Arthur Edwin Smith (A. E. Smith)


Lower Street, Ninfield, with the road to Hooe on the left (1912 postmark)

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Sub-postmaster and grocer, Ninfield. Smith became sub-postmaster at Ninfield in 1905, replacing Benjamin Bourne. Like his predecessor, he successfully combined running the village post office with operating a grocery store. In the early 1930s his sons began shouldering some of the work, and the business, previously known as "A. E. Smith", became "A. E. Smith & Sons". The grocery and post office were still operating under this expanded name in 1938.

Arthur Smith began publishing real photographic cards of Ninfield in 1905. His early cards have captions written in Indian ink, often with the more important words set out in capitals, but more minor words (such as "from") entirely in lower case. Smith included his name and address on the front of some cards. Examples are reproduced by Barry G. Symes in his book Olde Ninfield (Charles Skilton, 1986). Other cards were issued anonymously, but can be identified from the handwriting of the captions . The card reproduced in the Gallery showing Ninfield stocks, Number 10, is one of a series of uncertain date labelled "A. E. Smith, Ninfield" in minuscule handwriting in the bottom right corner of the photographs.

Smith's post office caught fire in January 1908, but this setback did not deter him from issuing at least one card showing the damage. By August 1909 Smith was selling cards with backs decorated with a trefoil and printed captions placed on transparent slips. These cards were almost certainly supplied by Arthur Homewood though they included only Smith's name. Production of these cards seems to have ceased during the First World War.

Smith was born in about 1879 at Barcombe, near Lewes, the son of William Smith, a gardener, and Annie Smith. Both parents worked for Frederick Asser, owner of the flour mills at Barcombe. The 1901 census lists 22-year-old Arthur as a grocer's assistant boarding in Bexhill. On July 19, 1905, he married Margaret Lucy Duke at St Mark's Church in Bexhill. Margaret, who was two years younger than Arthur, was the daughter of William George Duke, a local farmer. Arthur had been working as a grocer at Wadhurst. It is thought that the couple moved to Ninfield shortly after their wedding, although their first son, Gordon Duke Smith, was born at Little Common in 1907 (Harold Oswald Smith, their second son, was born at Ninfield in 1908). The 1911 census reveals that Arthur Smith employed his wife and 20-year-old brother in law, Francis Bailey Duke, as shop assistants. He is believed to have died in 1933, aged 54.

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