Brighton and Hove people: W

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WAGNER, Rev Henry Michell
WAGNER, Rev Arthur Douglas
Rev H M WagnerRev Henry Michell Wagner [right] was the Vicar of Brighton from 1824 until his death, a position achieved as a result of tutoring the children of the Duke of Wellington, who as a child had himself been taught by Wagner's maternal grandfather, Henry Michell, and who had also previously held the post as Vicar of Brighton. He commissioned the construction of numerous churches in the town. His great-grandfather, Melchior Wagner, was hatmaker to George I.
Image; Bust of H M Wagner [Royal Pavilion & Museums Trust]
Rev Arthur Douglas Wagner [right] was the son of Rev H M Wagner, and reportedly named Arthur after the Duke of Wellington, who appointed him perpetual curate of St Paul's Church, West Street in 1850 and held that post until his death. An Anglo-Catholic churchman, follower of Pusey and the Oxford Movement, who introduced ritualistic practices, including confession, in Brighton's churches. Rev A D WagnerIn 1864 his refusal in court to reveal information from Constance Kent (in the infamous Road Hill House murder case), on the grounds that it was given to him as sacramental confession, caused considerable national controversy. She had been resident in St Mary's Home for Female Penitents for Unmarried Mothers and Prostitutes, which Wagner founded, run by the Community of the Virgin Mary, an Anglican order of nuns, which he also established.
      He lived at the Vicarage until his father's death in 1870 and then moved next door to Belvedere. He used his wealth to commission five churches in Brighton: St Bartholomew, Church of the Annunciation, Church of the Resurrection, St Mary & St Magdalene and St Martin. He also paid for the construction around 400 houses in the Round Hill and Islingword Road areas. He is interred in Woodvale Cemetery.
St Paul's Church and Wagner Hall, West Street
Vicarage, Montpelier Road
Belvedere, Montpelier Road
WALKER, Syd (né Sydney KIRKMAN)
Syd WalkerSalford-born comedian who played in musicals and variety and was at the height of his popularity when he appeared in the BBC wireless comedy series Bandwaggon in 1938-39. Catchphrase: 'Mr Walker wants to know'. He also appeared in a television comedy and variety shows before the war and in about a dozen films, most of them between 1937 and 1939, typically playing policemen. In Over She Goes (1938) he even sang a song called 'We Policemen Think We Police are Grand'. He died in a nursing home at 26 Cromwell Road, following an operation for appendicitis. His wife, Lily (Lydia) Louie Margaret Kirkman was also a music hall artiste. He was the father of film director Pete Walker (b 1939), who made several films in Brighton. 'Chums', 1 Palmeira Place, Hove [residence]
WATKIN, (Francis) David
David WatkinOne of the most eminent and stylish cinematographers of his generation. Among his credits were several films directed by Richard Lester (including The Knack and Help!), The Charge of the Light Brigade, Oh! What a Lovely War, Catch-22, Chariots of Fire and Out of Africa, for which he won a BAFTA and an Academy Award. The invention that brought him an oscar was a solution to the problem of lighting an exterior night scene in a more naturalistic way: an array of 200 luminaires mounted on a crane at some distance from the action. This became known as a 'Wendy light', using Watkin's nickname in the gay community.
      He learned his craft as a junior staff member of British Transport Films from 1949 to 1962 (his father was the solicitor to Southern Railway). For around 40 years he lived in Kemp Town and published a volume of autobiography, Why is There Only One Word for Thesaurus? (Brighton: Trouser Press) in 1998. Was Clara Schumann a Fag Hag? (the second volume of an autobiography mainly, but not entirely, about the film business) was published shortly before his death in 2008.
