Although William Savage is best known as a Winchester photographer he and his wife, Mary Ann, first traded in fancy wool and needlework goods from 12 The Square, where they established a warehouse in 1836, later expanding into souvenir china and glass wares and moving into the High Street. In 1858 a final move was made to 97 (now 58) High Street and by 1861 Savage had added photography to his other interests, building a studio for this purpose at the rear of his new premises.
His first commercial photographs were studio portraits in the then fashionable form of cartes-de-visite – the successor to calling cards which developments in photography made relatively inexpensive to produce and which were extremely popular in the second half of the nineteenth century. During the 1860s the photographic side of his business expanded rapidly; by 1864 he was also taking a wide range of outdoor photographs including topographical views, churches and houses in Winchester and the surrounding countryside.
The following year he employed an apprentice photographer, and in 1869 he built a branch establishment, the Wykeham Studio, next to his house which was then Friary Cottage in Southgate Road, but is now known as Friary House in St Michael’s Road. He continued his photographic business at these two locations until his death at the age of seventy.
Whilst William Savage was one of several professional photographers working in Winchester during the 1860s-1880s, he is the only one for whom a wealth of photographs still exists. His work covers a wide range of subjects: all classes of people - the titled, clergymen and brewery owners, servants and farm workers; all sorts of buildings - cathedral and church, post office and railway station, farmhouse, town house and mansion. Through his images we gain an insight into people’s lives; their tastes in clothes and interior decoration, their work, what interested them – dogs and horses, archery, croquet and gardening. His photographs are on occasion a rare, or even a unique, representation of a building or scene which has since been immeasurably altered or destroyed.