“October 29th 1847. Mr. and Mrs. Grundy came to Mrs. Willoughby’s house” - so wrote Sarah Holbeche in her diary. This diary was recently rediscovered and transcribed by Janet Jordan, and a copy can be seen in Sutton Reference Library; it is a mine of information about Sutton in the early 19th century. Mr. Grundy, 70 years old, seems to have been a welcome addition to Sutton society, as a later entry, in 1852, reads “February 14th. My good friend Mr. Grundy died at Bowdon, Cheshire”, giving a glimpse of the social network in Sutton High Street - they lived on opposite sides of High Street.
The Grundys lived at the house which has since been converted into the Royal Hotel. Morris Grundy had retired as a partner in the Birmingham firm of Horton and Grundy, curriers and patent leather manufacturers, and his son William Morris Grundy had succeeded him in the flourishing business.
About the time of the family’s move to Sutton, W. M. Grundy developed an interest in photography, then in its infancy. He had a darkroom at home and a special van fitted up as a dark room and drawn by an old brown horse where the complex processes of developing and printing were carried out. He exhibited at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1858. His work won great praise from the critics, and a carefully posed photograph of a model dressed as a Dutch fisherman was said to reach “the greatest height to which we may legitimately expect photographic composition to go”.
Grundy published a series of stereoscopic photographs (two photos side by side which, seen through a viewer, give a 3D effect) in the 1850s, and a volume of poems, Sunshine in the Country, is illustrated with photos by Grundy. There are some of Grundy’s photographs in the Norman Evans Collection at Sutton Library, as well as copies of Sunshine in the Country published in 1861, two years after his death in 1859.
He left his fortune to his sisters, never having married. He does not seem to have been as sociable as his father, although his servant Thomas Bromwich worked closely with him on his photography. Sarah Holbeche’s nephew Richard, in his Diary of 1891, recalled “We did not see much of him”.