In 1902 the Post Office changed its rules and permitted pictures to appear on the front of postcards and both the message and address on the reverse. The message was written on the left-hand side and the address on the right. Great Britain was the first country to allow this practice and with the inclusion of a line drawn down the middle to indicate where the message and address should be written, the name ‘divided back’ postcard was adopted.
The Edwardian era witnessed a huge increase in the popularity of the postcard. In a time before the telephone and greater mobility of the population, this method of communication was the obvious option for sending friends and family a quick message. Their appeal was a combination of attractive designs, cheap postage rates (half the cost of a standard letter) and extraordinarily quick delivery times, with up to six deliveries a day in large towns and cities. As printing techniques developed so postcard designs became more imaginative and colourful, often depicting landscapes, animals and even celebrities. Soon literally millions of postcards were passing through the GPO.
In Ivybridge at the turn of the twentieth century, an enterprising shopkeeper and keen photographer, Charles Smallridge, developed his own local postcard business. Using what are believed to be his own photographs, his range of postcards included many images of Ivybridge, often complemented with information regarding the subject matter. The ‘Erme Valley Descriptive Series’, dated 1906, adopted this format and featured many of the landmarks of the village including:
De Ponte Hederae, or Ivybridge; The Old Bridge; The New Bridge; Station Road, Ivybridge; Weir Head; The Viaduct, Ivybridge; Ruins of St. John’s Church (landscape and portrait versions) and The Woods, Ivybridge.
These postcards not only provided the many visitors to Ivybridge with the ability to send a message bearing an image of the holiday destination but gave collectors of ephemera the opportunity to obtain postcards of local interest. Many of Charles Smallridge’s postcards can be found in private collections today.