Thomas Walter Stephen Wiles


St John's Ambulance Brigade & Red Cross Motors, Tisbury Road (next to Hove Town Hall), 1918-19

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Photographer, stationer and toy dealer, 33 George Street, Hove. In compiling the following notes much use has been made of the article by Brian Stevens on "Thomas Wiles of Hove" that appeared in the December 1992 issue of Picture Postcard Monthly (volume 164, pp. 29-30).

Thomas Wiles was born on March 16, 1870 at his parent's home at 1 Breeds Yard in Hastings. He was the fourth of six children of William and Eliza (Elizabeth) Margaret Wiles, née Ansell. William Wiles, who had been born at Lamberhurst in Kent in about 1833, stated when registering the birth that he was a "general dealer", though Stevens describes him as a china and glass dealer. Elizabeth came from Sevenoaks in Kent and was a year or two younger than her husband.

William and Eliza lived for many years at Frittenden in Kent, where they had three children: William John Wiles, who was born in 1863, Edward James Wiles in 1865 and Caroline Margaretta Wiles in 1867. They then moved with their family to Hastings, where Thomas was born, followed by Frances Eliza Wiles in 1874 and finally George Albert Wiles in 1877. In 1881 the Wiles family was living at 46 Queens Road in Hastings. Ten years later they were at Silverhill Villas in Hastings. Thomas Wiles was working as a grocer's assistant and his father was an insurance agent. Stevens reproduces a photograph of Thomas standing outside the grocery shop.

In 1898 Thomas Wiles became an evangelist for the Church Army. The 1901 census locates him in lodgings in Chelsea. He married 30-year-old Elizabeth Jane Bailey at the Parish Church of Kingscliffe in Northamptonshire on September 9, 1902. Her father, Thomas Bailey, was a wood turner. Frances and George Wiles attended the marriage and acted as witnesses.

Thomas and Elizabeth's first child, Frank William Thomas Wiles, was born at or near Bucklow in Cheshire in 1903. Shortly after this, Thomas Wiles decided to return to Sussex and become a shopkeeper. His brother, George, who had become a commercial traveller, seems to have encouraged him to give up evangelism and set up in business. During 1905 Thomas opened a shop at 33 George Street in Hove, where he started selling children's toys and fancy goods. Within a few years he added a studio and darkroom at the back of the shop, so that he could make his own real photographic cards. A few doors away, at Number 26, was Thomas Foster, a professional photographer, who also issued real photographic cards. By 1912 Wiles had changed his business to that of "wholesale stationer".

Thomas and Elizabeth had four daughters. Ivy Frances Bailey Wiles was born in 1904 and was followed by Gladys Caroline Wiles (born in Hove in 1906), then Norah Elizabeth Wiles in 1911 and Mary Pansy Mabel Wiles in 1912. Another son, Walter Edward G. Wiles, was born in 1907.

Frank W. T. Wiles became a carpenter, and married Edith M. Mecken in 1937. In 1944 his sister, Norah Wiles, married Thomas Pretty. Charles H. Powell and Mary Wiles married in 1944. As far as is known, Ivy and Gladys remained single.

Wiles published many real photographic cards of Brighton and Hove, Lewes, Poynings, Portslade and Southwick. The Lewes set included a panorama of the town from Cliffe Hill, the river at Malling looking south, and cards of Lewes railway station including one of the tracks playfully entitled "Just a few lines from Lewes" (1913 postmark noted). A panorama from Lewes Castle was more laboriously entitled "Birds eye view of Lewes looking west showing the hill on which the Battle of Lewes was fought". Portslade cards included "Ploughing at Portslade" and the Brighton train leaving Portslade. A card of Eridge Castle, way outside his normal sales territory, was probably produced to special order. Similarly anomalous are some eight or more cards of "The Tea Gardens, Tilgate, Crawley". Still more remarkable is a card of Aspley Guise Church in Bedfordshire, discovered by David Ransom (see Gallery). It may have been produced to oblige a clerical friend.