4 and then 6 Sussex Mews [residence]
WATSON, Sir William
Sir William WatsonPoet, published from 1880. Twice passed over as poet laureate, first in 1892 in favour of Alfred Austin, and again in 1913, when the accolade went to Robert Bridges. However, he was awarded a civil pension of £200 a year vacated on the death of Alfred Tennyson. He was knighted in 1917, either for his war effort or for writing in praise of David Lloyd George. He fell out of style as a new generation of poets emerged and was largely forgotten after the Great War. 17 Marine Drive, Rottingdean* [residence]
Arlington Cottage, High Street, Rottingdean [residence 1933]
WELLESLEY, Lt-Gen Arthur Richard KG, 2nd Duke of Wellington
Lt-Gen WellesleyEldest son of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, inheriting the title in 1852. Died at Brighton railway station on 13 August 1884. Queen's Road
WEST, (Harry) Lockwood
Lockwood WestActor, who came to screen acting at a relatively advanced age, the first of his 27 film roles being in 1948. on television he went from playing Dr Grantly in Trollope's The Warden (1951) to Specials (1991) via The Prisoner (1968), The Pallisers (1974) and I, Claudius (1976). He was the father of actor Timothy West, father-in-law of actress Prunella Scales and grandfather of actor Samuel West. He lived in Brighton and was interred at Downs Crematorium in Brighton. 170a Dyke Road [residence]
WESTERN, Charles
WESTERN, Rev Thomas Walsingham
WESTERN, Charles Callis
Land-owning family from Rivenhall, Essex, and notably locally of the Preston estate.
Thomas Western and Mary Shirley      Thomas Western married Anne Fisher (1669-1732) and had one surviving child:
      Thomas Western Sr married Mary Shirley (1692-1747), who inherited the manor of Preston in 1705 with he sisters but in 1712 became the sole owner.
Image: Thomas and Mary Western by William Hogarth
      Thomas Western Jr, Thomas and Mary's son, married Anne Callis (1716-1777), sister of Admiral Smith Callis, in 1736.
      Charles Western, who married Frances Bollan Shirley (1745-1815), was owner in possession when he inherited jointly with his brother
      Rev Thomas Walsingham Western, who married Mary Osborne (1747-1823) and was rector of Rivenhall. He sold the manor of Withdean to William Roe in 1794 and exchanged his share of the manor of Preston for estates in Essex with his nephew, Charles' son
Charles Callis Western and his brother Shirley      Charles Callis Western, was created Baron Western of Rivenhall in 1833. In 1794, he sold the manor of Preston to William Stanford and the manor of Withdean to William Roe.
Image: Charles Callis Western with his brother Shirley (1783) by John Singleton Copley [Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California]
Western Road
WESTPHAL, Admiral Sir George Augustus
Wounded as a midshipman aboard HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, he was laid on the deck near the dying Nelson, his head propped on Nelson's rolled-up coat. He was a county magistrate and lived in Brunswick Square for nearly 40 years from 1836 until his death. He owned a stable and coach house in Bloomsbury Place.
2 Brunswick Square*
WHALEY, Eddie (Edward Peter)
Eddie WhaleyAn African-American music hall comedian, born in Montgomery, Alabama. With his double-act partner Harry Scott, they were the first black artists to star in a British film, Kentucky Minstrels (1934), although they made only one more film. As Cuthbert and Pussyfoot they featured in a long-running BBC radio series. Whaley settled in Brighton, living next door to Max Miller, before World War II and remained until his death. He was cremated at Woodvale Crematorium, Brighton. His son, Eddie Whaley Jr, born in Brighton, had his only film role, aged seven, as Joseph Anthony in Powell and Pressburger's Black Narcissus (1947). 124 Marine Parade [residence]
WHICHELO, Richard Lemmon

WHICHELO, (Charles) John Mayle
A complicated family to unravel. There were at least five people called Richard Lemon (or Lemmon) Whichelo, with dates 1733-1818, ??-1841, ??-1844. Four were nonconformists, baptised at Union Street Chapel in 1765, 1768, 1786 and 1791. One lived in London Road in 1837.
      Richard Lemmon Whichelo, a local brewer, married Elizabeth Ayers at St Nicholas Church in 1763 and inherited eight pauls of land in the North Laine from Richard Tidy in 1788. The land passed to his son,
      Elgate Whichelo I, a wine merchant at 21 Middle Street and member of the Union Street Chapel, in 1800 and on his death that year to his brother
      John Whichelo (1765-), a brewer and porter merchant at 39 Middle Street.
