In its “Know your neighbour” feature of 3rd December 1960, the Solihull News focussed on Mr Clifford Arthur Joiner, the village photographer.
He was born on 23rd March 1898 in Drury Lane, Solihull and was baptised at St Alphege Church on 8th May. His father, Thomas, was the village postman and Cliff was one of seven children who grew up in the family home in Drury Lane, the site of which subsequently became the car park for the White Cat.
He was educated at the Church of England School in Park Road, and then at Mill Lane Boys’ School. He left school at the age of 12 to be apprenticed to his uncle, a confectioner at Clevedon, Somerset. He began his career as a baker, having to get up at 4am every morning, but having two “late” mornings each week when he could stay in bed until 6am!
He returned to Solihull in 1914 to join Saxtree and Bullivant, confectioners in Mill Lane. However, he said he only worked there for two months as, having lied about his age, he joined the Warwickshire Yeomanry, billeted at Warwick Park. Attestation records give his birth year as 1896 and indicate he joined the Warwickshire Yeomanry on 30th October 1915, at which time the family home was 7 Grove Road, Solihull. Private Joiner was then transferred to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment on 16th December 1916 when he was posted to France.
After a fortnight’s training, he then experienced two and a half years of trench warfare during the First World War. He returned home for a fortnight’s leave in June/July 1918 before being posted back home in February 1919 and demobbed in April 1919. He remembered attending the welcome home dinner for soldiers that was held by Solihull and which was given in marquees put up in fields in Lode Lane.
He was a founder member of the Grenville Club for ex-servicemen in 1919 and was on the executive committee from then until at least 1960.
In 1925 he married Winifred Edith Spalding (1889-1975) and the couple set up home at 20 Drury Lane, Solihull, where they lived until the house was demolished as part of the redevelopment of central Solihull in the 1960s. They subsequently moved to George Road.
Cliff Joiner worked for caterers, Hughes, until 1930, working his way from the pastry department to the slab cake department and ending in the ornamental confectionery department, where he helped to make Princess Mary’s wedding cake. He left the firm owing to ill health.
In 1930, he became Parish Clerk and one of his many jobs was to receive library books from Warwickshire, display them on trestle tables so that people could make their choice, and then put them away. This was the beginning of the town’s public library service.
In 1935, he became a sergeant with the Special Constabulary.
During the Second World War he was transferred by the Ministry of Labour to the welfare department of the Rover Company. He carried out duties such as seeing that the workers’ boots were mended, their glasses repaired, and ensuring that their meals were properly cooked.
In 1945, he decided to make his hobby of photography into his job. He joined the Institute of Professional Photographers and started developing and printing films for chemist shops in the area. After two years, he had established himself and was able to concentrate on taking his own photographs.
He took his first press photograph for the Warwick County News in 1946 – a picture of Winston Churchill on a victory parade in Solihull.
Clifford Arthur Joiner died in Solihull on 26th April 1973. His collection of images of Solihull, given to Solihull Libraries by his widow, are an important record of the life of the “village” and are invaluable to researchers.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
© Solihull Council, 2021.
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