The earliest real photographic cards that Wiles published are initialled "T W" with "H" beneath, often in a quadrilateral box or shield. The photographs usually lack borders. They tend to be badly faded and a pale yellowish sepia colour. The titles are handwritten in capitals and appear to have been directly superimposed on the negatives.

Other real photographic cards, apparently mostly later in age, have less faded, black and white photographs, often with borders. They are usually labelled "T. Wiles" or "Wiles. Hove", although some are anonymous. The titles are again in capitals. Cards of Hove have two to three digit serial numbers that range from about 85 to 938 or more, but are particularly concentrated between 750 and 850.

Some of the last view cards that Wiles produced, dating from the mid 1920s, have very neat titling in remarkably even capitals, e.g. No 116 and No 117 "The Sussex Weald from Ditchling Beacon. T. Wiles". Number 138 ("Jack and Jill on Clayton Hill") and 139 ("Clayton Windmills, Nr Brighton") are labelled M. Wiles on the photographs, which suggests that Mary took the pictures.

Although Wiles published many real photographics, he also arranged for some view cards to be printed in bulk as cheap collotypes and halftones. A variety of styles can be found:

1) "The Wiles Series" of glossy surfaced, black and white collotypes was on sale by 1906. Many of the cards have captions printed in red in an italic script. Subjects include the Downs at Hangleton, Southwick Canal, Hove baths and beach, Hove Town Hall, the footbridge and lane at Portslade, and the Lawns at Hove.

2) A coloured card of Hove Station is labelled "Published by T.W.S. Wiles, George Street, Hove. Photo by Foster", which proves that the two publishers were able to co-operate, despite competing for trade.

3) Some shiny surfaced collotypes of Hove with handwritten captions have black and white pictures set in wide brown borders, shaded and grained to imitate picture frames. The cards, which are labelled "Published by T.W.S. Wiles, 33 George Street, Hove" on the reverse, were printed in Germany.

4) By 1908 Wiles was selling hand-coloured halftones with red printed captions. These too are labelled on the reverse: "Published by T.W.S. Wiles, 33 George Street, Hove".

5) Also on sale by 1909, if not earlier, were some machine coloured halftones with red captions in very small print and 4 digit serial numbers. These were re-issues of cards originally published by J. E. Stafford, which had been printed in Treves.

6) Some matt surfaced black and white collotypes of Brighton and Hove with captions printed in black are labelled "Alpha Series" on the back (as well as "Published by T.W.S. Wiles, 33 George Street, Hove"). They were on sale by 1911 and were probably printed for Wiles by Alfred Stiebel & Co. of London, who published their own cards under the trade name "Alpha".

In addition to the numerous view cards, Wiles published many cards of local events. The following list is far from exhaustive, but gives some indication of the range of events that he covered:

