Rudolph Wilhelm Vieler


Mr Travers taxiing in a "waterplane" off Eastbourne beach, August 1912

To home page
To directory of publishers
To gallery

Photographer, 19 Seaside Road, Eastbourne. Rudolph was born on February 5, 1853 at Iserlohn in Westphalia in Germany (see David Simkin's website at for further details and a very useful overview of the lives of the Vieler brothers). He was a son of Carl Peter Ludwig Vieler (1819-1888) and Wilhelmina Sophie Brauckhagen, and a younger brother of Emil Vieler. After the death of Wilhelmina in 1856, Carl Vieler remarried, and moved to England with his new wife to become a "foreign produce dealer" in Bradford. Rudolph, Emil and some of the other children accompanied them.

Rudolph married Ruth Russell in Bradford on October 30, 1876. A local girl, she had been born in 1854. Her sister, Sarah, had married Rudolph's brother Emil, two years earlier. Both Emil and Rudolph decided to become photographers, though why is not recorded.

Rudolph and Ruth moved to Eastbourne where their first child, Wilhelmina ("Minnie") Gertrude Vieler, was born on September 9, 1877. Two more children, both sons, were to follow: Percival Rudolph Vieler (born February 2, 1882; died 1962 at Eastbourne) and Harold Carl Vieler (born in mid 1887; died 1946 at Chatham).

In 1881 Rudolph purchased a studio at 3 Terminus Road from William Hicks & Co, who were a long established firm of Eastbourne photographers. It is thought that he may have worked for this firm between 1877 and 1881. When the 1891 census was held, Rudolph and his family were living above the studio, which they called the "Crown Studio", perhaps influenced by Emil, whose patriotism (or quest for grandeur) led him to name his studio the "Imperial".

In about 1900, Rudolph moved from Terminus Road to set up a new studio at 19 Elms Buildings in Seaside Road. As before, the living quarters were above the studio. The 1911 census records that a Winifred Pewell from Keston in Kent boarded with the Vielers and worked as an assistant. Percival Vieler is also believed to have assisted his father run the business. In 1911 he and his wife, Ada Grace Vieler (born in about 1879 at Eastbourne) and two-year-old son, Royston Russell Vieler, were living at 43 Susans Road off Seaside Road. The 1915 Kelly's Directory of Sussex continues to give Rudolph's address as 19 Seaside Road, but the 1918 and later editions record it as 29 Seaside Road. It is not entirely clear whether he moved or the street numbers were changed. He died at 29 Seaside Road on March 14, 1925, leaving effects of £4094, a not inconsiderable sum given the often difficult trading conditions that he must have encountered. After his death, his son Percival continued to run the studio until 1930 or later.

Rudolph was mainly a studio photographer, specialising in portrait work. He more rarely worked outdoors, and seems to have published relatively few postcards of Eastbourne. A black and white borderless real photograhic card shows a shop gutted by fire on January 17, 1911. The card is marked "Vieler Photo" at the bottom left. An undated card presumably from 1911 records a "Children's Coronation Procession". Another card shows J. L Travers in a waterplane landing in the sea by Eastbourne beach in August 1912 (Travers qualified as a pilot in May 1911, and in the First World War joined the Royal Naval Air Service as a Flight Commander). Vieler also published a card of a naval seaplane taking off from the water close by the beach in July 1914. In September 1914 he issued a card showing "Eastbourne recruits for Lord Kitchener's Army leaving Eastbourne". Wearing civilian clothes the men are gathered at Eastbourne railway station. Another card issued in September shows the Commercial Battalion of the Welsh Regiment, again dressed in civilian clothes, marching through the town. The Colonel of the 11th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Regiment was photographed sitting proudly on his horse, while other cards show the men resting under a tree and by the shore. Vieler also recorded new recruits of the Royal Sussex Regiment dubbed "Lowther's Lambs" on parade in Eastbourne. An undated card of a soldier posing in front of a tent suggests that he may have toured army camps taking portrait photos of soldiers. In April 1915 he issued a card of an airship passing over Eastbourne.

Vieler continued to produce postcards of Eastbourne and local events until the start of the 1920s, but then gave up. Particularly noteworthy is a sepia-tinted card, found by Anthony Le Couteur, showing Sir Ernest Shackleton's ship Quest at sea off Eastbourne in 1921. Of broadly similar age are some black and white real photographic cards of Eastbourne War Memorial, which are marked on the front "Vieler Photo" or are stamped on the back in blue ink: "R.W. Vieler, 'Photo', Seaside Rd. Eastbourne". Another card, similarly stamped, but sepia toned shows a float that took part in a procession in Eastbourne Festival Week in 1922.

Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Adrian Vieler (Henfield) for supplying some of the above information and correcting errors in an earlier draft.

To directory of publishers
To gallery

Design: Lucid Design