      (Charles) John Mayle Whichelo (1786-1858), son of Richard Lemmon, baptised at St Nicholas' Church, was a noted watercolour painter1.
      Elgate Whichelo II was a lieutenant-colonel on the Bombay Retired list, who lived and died at 41 Norfolk Square.
      Members of the family still lived in Sillwood Place in the 1850s.2
Whichelo Place

2The Original Brighton and Hove Directory. Brighton: W J Taylor (late Leppard), 4th issue July 1854: 141
WIGNEY, William
WIGNEY, George Adolphus
WIGNEY, Isaac Newton
William Wigney was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire into a weaving family. Settled in Brighton in his twenties, he married Brightonian Ann Killick (1759-1859) at St Nicholas' Church in 1782. He founded Brighthelmstone Bank, later Wigney & Son, in East Street in 1794. He became a member of Salem Baptist Chapel in Bond Street. George Adolphus Wigney was a wine and spirit merchant, brewer at Ship Street Brewery. Born in Wakefield, although his parents were long settled in Brighton, fifth son and seventh child of William Wigney. He died at 2 Church Street and is buried in Brighton Extramural Cemetery.
Isaac WigneyIsaac Newton Wigney [right] was a banker, eighth son and 11th child (out of at least 15) of William Wigney. Elected a member of parliament in 1832 after the creation of the Brighton constituency by the passing of the Great Reform Act, standing as a Radical. In the 1837 general election he lost the seat by 20 votes but regained it in 1841. He resigned the following year when the Brighton bank he inherited from his father failed and he was declared bankrupt.
Ship Street [George's residence 1841]
52 [then 44] Middle Street [George's residence 1845-]
22 (or 23 or 24) New Road [George's residence 1851-1861]
2 Church Street [George's residence 1871]
21 Brunswick Square [Isaac's residence 1839]
Adelaide Crescent [Isaac's residence 1841]
Parliamentary elections
WILBERFORCE, Brigadier-General Sir Herbert William KBE, CB, CMG
He left £14,809 19s 1d. A portrait drawing is in the Royal Collection. 3 Eaton Gardens [residence, deathplace]
WILBERFORCE, Dr Octavia Margaret
Born at Petworth, an eighth child, great-granddaughter of William Wilberforce amd granddaughter of Bishop Samuel ('Soapy Sam') Wilberforce. In 1909 she met Elizabeth Robins, who encouraged her to train as a doctor. Her father refused to pay for her training, which was sponsored by Robins and Lord Buxton. She qualified in 1920 and in 1923 set up in general practice in Brighton. She was one of the founding physicians at the New Sussex Hospital for Women and Children and was later head physician. With Robins she established a convalescent home at Robins' house, Backsettown, Henfield in 1927, where she later built a herd of pedigree Jersey cows. Through Robins she met Leonard and Virginia Woolf. On 27 March 1941 she examined Virginia at her surgery and advised rest; Woolf committed suicide the following day. After retiring from practice in 1954 she went to live in her bungalow at Backsettown but died in the New Sussex Hospital. A memorial service was held at All Saints Church, Hove, on 4 January 1964. 24 Montpelier Crescent [residence, practice 1923-1954]
New Sussex Hospital for Women and Children, Windlesham Road [deathplace]
WILCOX, Herbert
Herbert WilcoxFilm producer/director, born in Norwood, south London, but who grew up in Brighton, the son of a billiards marker, living in St John's Place. He married his first wife at St Luke's Church, Queen's Park Road in December 1916, while a lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps; he divorced her in June 1917 for 'carrying on a disgraceful intrigue' with a married man. In 1919 he formed Astra Films to produce and direct his first film and a year later set up Graham Wilcox Productions with Graham Cutts. He directed about half of more than 100 films that he produced. He married a second time in 1920 and had four children. His third wife was Anna Neagle, whom he married in 1943. By the early 1960s his film business was failing and he was declared bankrupt in 1964. Anna Neagle returned to the stage to revive their fortunes. She was awarded the DBE in 1969. 15 St John's Place [childhood residence]
18 Lewes Crescent* [residence 1954-1969]
WILDE, Oscar Fingal O'Flaherty Wills
