One of the most well known North Berkshire photographers of the past 150 years was Tom Reveley who was an active professional photographer in the Wantage area from 1896-1941.

Tom was born in Wantage in 1875 to Thomas Reveley and his wife Maria (nee’ Pring). Thomas Reveley snr was a draper originally working in Oxford,who moved from there circa 1874, to set up a drapers business in Wallingford Street with his wife. Sadly Thomas died shortly after his son’s birth and his wife Maria continued the drapers, eventually taking into partnership (and eventually marrying) Arthur Wood. The drapers shop named Reveley and Wood was on the site of what is now Waitrose. Older residents of Wantage will remember the building when it was Roberts drapers and outfitters.

It is not known how Tom Reveley first became interested in photography, however his obituary states he first became a professional photographer when he was aged 21. A planning application was approved by the Wantage Urban District Council in 1897, for a building for use as a studio, to be erected behind Tom Reveley’s new house at 48, Market Place Wantage. This was on the site of what is now the discount shop Savers. On the 19th February 1898, Tom Reveley married Mary Reid Carmichael and the couple set up home in the Market Place where Tom had his new photographic business.Two sons eventually arrived completing the family. They were Guy (1901-1929) and Philip (1899-1957). The latter served in the RFC in 1917, was shot down on a bombing mission in 1918 and remained as a POW for the rest of the war. He became the landlord of the Blue Boar in Newbury Street and died in 1957.

Turning now to Tom’s photographic business. This developed from 1896, with Tom Reveley gaining a reputation for all types of photography , views, family groups, children and animals. He also recorded royal visits to Ardington for Lord and Lady Wantage, in particular one by the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1897. During this occasion, Tom took a photograph of Lord Wantage’s famous shire horse ‘Prince William’ for Princess Alexandria who was so delighted with the enlargement she decided to hang it in the hall at Sandringham.

Animals were one of Tom’s specialties, and in 1904 he held a small one man exhibition which was mentioned in the British Journal of Photography. This said ‘the work of Mr Tom Reveley of Wantage, affords a display interesting especially to those concerned in the breeding of pedigree animals, whether horses,dogs, cattle or sheep (I have also found references to the fact that he did cats as well!). Mr Reveley has attained an extremely creditable excellence, artistic, technical and one may add, occasionally humerous in photography in this special direction.’

Tom was also in demand with the horse racing industry photographing horses and their jockeys.

Tom Reveley’s photographs can be found published in The Sketch, The Illustrated London News and the Tatler. His photographs were turned into postcards and can still be found at Postcard fairs and on online auction sites.

With all this work coming in, another photographic studio was opened, this time in Abingdon and Tom engaged another photographer to help him. This was Percy Jones, who came from Derby with his wife and was lived in Ormond Road in 1911. Most of the photographs taken of the Wantage Peace Celebrations in 1919 were taken by him.

By 1939, Tom was 65 and looking at the 1939 Register on FindMyPast one can find Tom Reveley still living at 48, Market Place Wantage. Living with him is Alice Hoare, whose profession is given as photographer. Tom Reveley died in 1941, and I am aware that photographs bearing his name were taken after this date. Therefore it is likely that Alice Hoare took these. An exhibition is being planned for this Summer at the Vale and Downland Museum in Wantage about Tom Reveley and if anyone can add to this story, supply copies of photographs or even a photo of Tom himself,please contact either me via my email trevor@whitehorseancestors.co.uk or Suzie Tibury the curator of the Vale and Downland Museum at vdmcurator@gmail.com

Trevor Hancock
April 2017