Arthur William Wall


Hastings sea front, from the fishing beach

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Confectioner, 80 Queens Road, Hastings. Wall was born at Margate in 1872, the first of two children of Jane Amelia Wall, née Over, and William Wall, a waiter. Jane and her husband have left an incomplete and somewhat contradictory archival trail. Jane's date of birth suggested by different censuses varies by up to three years, and her place of birth also varies. It seems most likely that she was born at Dereham in Norfolk in the early 1850s, but attempts to find her birth certificate have so far failed. William Wall's place of birth is given in the censuses as London, without any elaboration, so again no birth certificate can be located. According to the censuses he was born in 1852 or 1853.

Jane and William married in Margate in 1872, not long before Arthur was born. Their second child, Mabel Mary Wall, was born at Tonbridge in 1876. The 1881 census found the family at 15 Granville Road in Tonbridge. By 1891 the family had moved to Plumstead near Woolwich in London. Mabel had become a milliner and Arthur a grocer, while their father was a waiter at an inn.

When the 1901 census was held, Jane Wall was a widow, running a confectioner's shop at 31 Plynlimmon Road in Hastings. She employed her son as a "manager" and her daughter as an "assistant". By 1907 G. W. Stokes acquired the shop.

Wall opened his own small sweet shop, known as "The Chocolate Box" at 80 Queens Road by 1903, and for the first few years seems to have been mainly concerned with selling confectionery, though he also stocked postcards, which proved his undoing. He was arrested, charged with displaying indecent postcards for sale, and pleaded guilty. The magistrates took a dim view of his activities and sentenced him to three months imprisonment with hard labour for "corrupting the morals of the community" (Hastings & St. Leonards Weekly Mail & Times, February 24 1906). Over 1200 of his cards were ordered to be destroyed. No description of the offending cards survives, but they are likely to have been French imports showing cheerfully nude young ladies. These were very popular at the time with some sections of the public, but heartily disliked by the authorities. Nowadays they would raise few eyebrows.

Wall's spell in gaol did not deter him from continuing to stock postcards and indeed Pike's 1910 Hastings Directory, unlike its predecessors, actually lists him as a "postcard publisher". Were it not for this information his publishing activities might easily be overlooked. He seems to have been an able photographer, but only a very few cards have been found that have his name and address printed on the back. The sepia photographs are well composed and white-bordered, with handwritten captions. The lettering is sometimes rather spiky. A 1909 postmark has been seen.

The apparent paucity of real photographic cards may be misleading, as at least some of Wall's output could have been anonymous. Many cards of Hastings of similar appearance to Wall's carry no indication of their publisher. Nevertheless, it is clear that Wall's interest in postcard publishing was somewhat transient. From 1911 onwards Hasting and Sussex Directories return to listing him as a confectioner and make no further reference to his publishing activities.

The beach at the Queens Hotel, Hastings, is the subject of an interesting collotype card posted in 1915 that is labelled "1468. Published by J. A. Wall, 80 Queens Road, Hastings". It has a glazed surface and could easily be mistaken for a real photographic card. J. A. Wall was doubtless Arthur Wall's mother.

Between 1918 and 1920 Wall moved his shop from Number 80 to Number 15 Queens Road and he became both a wholesale and retail confectioner. By 1939 he retired to 87 Braybrook Road in Hastings. The Electoral Register for that year records that he was married to Kathleen May Wall, and that his sister Mabel Mary Wall was also living with him.

Wall died at Hastings on 16 June 1963, aged 90. Probate on his estate of £25,756 was granted to his widow, Kathleen.

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