Herbert & Lewis Tester (Tester Bros.)


Sailing boat at Seaford beach

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Photographers at Burgess Hill, then Seaford. Kelly's 1895 Sussex Directory records that Herbert Tester was a sign writer in Church Road, Burgess Hill. Shortly afterwards, he and his younger brother, Louis (Lewis) Edward Tester, established a photographic studio in Church Road (possibly at the same address) under the name Tester Bros. A third brother, Edwin John Tester, opened a branch of Tester Bros. at Maidstone (see David Simkin's website at

In about 1903 Herbert and Louis moved to Seaford and opened a cycle shop in the High Street, but by 1905 they closed it and re-established their photographic business at 11 Clinton Place near the railway station, where they remained until after the end of the First World War. They are listed in Pike's 1920-21 Lewes, Newhaven and Seaford Directory, but were gone by October 1921.

Herbert and Louis Tester were born at Maidstone in Kent, Herbert in 1868 and Louis in 1879. Their father was George Tester, a gardener, born at East Peckham in Kent in 1841, and their mother was Mary Ann Tester (formerly Ravilious), born at Tonbridge in about 1843. George and Mary married in 1864 and had 6 other children besides Herbert and Louis: Alice Harriett Tester, born in 1864 at Tonbridge, Fred John J. Tester, born in 1867 at Maidstone, Kate Ann Tester, born in 1870 at Maidstone (died 1872), Edwin John Tester, born in 1872 at Tonbridge, Annie May Tester, born in 1875 at Snodland, and Sydney Tester, born in about 1877 at Maidstone. In 1871 the Tester family was living at 61 Union Street in Maidstone; ten years later they had moved to Ivy Cottages in the same town. By 1891 Herbert had left home and was boarding at Clayton. The census records that he had become a fascia sign writer. Later in the same year he married Roma Agnes Bryant, daughter of a Burgess Hill building contractor and brick maker, who bore him three daughters: Ivy May Tester, born in 1892, Daisy Tester, born in 1894, and Gladys Roma Tester, born in 1899. The 1901 census confirms that the family were living in Church Road in Burgess Hill, probably over the shop. Herbert is described as a sign writer and photographer. Louis Tester, who lived with Herbert and his family, was also working as a photographer. The 1911 census locates Herbert, Roma and their three children at 11 Clinton Place in Seaford. Herbert is described as a "professional photographer" and Daisy as an "assistant". No entry has been found for Louis Tester in the census.

Tester Bros. offered cut-price studio portraiture. A newspaper advertisement in 1910 offered four "fancy lighted 'Rembrandt' style sepia studies of any sitter" for 5 shillings. From about 1906 onwards, they also issued black and white collotype cards of Seaford and district, aimed particularly at holidaymakers. Many of the cards have red captions and are labelled "Tester Bros., Seaford" on the reverse, but some are anonymous. Subjects include children paddling on Seaford beach, the breakwater, Seaford cliffs and Cuckmere Coastguard Station. Many, if not all, of the cards were printed in Bavaria. In addition to the collotypes, Tester Bros sold good quality real photographic cards of Seaford with their name and "Seaford" impressed (blind stamped) in the bottom right corners of the photographs. The black and white, slightly coppery toned photographs have no borders and either lack captions or have captions written in small blocky capitals.

By 1906 Tester Bros. also started taking photographs of soldiers on training exercises in Seaford and the various military camps that were set up on the Downs. They are believed to have issued at least 160 real photographic cards of soldiers at their tented camps or on parades and marches. Many of these cards are blind stamped "Tester Bros. Seaford" on the bottom right corners of the photographs; others have a handwritten label "Tester Bros. Photo" written across the bottom left corners. Captions, when present, are neatly handwritten in backwards sloping capitals.

Tester Bros. doubtless printed the real photographic cards of the military camps themselves, or had a local person do the work for them, but they also issued real photographic cards that Gates of Camberley mass produced for them, for example showing lambs on the Golf Course (serial number G 2256-36, with a red caption, 1907 postmark noted) and "Cattle Study, Seaford" (G 2253-36).

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