Oscar WildeIrish playwright and poet. He lectured at the Royal Pavilion in 1884 and stayed at hotels in Brighton in 1894 during visits during his so-called scandalous stay in Worthing, including the Royal Albion and the relatively new Metropole before renting rooms nearby. While at the Royal Albion, the horse drawing a carriage in which he was riding bolted and crashed into the railings at Regency Square1. The famous trial, in which Wilde sued Lord Alfred Douglas's father for libel followed in April 1895. 20 King's Road [lodging 1894]

1Brighton Herald, 3 February 1894
WILLETT, Henry (né CATT)
Henry WillettYoungest of 11 children of farmer and miller William Catt, who operated at Newhaven Tidemills, he was a member of a family with extensive business interests, including the West Street Brewery in Brighton, to which Henry came as manager in 1841. His mother died soon after his birth and his eldest sister, Elizabeth Willett Catt, became his surrogate mother. When she died unmarried in 1863, she left 'under' £14,000 to her remaining siblings on condition they changed their name from Catt to Willett; the High Court overturned that condition but Henry accepted the change. Active in local politics and civic affairs in the Liberal cause, his friends included Oliver Wendell Holmes and John Ruskin. In 1871 he was living at the Manor House in Findon, an estate of 90 acres of parkland. He collected downland fossils and ceramics, which were included in the Brighton Free Museum that opened in 1873 and was given to the town in 1903. He is buried in St Helen's chuchyard, Hangleton and left £233,824 2s 10d. 8 West Street [brewery]
14 West Street [residence 1852]
Arnold House, Montpelier Terrace
WILLIAMS, Ralph Vaughan
Ralph Vaughan WilliamsOne of the greatest of English composers. He went to Field House School (later St Aubyns) in Rottingdean in 1883-87. In 1897 he married Adeline Fisher—the eldest daughter of historian Herbert William Fisher and a cousin of Virginia Wolff and Vanessa Bell—in Hove. He is buried in Westminster Abbey. • St Aubyn's School, 76 High Street, Rottingdean
James WilliamsonFilm pioneer who grew up in Edinburgh but moved to London to train as a chemist. in 1881 he bought out the pharmacy business of his employer at Eastry, Kent, where he had worked since 1877. Around the same time (August 1881) he married Betsy Heaysman. The family, which by now included three children, moved to Hove in 1886, where Williamson took on a chemist's shop at 144 Church Road. Through this his interest in photography was stimulated¶mdash;his shop became an outlet for Kodak materials—and in 1896 he acquired one of the new portable x-ray (Roentgen ray) machines, which he used at the Royal Sussex County Hospital. That year, 1896, marked a turning point in his life. The first film shows occurred in Brighton and in November he too included moving pictures at the annual show of the Hove Camera Club at Hove Town Hall. He made his own first films in 1897 and by the end of 1900 he had made 72 titles—a total of 97 separate single-shot films.
      He began shooting fictional scenes in 1898, when he moved his premises to 55 Western Road, Hove to concentrate more on film activities, and in November 1900 released one of the most important of all early films: Attack on a China Mission—Blue Jackets to the Rescue. This comprised four shots and introduced the idea of shooting reverse angles to show the action from different sides, thereby heightening the drama. The following year he built on this technical achievement with Fire! This featured the Hove fire brigade and was effectively a pioneer dramatised documentary, combining actuality shots with a staged rescue, filmed at the abandoned Ivy Lodge off Hove Street. It was later copied in America. Williamson filmed major state events, including Queen Victoria's funeral (1901) and the coronation processions for Edward VII (1902). But by progressively moving away from 'topicality' scenes, he recognised that audiences would soon tire of simply seeing the world around them and would respond to entertainment, story-telling and drama. The Big Swallow (1901) showed a reluctant sitter for a photograph portrait swallow the camera. in 1902 he made two short dramas of 'social realism': The Soldier's Return and A Reservist Before the War and After the War were about the issues that faced troops returning from the Boer War. His instinctive understanding of narrative editing was shown in some the earliest chase films, such as Stop Thief! (1901).
