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John Pryce Blair
One Name Studies
 


John was born in Liverpool c1835-8, the son of David John Blair, a miller, deceased by the time of his marriage to Charlotte Fisher in 1878. It was J P Blair who took the Fisher group photo at the top of the main Fisher page on this website.

Photo courtesy of Petersfield Museum. Many thanks to my sister Kate Jones for her excellent digital restoration of the original photo!

Timeline

1835-8 – born in Liverpool, son of David John Blair, a miller
1878 – married Charlotte 25.11
1881 – living in lodgings in Dartmouth at the time of the census
1884 – moved to Petersfield around this time
1889 – listed in Kelly’s Directory as “portrait & landscape photo artist, fancy stationer & picture frame maker.” Chapel Street
1890 – listed in Lavant Street
1891 – branch studio opened in West Meon (1st ad 6.1.1892)
1892 – became a Guardian for Petersfield
1894 – set up a branch studio in Station Road, Midhurst                             1895 - appointed to the School Board                                                     1898 – re-elected Guardian for Petersfield
1901 – Emily Fisher working as a nurse in the workhouse
1903 – elected councillor for the Petersfield Urban District Council
1904 – 21.12 – advert for new studio at 45 Chapel Street: "built on the latest plan, no getting up stairs – a few doors up from the old Crystal Palace Studio."
1906 – Charlotte died 31.7. An advert of 17.10 says he had "made new arrangements & refitted the photographic studio. A first class lady operator kept." 1907 – unsuccessful in seeking re-election as councillor
1910 – retired as Guardian for Petersfield
1911 -  "Messrs. Wilton, Blair & Co., have now installed new and successful apparatus for taking Portraits by night”
1912 – retired as a photographer & moved to Eastleigh for a few months
1913 – returned to Petersfield to lodge with Mrs Compton at The Crown Inn
1914 – died 25.1 in The Crown Inn

Charlotte and John moved to Petersfield sometime before 1889, when John’s business is first listed in Kelly’s Trade Directory for Petersfield. His listing is as follows:

Blair John Pryce, portrait and landscape photo artist, fancy stationer and picture frame maker, Crystal Palace Studios, Chapel Street.

At the time of the 1891 census, Charlotte was visiting her brother Joseph and sister-in-law Surrenah in Mark, Somerset. John was visiting Elizabeth Silverlock and her daughter Jessie Robbins, living at High Street, Warblington, Hampshire.

In the 6.1.1892 edition of The Hants & Sussex News there was an advert for a branch studio recently opened in West Meon.

Kelly’s Directory 1898 & 1899 (commercial): Blair, John Pryce, portrait and landscape photo artist, fancy stationer and picture frame maker, Crystal Palace Studio, Chapel Street.
 
According to the 1901 census, Charlotte and John were living at Crystal Palace Studios, 29 Chapel Street, Petersfield, Hampshire. The group photo towards the top of this page was taken here. 

In the 17.10.1906 edition of The Hants & Sussex News there was the following advert: “J P Blair having made new arrangements & refitted his photographic studio is able to produce first-class photographs in all styles at popular prices (list). A first class lady operator kept. Children a speciality. Every picture guaranteed perfect."

J P Blair was still listed as a photographer in the 1911 Kelly’s Directory for Hampshire & the Isle of Wight.

J P Blair was a well-known figure in Petersfield and was known for vociferously and articulately championing his causes, most notably the welfare of the poor. See the article reporting his death below.

The following report of an “Old Folks Dinner” which took place on New Year’s Day just over 3 weeks before his death is from the Wednesday January 7 1914 issue of The Hants and Sussex News with which is incorporated The Petersfield Weekly News:

“Mr J.P. Blair, to the satisfaction of everyone, was well enough again to fill the post of chairman and as usual, he kept the ball going with great good humour and kept everybody in good spirits with his characteristic pleasantries and his homely and kindly little speeches, both gay and grave, between the various items of the programme.”

John Pryce Blair died on 25.1.1914 in The Crown Inn, 2 Sussex Road, Petersfield of malignant disease of the mediastinal glands and exhaustion. His niece, Mary Fisher, was in attendance. Her address is given on his death certificate as Heathmere, The Avenue, Petersfield. As she was unmarried and had no other local connections, I’m not sure how she came to be staying at Heathmere. It may be that friends of John’s owned the property and she was staying with them. When his wife Charlotte died, there was a wreath from "all at Heathmere".

