George Pearson


Unidentified shop and terrace, presumably at Hastings or close by

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"Artist photographer", The Laurels, 30 Vicarage Road, West Hill in Hastings. Few hard facts have emerged about George Pearson's early life. No entry for him has been found in the 1871 census, but, according to the 1881 and later censuses, he was born in about 1859 at Great Chart on the outskirts of Ashford in Kent. When he married Eliza Weeks at the Particular Baptists' Chapel at Ashford on August 12, 1877, he claimed to be 22 years old, although if the censuses are correct he may have been only 18! The marriage certificate notes that his father, another George Pearson, was deceased but had been a coastguard. Given his father's profession it seems somewhat odd that he should have been born so far from the sea.

Eliza Weeks had been born at Egerton in Kent, and was the daughter of a corn factor, Edmund Weeks. At the time of her marriage she was 28 years old, which suggests that she was born in about 1849, ten years before George. Although a spinster, she already had a seven-year-old son, William James Weeks, who had been born at 75 High Street, Ashford on June 11, 1870. When she registered his birth, she left his father's name and occupation blank, though she was entitled to name the father if she had wanted.

The 1881 census records that George and his family were living at 40 New Street in Ashford, where George had set up in business as a baker and corn dealer (at the time of his marriage he had been a labourer). Eliza had given birth to two more children: Lizzie Pearson in 1878 and George Pearson junior in 1880. Arthur Pearson followed towards the end of 1881. For reasons that remain to be discovered, George and his family then moved to Ore, near Hastings. Perhaps his father had been a coastguard in the area or he had family connections. Eliza and George's second daughter, Rosa Beatrice Pearson was born on February 11, 1884, at the family home in Upper Hughenden Road in Ore (this road is not shown on modern maps). George was continuing to work as a baker. Three more sons followed: Percy Frederick Pearson in 1886, Leonard Sidney Pearson on 28 January 1888, and finally Albert Edward Pearson late in 1890. By the time Leonard was born, George and his family were living at 27 Pelham Street in Hastings and George had become a "master photographer".

In 1889 George Pearson's stepson, William James Weeks, married Sarah Elizabeth Ades from Ore. She was the daughter of a stone sawyer. By 1891 George Pearson and his family were living at 30 Vicarage Road in the West Hill district of Hastings, sharing house with William and Sarah Weeks and their first child.

George Pearson roamed Hastings beach in summer trying to temp holidaymakers to have their picture taken. He was not just a beach photographer, however. He also took studio portraits and advertised "at home portraits, family portraits, groups, schools and weddings taken at short notice at popular prices" (Pike's 1905 Hastings Directory). It seems likely that he toured the streets of Hastings and surrounding villages, knocking on doors in an effort to gain business. He produced portrait photographs not only as conventional cartes de visite and cabinet prints but also as postcards. Other postcard subjects included private homes, men at work and a military camp. The cards typically lack captions, but Pearson stamped (or in some cases printed) his name and address on the back.

Pearson was still working as a photographer at 30 Vicarage Road in 1927, but is believed to have retired not long after. He is not listed in any of Kelly's 1930s Sussex Directories.

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