Williamson family       In 1902 Williamson bought a detached house, Rose Cottage, just off Wilbury Villas—at what is now Cambridge Grove—and built a glasshouse studio and a workshop building (which survives) on the land in front of it. The family [above], which now included seven children, moved into Rose Cottage and played an important part in the Williamson enterprise. Most of them worked in the business and some made regular appearances in films. It is not known whether his eldest daughter, Janet Melville Williamson (born 3 July 1882 at Eastry, Kent), ever appeared in a film; however, she worked as an assistant in his chemist's shop and married Harry Crowhurst. Alan and Colin were the 'two naughty boys' in a series of comedies (1899-1901) and it was probably Lilian who played The Little Match Seller in the moving version of H C Andersen's story, one of the first literary adaptations. in Our New Errand Boy (1905), Williamson himself was the grocer.
      While the Williamson Kinematograph Company continued production in Hove, he opened an office in July 1907 as James Williamson & Co at 27 Cecil Court, London (a street known as 'Flicker Alley' because of the concentration of film companies there) to deal in film equipment and to rent films. The following year, as his own production efforts started to diminish, he formed Williamson Dressler & Co Ltd with an American partner, E Dressler Co, which had the US distribution rights for Cines and Selig. The new company continued to sell equipment but also had the European rights for Selig films and the UK and US rights for Cines, as well as world rights to Williamson's catalogue. It survived until 1912.
      In 1909 Williamson started to hand over directorial responsibility for films to others: first to Jack Chart, then Dave Aylott. He also began a move into natural history with films by Oliver Pike, Edmund J Spitta and himself. But in 1910 he ended regular film production and sold his Cambridge Grove studio facilities to Charles Urban's Natural Color Kinematograph Company for Kinemacolor productions. By 1911 the family was living in Wandsworth and the connection with Hove had ended.
      In 1913, by which time The Williamson Kinematograph Company was at 28 Denmark Street, he opened a film processing unit at Nesbitt's Alley, Barnet, where Birt Acres had previously operated. His son Colin ran the manufacturing side of the business, which opened in 1915 in Litchfield Gardens at Willesden Green in north-west London and was noted for the successful range of Topical cameras. The company also pioneered specialised cameras for aerial photography that were employed during the two world wars.
      In May 1913 Williamson briefly resumed film production with a newsreel, Williamson's Animated News, which included coverage of the Derby horse race in June 1913 and lasted until late 1914 but did not survive into the Great War.
      From 1920 the company's offices were at 80 Wardour Street and in 1930 moved to 4 Denmark Street. Williamson and his wife settled in Richmond, Surrey, in the outer London suburbs. By now he was working on colour photography. One of his prints was hung in the Royal Photographic Society's exhibition in 1931. He died in Richmond, leaving just over £15,000.
      A strong case can be advanced that James Williamson was among the handful of the most influential film-makers in the first decade of the cinema, and perhaps even pre-eminent among them, given his contribution to the development of narrative technique.
