Wiltshire, set within Salisbury Plain. Here he he ran the Supply Stores in High Street; the 1939 register noted that his occupation was a grocer and general dealer.

William died in Shrewton, Wiltshire, on 18 August 1957, aged 74. His will was proved in November and his effects were determined as £4,977 6s 6d (around £250,000 at today's value). Rose died in 1968, aged 83.

 

Gallery

 


From "Secure the Shadow. Somerset Photographers 1839-1939"

William Ross, enlarged from the photograph below.

 


From my collection

Photographed by William Ross and produced as a postcard, it is dated 23 February 1906 - the date the building that had housed the King's Arms was completely destroyed by fire although it hadn't of course, been a beerhouse for several decades. The firemen in the first floor window and the crowd at ground level are facing the photographer who was standing in South Street. The man with the bowler hat is standing at the entrance to the Hall Keeper's house next to the Cheese Market. The fire, apparently, was started by an unattended candle in a rear store-room of Thomas Clement's shop in High Street, that backed on to the cottages.

 


From my collection

.... and also produced as a postcard in vertical format.

 

Quick off the mark, this is William Ross' advertisement for photographs and postcards of the fire in the 2 March 1906 edition of the Western Chronicle.

 

A small-ad placed in the 13 July 1906 issue of the Western Chronicle by W Ross & Co of 21 Princes Street.

 

The record of William's son's baptism at Holy Trinity church shows that at this time the family were living at 16 Wyndham Street.

 


From "Secure the Shadow. Somerset Photographers 1839-1939"

William Ross (second from right) outside his tent studio set up on Salisbury Plain during the Great War in order for soldiers to have their photographs taken to send back to loved ones before they set off for war. Note the sign on the tent "W Ross of Yeovil".