The following is a report of John’s death appeared in the Wednesday January 28 1914 issue of The Hants and Sussex News with which is incorporated The Petersfield Weekly News:

                                          A FRIEND OF THE POOR

                                 PASSING OF MR J.P. BLAIR
                                  
In the death on Sunday at Petersfield of Mr John Pryce Blair, there passed away an old inhabitant of the town whose loss will be keenly felt and none more than by the poorer members of the community whose friend and champion he was for many years. He was far advanced in years, his age being about 80, and for a long time past it was plain that his health and strength were failing fast, yet until almost the very last his indomitable spirit enabled him to keep about and to participate with a remarkable display of lively interest and some amount of energy in these things that were always nearest to his heart, especially the welfare of the poor and old people whose lot he had strive, not in vain, by sympathy and effort to ameliorate in years gone by.

It was not until the middle of last week that he really succumbed to the growing weakness which sapped his physical powers and he did not actually take to his bed until the day before his death. Even then his mental faculties remained clear and he was conscious until shortly before the end which came quite peacefully and painlessly about a quarter-past ten on Sunday night. He passed away at his lodgings, with Mrs Compton at Sussex Road, where he had been staying for the
past twelve months, his latter days being made as happy and comfortable as possible by the help and service of friends who came to his aid when misfortune overtook him. 

For many years he carried on the business of a photographer in the town but he gave it up about two years ago and then went to Eastleigh for a few months but returned to Petersfield to end his days, conscious that his health was broken but still possessed of a capacity (sadly diminished, it is true, compared with that which formerly characterized him) to cheer and brighten the lives of his old friends as opportunity offered.

The most striking evidence of this was afforded, as we noted at the time, at The Old Folks Dinner at St Peter’s Hall as recently as New Year’s Day and even later than that he presided at other social gatherings in the town and by his characteristic gaiety contributed in no small measure to the enjoyment of those functions.
                                               --------------

Of his early career previous to coming to Petersfield not much is generally known, but he had certainly spent a very varied and adventurous life and had lived for some years in America where he was engaged in business. 

In the course of a residence in Petersfield of something like 30 years Mr Blair attained a repute for public spirit, which, to a large degree, he thoroughly merited.  His chief public work was in connection with the care of the poor. For 18 years he served as Guardian for Petersfield, only retiring in 1910, when the state of his health and business considerations induced him to relinquish the duties which he had so sympathetically and successfully discharged. The confidence and appreciation of the ratepayers were signally expressed by his being returned at the head of the poll at every contested election.

Whilst on the Board he was advocate of many improvements and reforms which have since become commonplace in the administration of relief, especially in regard to the treatment of old people in the Workhouse. On his retirement from the Board his colleagues granted him the privilege of visiting the Institution so that he might continue in touch with the old folk and this he had exercised ever since. The loss of his cheering and kindly influence will be greatly felt by the Inmates of that Institution.  

Another sphere in which his abilities were prominently exerted was in the municipal government of the town. When the question of the removal of the
market from the Square became a critical one, he came forward as a strong champion of its retention there and was returned as a member of the Urban District Council. There can be no doubt that his speeches and the strong stand he took on the matter were a factor of some considerable weight in determining the issue. He sat as a councillor for some four years but on seeking re-election in 1907 he was unsuccessful.

He was also for some years a member of the Petersfield School Board. There were, in fact, few public affairs in which he did not make his influence felt and most people will agree that in many ways his influence was for the public good. He was a man of considerable natural gifts and a personality that challenged attention. Conspicuous among his gifts was oratorical power. He was a very effective speaker, and, as some people would say, “a great orator,” and this distinction was exhibited to the admiration and enjoyment of his hearers on many a public platform and also at the Petersfield Literary and Debating Society of which he was one of the oldest and for many years the most active members and a Vice-President. His oratorical powers were brought into play occasionally as a lay preacher, and he frequently took services in the country villages.

He was a strong Nonconformist, but did not ally himself with either of the Free churches in Petersfield, helping all in turn as opportunity presented itself. As an untiring Temperance advocate and worker he came prominently before the public, and in this connection all his life long showed the greatest zeal. He took an active interest in all Temperance efforts in Petersfield, especially in the lodge of Good Templars. During his residence in America he was initiated into the Order of Good Templars before it was established in England and he claimed to be the
oldest Good Templar in the United Kingdom. 

An uncompromising and extreme Radical in politics he came also to the front in all the political campaigns in East Hants during the last 30 years. For the party of his choice and the principles it enunciated he fought strenuously and dauntlessly, and the Liberals of East Hants will realise that they have lost a staunch and energetic worker who has rendered valiant service to their cause on innumerable occasions.

                                          ---------------

Much more might be written of the part he filled for so may years in the life of Petersfield now that he has run his course but it must be suffice to say that despite certain errors and faults due to temperament and perhaps lack of discrimination through excess of enthusiasm for the causes he championed, he had a warm and kindly heart, always ready and keen to combat injustice to the poor and needy, and we venture to believe that it will be as a friend of the poor that his memory will be cherished the longest and that he would best wish to be
remembered.