144 (now 156) Church Road* [home, shop]
55 Western Road, Hove [residence, 'studio']
Cambridge Grove
James WillingA leading advertising contractor, toll-gate proprietor, founding director of the London General Omnibus Company, initial holder of the advertising and bookstall concession on London's Metropolitan Railway for 40 years and the founder of Willing's Press Guide. He donated the Clock Tower, with his name on the dials, to the town. Clock Tower, Queen's Road
56 King's Road
John WisdenCricketer, retailer and publisher. Son of a builder, he attended Middle Street School. In his first-class cricket debut for Sussex against MCC in 1845, aged 18, he took six wickets in the first innings, three in the second. He played mainly for Sussex until 1863, with matches for Kent and Middlesex as well as England. He opened his first sports shop in Leamington Spa in 1850 and founded Wisden Cricketers' Almanack in 1864. He lived over his shop in Cranbourn Street, London in later life and is buried in Brompton Cemetery. There was a sports shop owned by W Wisden & Son at 39 (later 26) Duke Street from c1875 until the 1970s. • Crown Street [birthplace]
WITTING, Sigismund Charles
d 1933
Formerly Carl Sigismund Witkowsky, a Polish-born wealthy metal merchant1, son of a Jewish silk merchant in Berlin. He became a naturalised Briton, never married and moved from here to Monaco, where he died2. His estate was bequestahed to the S C Witting Trust, administered by the Quakers to aid school children and students in need. He donated a Japanese teapot to the Victoria & Albert Museum. Hollingbury Court, Hollingbury Copse [residence]
1The Kesters
2London Gazette
WOOD,Thomas Huntley
Thomas Huntley WoodMariner, born in Lyme Regis, Dorset, son of a master mariner. Joined the Royal Navy as a boy in 1883 and served for 10 years. During service on HMS Edinburgh in 1896 he was photographed and his image was adopted by John Player for use on its Navy Cut cigarette packets; he asked for 2gns (£2.10) and a pound of tobacco as a fee. He became a Coast Guard boatman by 1901 at Inverkeith, Fife but returned to the Navy and became a petty officer in 1910, rising to chief petty officer in 1915 during World War I. He was discharged in 1919. He settled in Southwick and moved to Portslade in 1939. He left £1,990 19s and is buried in Portslade Cemetery. 15 Ellen Street, Portslade [residence 1939-1951]
WOODHEAD, Grace Eyre
Grace Eyre WoodheadEleventh of 12 children. Educated at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. Pioneer in the treatment of mental and physical disability within the community. Her work in providing holidays for children from London's special schools in Heathfield and Brighton led to the foundation of the Guardianship Society, which became the Grace Eyre Foundation in 1988. She was buried in the family vault at the Brighton Extra-Mural Cemetery.1 12 Norfolk Terrace [birthplace, childhood home]
13 Compton Avenue [residence 1921-1936]
Lees Nursing Home, 12 Dyke Road [death]
Grace Eyre Woodhead Memorial (Avondale Centre), Old Shoreham Road [Foundation's HQ]

1National Archives
WOODRUFF, Alderman George Baldwin
G B WoodruffAn American citizen, born in New Haven, Connecticut. He was the first representative in Europe of the Singer Sewing Machine Company1, and was naturalised a British citizen in March 1882. Chairman of the Hove Commissioners and first mayor of Hove. He died at the Alhambra Hotel, Nice, France and left estate of £164,211 2s 7d, including £10,000 to build the tower of All Saints Church.
Image source: Sewing Machine Gazette, 1893
24 Second Avenue [residence]
All Saints Church, The Drive
Woodruff Avenue

1The Evening News, London, 28 May 1901: 1
WRIGHT, Captain Theodore, VC
Theodore WrightBorn in Brighton, educated at Clifton College and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He was a captain in the 57th Field Company of the Royal Engineers at the outbreak of the First World War. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry at Mons on 23 August 1914 when attempting to blow up a bridge under heavy fire. The citation continues: 'although wounded in the head he made a second attempt. At Vally, on 14 September, he assisted the passage of 5th Cavalry Brigade over the pontoon bridge and was mortally wounded while assisting wounded men into shelter.' Lansdowne Place* [residence]
WYNDHAM, Earls of Egremont Family owned estates at Petworth and in Cumberland, Somerset and Wiltshire.
George O'Brien Wyndham      George O'Brien Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751-1837), right, succeeded to the earldom at the age of 12. His grandmother was the younger daughter of Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset, His Brighton house, East Lodge, had extensive gardens on the east side of Upper Rock Gardens. He was a major patron of artists, notably J M W Turner.
Upper Rock Gardens
Egremont Place
Wyndham Street
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Page updated 16 May 2022