Sparrow's nest in a post box at Folkington, with undelivered letter
Myrtleholm, Hampden Park, near Eastbourne. A firm calling itself "The Photo Postcard Co." issued small numbers of sepia real photographic cards of the Eastbourne area that are now often badly faded. The cards are nearly all captionless, but most (though by no means all) have a printed label "The Photo Postcard Co., Myrtleholm, Hampden Park, Sussex" on the back. A 1914 postmark has been reported, but a remarkably large number of cards are postally unused.
The cards tend to feature unusual and uncommercial subjects, for example a farmer or dairyman posing with three cows (possibly Charles Dennis, a dairy farmer, who lived at The Homestead in Lottbridge Road, Eastbourne), an ordinary looking Edwardian villa, and an unknown man walking along the pavement in an unidentified street. Several cards show a young man at the reins of a cart owned by Tom Lade, a Hailsham farmer and butcher, who was also a game and poultry dealer. In addition, there are cards showing another young man in charge of a similar delivery cart belonging to Eastman's Ltd., who were Hailsham butchers. One card even shows both carts together.
No replicate or variant examples of any of Photo Postcard Co. cards have been found, except for three cards of a bird's nest built inside a post box. One of the three, showing a clutch of six eggs, is labelled "Bird's nest in pillar box, Folkington, nr Eastbourne". Two examples of a second, captionless card have been found with a sparrow on the nest, and a third card, also captionless, shows the nest empty.
An uncaptioned card of a group of footballers is believed to show the 1911-2 Hailsham Football Team. A similar card of another group supposedly dates from 1923.
One possible explanation for this very odd assortment of cards is that the Photo Postcard Co. was in the business of developing and printing films for amateur photographers. This would explain the lack of captions and the diversity of subjects, but not the generally poor quality of the cards, which would surely have deterred potential customers. And why did the Photo Postcard Co. choose to operate from a private house rather than a shop, which would have been more convenient for customers? Also puzzling is the fact that no photographs have turned up of an obviously domestic or personal nature, such as a girl friend posing or a baby being pushed along in its pram.
Whatever the origins of its business, it is difficult to believe that the Photo Postcard Co. ever made much profit.
Myrtleholm was a house on Lottbridge Road in Hampden Park. The 1911 census records that a George Hutchinson and his wife Florence lived there. George, who was 25 years old and a photographer, had been born in Camden Town, London. Gowland's 1912 Directory lists William Hutchinson as the occupant of Myrtleholm. Pike's 1914 Directory makes no mention of the house, but does record that a George Hutchinson lived at Number 2, The Homestead in Lottbridge Road. The George or William Hutchinson listed in the Directories (and by the census) was in fact George William John Robert Hutchinson, son of George Hutchinson, a portrait painter. His mother was Eleanor Blanche Hutchinson, formerly Jones. The family lived at 31 Cantelowes Road in Camden Town when he was born, and later in Hampstead and in south Wimbledon (see the preceding entry for Florence Amelia Hutchinson).
Hutchinson gave up photography, seemingly before the First World War, and turned his attention to poultry farming. His wife, Florence Amelia Hutchinson, became a postcard publisher in her own right after the War. The contrast between the high quality cards that she produced and her husband's painfully amateurish efforts could not be starker. Undoubtedly, he made the right decision to bow out as a publisher. One can only hope he was more successful with his poultry!
Acknowledgement: It is a pleasure to thank Marcel Safier (Queensland) for providing much useful background information about the Hutchinson family.To directory of publishers
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