Study in Scarlet. Herbert Vieler's lurid card of the Bexhill gas works fire on August 27, 1922
Photographer, 26 Station Road, Bexhill (previously at 11 Upper Station Road). The son of Emil Vieler, Herbert was born in Huddersfield in 1878, where he spent his early years. However, in about 1893 his father and family moved from Huddersfield to Bexhill, and by 1901 Herbert was helping his father run his studio at 11 Upper Station Road, Bexhill. On April 15, 1908 he married Emily Mary Vale (born 1880 at Stamford Hill, London) at Bexhill Congregational Church in Station Road. Emily was the third child of Jane and George Vale, a London tobacconist, who moved to Bexhill in the 1890s to become a stationer and bookseller. Herbert and Emily had three children: Geoffrey Herbert Vieler (1910-1997), Douglas Vieler (1913-2002) and Barbara Vieler (born 1920; now Barbara Drew).
In about 1910 or 1911 Emil Vieler opened a new studio at 26 Station Road in Bexhill, but he died in 1912, leaving Herbert to carry on the business. In the First World War Herbert joined the Royal Flying Corps and was stationed at Lydd in Kent. It is believed that Emily's sister, Evelyn Marjorie Vale ("Madge", born 1892) helped out at Station Road at about this time. She married Sidney Francis Staines in 1925, and the couple settled in Clifford Road, close to Herbert and Emily.
Herbert was less concerned with studio portraiture than his father. He often attended weddings, public gatherings and other events, and also took many photographs of Bexhill and the surrounding area (as well as some more distant villages, such as Upper Dicker) that he issued as real photographic cards. He used an "Indian Combination" motor cycle and two-seater sidecar for transport during the Great War and early postwar years; it is not known whether he ever acquired a car. He was still active as a photographer in 1938. He died, aged 72, at his home at 66 Cooden Drive in Bexhill on January 25, 1950, leaving effects of £5672.
Herbert's real photographic cards are almost all black and white, and mostly have white borders. In the months following his father's death, Herbert issued new cards still bearing Emil's name (perhaps he was using up old, pre-printed stock of photographic card) but thereafter he usually labelled his cards on the reverse "Herbert Vieler, photographer, Imperial Studio, Bexhill-on-Sea" while marking them "Vieler, photo, Bexhill" on the front. A few cards have no label on the back. As with the cards produced by Emil Vieler, two persons seem to have been at work preparing the captions. Many cards have captions in tiny block capitals lacking all embellishment - some of these appeared after Emil's death, so presumably it was his son Herbert who wrote the captions. On other cards, however, the captions are written in larger capitals and the letters "E" and "L" are embellished with short descenders curving to the right. Possibly it was Emil who was responsible for these more decorative captions, and the cards in question may be Herbert's re-issues of earlier cards, first published by his father.
A particularly fine card of Devonshire Road shows a tram approaching the photographer (1915 postmark seen). Another attractive card shows the Hastings Road after a snowfall. Other view cards include a big wave breaking over Bexhill promenade, and the cliffs at Cooden.
Following his father's example, Herbert Vieler issued many cards recording special events that took place in Bexhill. When the Maharajah of Cooch Behar died in the town in 1911, Emil Vieler had published a notable series of cards showing the funeral procession, headed by the Maharajah's son, progressing slowly along streets lined with spectators. Herbert Vieler continued the Indian theme with a series of cards showing the Maharajah's son (the new Maharajah) opening a memorial fountain for his father on the sea front on September 18, 1913. Herbert Vieler was allowed to set up his camera in front of the crowd next to the Maharajah, which is a clear indication that town hall officials regarded the work of his studio very highly. Other notable special event cards published by Herbert Vieler show Frank Gooden posing with his parents in front of his monoplane at Bexhill on June 17, 1914 (Gooden performed looping the loop exhibitions), marches and a swimming competition on "Demobilised Mens Day" at Bexhill (September 10, 1919), the unveiling ceremony at the Peace Memorial at Bexhill on November 2, 1919, Bexhill's Empire Day celebrations in May 1927 and a Girl Guide rally on June 26, 1929. When Bexhill gasworks caught fire on August 27, 1922, Vieler quickly published a real photographic card of the conflagration printed on a lurid blood-red background. He produced a similarly eye-catching card of the fire at St. Wilfred's School at Bexhill on May 30, 1925.
Many Vieler cards show holiday groups and social gatherings, for example a summer school at Bexhill in 1934. One particularly interesting card is an aerial view of the town apparently taken by Vieler
Although Vieler published mostly real photographic cards, he also issued halftones during the First World War, which were printed for him by B. & R. Ltd. of Liverpool. The cards are marked "Vieler" on the front, but carry the Liverpool firm's name and address on the back. They were of indifferent quality, and seem to have been quickly discontinued.
Acknowledgement: Grateful thanks are extended to Adrian Vieler (Henfield) and Michael Staines (son of Evelyn and Sidney) for supplying some of the above information. For further biographical details on Herbert Vieler and his family you are recommended to visit David Simkin's very useful website at http://photohistory-sussex.co.uk.To directory of publishers
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