Cyril Astor ran a photography business that was exclusively dedicated to photobooths. In partnership with a Mr Leach, Cyril hired out booths to tourist venues and special events,as well as having a number of booths in permanent locations. The business no longer exists but was located on Cefndy Road Industrial Estate in Rhyl in the county of Denbighshire in North Wales. Rhyl is a seaside resort town and an ideal place for booths that supported the local tourist industry.
I was unable to find a record of when the business started but his booths were used at the Cardiff venue for the Festival of Britain in 1951, so the business was in operation at that time. In 1972 the business still existed when Irish lass, 20 year old Patsy Furber worked there. I am very grateful to Patsy for her help in my research for this post.
Patsy has shared some of her personal memories of Cyril’s business with me –
“The managing director was a Mr. Leach, the manager was Gwyn. Mr. Leach’s secretary was Cathy and the telephonist and office worker was Nerys. I was a shorthand typist and part of my job was to type order forms for the chemicals they needed for the booths.
I liked working for Cyril Astor’s business in the beginning but left with extremely bad feelings. I come from Belfast, Ireland and I am afraid I fell foul of political bullying caused by misinformation given by the Special Branch Police in Wales.
I really did enjoy myself at Astors but felt it very unfortunate that things turned out the way they did. Unfortunately, it was the political atmosphere at the time. It was a thing a good many Irish in Britain had to endure….”
Mr Astor had booths in Margate (UK), Ramsgate (UK) and Rhyl in Wales. One of the prime spots for his booths was on the ‘Great Orme’ in Llandudno in Wales. Without Patsy’s help, it was difficult to find information about Cyril’s business but I did find that he was an exhibitor at a trade fair at Alexandra Palace which was advertised in Billboard magazine on the 26 November, 1966. Presumably this event promoted his booths for hire.
In addition to being a photographer, Cyril was an inventor. He made a patent application in 1966. The Patent Index says that he applied for patents to make improvements to the Photomaton machine in the early 1960s.
“Abstract of GB962798 962,798. Rollerways. CYRIL ASTOR PHOTOMATON (LONDON) Ltd. March 2, 1962 [Dec. 16, 1960], No. 43458/60. Heading B8A. [Also in Division G2] Film is conveyed through a processing tank by a plurality of vertically-spaced sets of rollers, each set being individual…”
On the back of each of the cardboard photo frames it says, “Photographer: Cyril Astor. You can obtain three beautiful postcard sized enlargements by sending this photograph with name and address to Cyril Astor, 28, North Drive, Rhyl, North Wales. Together with postal order valued 5/-. It is never too late to send and you get this photo back.” Of course it is too late now, despite the claim, but it does make me think there could be some fabulous photobooth postcard gems out there to be discovered!