Howard Swain


The Terrace, Battle Abbey (Castle Series)

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Stationer, Hastings. Swain was born at Hastings in 1856 to Joseph Swain, a tailor, and his wife, Caroline. He was one of at least five children. In 1885 he married Alice May Smith in her home town of Ipswich. They had no children.

Swain set up in business as a retail stationer and newsagent at 156 Queens Road by 1891 and by 1915 was also trading as a wholesale stationer at Wellington Mews. Although still listed as a stationer in Kelly's 1938 Sussex Directory, it is possible that he was already retired, and had handed over his business to someone who continued trading using Swain's name. He was still living at 156 Queens Road, but temporarily staying at 36 Silent Street in Ipswich when he died on 19 July 1944, leaving effects of £10,313.

Swain began selling black and white real photographic cards of Hastings by 1908. The photographs have narrow borders and the captions are written in neat, blocky capitals at their base, with the name "Swain", also in capitals, on the right. The handwriting and quirky addition of full stops in front of almost every word suggest that George Stokes supplied Howard Swain with the cards, perhaps in response to a special order.

After the First World War, Howard Swain launched his "Swain Castle Series" of black and white and sepia-tinted halftones depicting Hastings, Battle, Rye, Bexhill and Beachy Head. The printer was J. Salmon Ltd. of Sevenoaks in Kent, and the firm's name can sometimes be found on the back of the cards. Salmon were major publishers of postcards, but in Swain's case they seem to have printed the cards for him alone, presumably on his instructions. As a wholesale stationer Swain would have been in a good position to find retailers in Battle, Rye and Bexhill who were willing to sell his Castle Series cards.

The Sussex Photographic Co. was based at 154 Queens Road, very close to Swain's shop. It would be interesting to know whether he had any business links with this firm or viewed it simply as a competitor.

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