This article appeared on the front page of the February 4 1914 edition of The Hants and Sussex News:

                                        THE LATE MR J. P. BLAIR

                                  TRIBUTES TO HIS WORK 

The funeral of the late Mr. J. P. Blair, which took place at Petersfield on Thursday last, was marked by the greatest simplicity. The remains, enclosed in a polished elm coffin with brass fittings, were conveyed on a wheel bier from the deceased’s late residence in Sussex Road to the cemetery, followed by representatives of the local lodge of Good Templars and tent of Rechabites wearing their regalia, and a number of tradesmen, members of public bodies, with which the deceased had been connected, and friends. Bro. W. C. Burley (chief templar) and the Rev. W. Newby (Wesleyan minister) headed the procession. On top of the coffin rested the deceased’s regalia as a Good templar. There were no flowers, as a special request had been made that none should be sent. The general sympathy felt in the town was displayed by drawn blinds in many of the households along the route traversed, and some of the shops placed black shutters to the windows. At the cemetery several other residents had gathered to pay their last tribute of respect to the deceased. Amongst those who followed the remains to their last resting place were Dr. Leachman, Messrs. C. J. Godfrey, and J. Fowler (members of the Board of Guardians); Messrs, W. H. Robins and D. E. Hobbs, members of the Petersfield Urban District Council; Messrs W. Rickard, W. Bradley, W. Duffett, H. Fielder, W. Brake, T. Shakespeare, W. Rowland, C. Hoar, D. Carpenter, F, Carpenter, Miss Fisher (a relative of the deceased), Mrs Sayers, Miss Richardson, and Mr. And Mrs. L. H. Marsh. Sister Page (Vice-Templar) was among the representatives of the Good Templar Lodge and Bros. W. Langrish (Past Chief Officer)and C. W. Martine represented the Rechabites. The burial service was impressively conducted by the Rev. W. Newby in the presence of a sympathetic gathering of people, including some of the poor folk who had been befriended by the deceased. The funeral arrangements were carried out by Messrs. A. and G. Barnes, Petersfield.

                                                  ------

Before the business commenced at the Literary and Debating Society last Friday evening, tributes were paid to the late Mr. J. P. Blair, who was so long and actively associated with the society. The president (Mr. R. K. Cardew) remarked that he thought he might safely say that Mr. Blair was the best known member of their society and the most familiar figure in the society. It was not for him to say anything of his work in the town. He had been described in the papers as the friend of the poor. The poor were a majority, and a very important majority too. Mr. Blair was also a friend of the Temperance Cause, and there would be a difficulty, he hoped, in this part of England, in finding anyone who would dare to say there was no need for temperance. It was also not necessary for him to say anything about the part that he took In politics, which, of course, was contrary to the views of the majority in this neighbourhood. It was enough for him to say, and he was sure that everybody would agree with that, that he always said what he really thought, and it was not everybody who could do that. It was for him to speak just for a minute r two of Mr. Blair’s connection with that society, of which without doubt he was the most prominent figure. He did not know how long the society had lasted, but he believed he was right in saying Mr. Blair had been associated with it the whole of that time. He was also a Vice-President. When anybody had gone to far it was their duty to abstain from too much criticism and try to learn what was worth remembering. As far as Mr. Blair’s connection with  that society went he should like to lay stress first of all on the fact that he was an orator. He spoke without reference to notes, and also, he believed, without much previous preparation. He recalled the manner in which Mr. Blair rose to the occasion when he was elected to second the vote of thanks to Lord Selborne for his magnificent address in the Corn Exchange some three years ago. He alluded to his wit and good humour, his power as a critic and to detect flaws in other people’s arguments, and to his absolute fearlessness. Very few people could speak so straight as Mr. Blair could, and that was a pattern to every member of this society. More especially he thought they ought to remember his earnest and almost fanatical religious spirit which he threw into everything he said, and in connection with that, the tremendous energy and spirit which showed itself to the very last. In conclusion, the President observed that there were many who criticised Mr. Blair in many ways. It was not his business to do that; he wanted to point out as a member of that society what to his mind, was worthy of imitation in Mr. Blair’s life. –(Applause).

Mr. W. Rickard (one of the Vice-Presidents) endorsed what the President had said, and remarked that in addition to being the orator of Petersfield for many years, Mr. Blair was the best recruiter for that society. They had derived not only a great deal of benefit and amusement for his speeches in that hall, but he led off in such an unconventional way that those who could not speak for themselves ventured on their feet after him. He was sue Mr. Blair’s work as a whole would be beneficial to the whole town. –(Applause).

 To see some examples of J P Blair's work & find out more about Sussex photographers, visit David Simkin's excellent website by clicking here

Early Photographers is another excellent website, with some very useful information on dating old photos & biographies of photographers, click here.

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