     Clarendon Mission Hall Sunday School Outing, June 23, 1909,
     "Funeral of Dear Little Annie Robinson, July 29, 1909",
     The Sack Race at Portslade Sports on August Bank Holiday in 1909,
     Brighton Cabmen's Mission, Band of Hope treat 1909,
     Funeral of the late Major Teevan, November 30, 1909,
     Fire at Hove Baths Laundry, December 21, 1909 (at least 2 cards),
     Crowds at the Memorial Service for King Edward VII at All Saints Church, Hove, on May 20, 1910,
     George St. Sunday School outing, June 6, 1910,
     Open Air Service, Holy Trinity Church, Hove, June 26, 1910,
     Salvation Army band at a Hove funeral, July 2, 1910,
     Hove Hospital Parade, 1910,
     Drumhead Service on Empire Sunday at Hove in 1910 (at least 16 cards),
     Proclamation of King George V, Town Hall, May 9, 1910,
     Open air service for our late King, May 20, 1910,
     Funeral of Edward Pack, Old Parish Church, Hove, May 17, 1910 (at least 4 cards),
     Clarendon Mission outing, June 15, 1910,
     Hove Fire Brigade Sports, Hove Park, October 26, 1910 (at least 4 cards),
     Opening of the Electric Theatre, George Street, Hove, April 11, 1911,
     Salvation Army marching to Hove Front, Whit Monday 1911,
     Opening of the Brunswick Lawns, Hove, Whit Monday, 1911 (at least 6 cards),
     The Brooklands to Brighton air race on May 6, 1911 (several cards),
     Race between Oscar Morison and Graham Gilmour from Shoreham to Roedean on May 13, 1911 (at least 27 cards),
     Hove Fire Brigade Sports, Hove Park, October 26, 1910 (at least 4 cards),
     B & H Women's Liberal Association outing, June 14, 1911,
     Mr A. G. Vanderbilt's Coach Venture, leaving the Metropole, 1911,
     Portslade Gas Works Sports, 1911 (many cards),
     Clarendon Mission Entertainment, May 17, 1911,
     Coronation of King George V, 1911 (Hove celebrations),
     Childrens Coronation Flag procession, June 25, 1911 (at Hove),
     Brighton Cage Birds Show, 1911,
     Hannington's Annual Outing, 1911,
     Portslade United Sunday Schools Outing to Hassocks, July 24, 1911,
     Hove Sunday Schools Outing to Hassocks, 1911 (at least 3 cards),
     Hove Regatta, August 15, 1911 (many cards),
     Australian Cadets visit to Hove, August 1911 (at least 3 cards),
     Opening of Hove new Salvation Army headquarters, 1911,
     Girls Friendly Society, 1911,
     Snow scenes at Hove, February 1912 (at least 3 cards),
     Clarendon Mission Hall Anniversary, Hove, February 26, 1912 (at least 3 cards),
     Sports at Portslade, Whit Monday, 1912,
     Open Air Service, Holy Trinity Church, Hove, June 1912 (at least 10 cards),
     Sussex v Australia Cricket Match, 1912 (at least 5 cards),
     Funeral of Captain Collins on September 4, 1912,
     Unveiling the Brighton and Hove Memorial to King Edward VII, October 12, 1912,
     Lewes Football Team, 1912,
     Sons of Temperence Outing to Hassocks, 1912 (3 or more cards)
     Men bathing at Hove, New Years Day, 1913,
     Mr A. G. Vanderbilt's Venture, May 1, 1913,
     1st Mothers Meeting in New Hove Parish Church Hall, 1913,
     Cliftonville Hotel Club beanfeast, 1913,
     Wedding of Mr A. Mortimer Singer & Miss Pillovoine at Southwick, 1913,
     Portland Road Wesleyan Outing to Hassocks, 1913 (at least 15 cards),
     The Welsh Bill protest at Lewes in 1913,
     CFS Doll Pageant, Hove Town Hall, 1913
     Opening of the new Windlesham House School, Southern Cross, 1913,
     Opening of the new Parish Hall, Hove, November 1, 1913 (at least 13 cards),
     Funeral of Sir Charles Boxall KGB at Brighton, March 11, 1914 (at least 20 cards),
     Meeting of the local Harriers at West Blatchington on March 25, 1914 (at least 6 cards),
     Naval funeral of Captain C.R. Harris, Hove, April 23, 1914,
     Re-opening of Worthing Pier on May 29, 1914 by the Lord Mayor of London (several cards),
     The German schooner, Ludwig Reidermann, aground at Portslade, June 5, 1914 (at least 5 cards),
     Mr A. G. Vanderbilt's coach, the Venture, Brighton, June 2 1914 (at least 4 cards),
     Visit of the First Battle Squadron to Brighton & Hove, 1914,
     Visit of the Fleet, 1914,
     Hove Borough Fire Brigade, 1914 (with their new motorised fire engine),
     Recruiting Parade, Hove, 1914,
     The 1914 Southwick Regatta,
     Portslade Gas Works Sports, 1914 (many cards),
     Primrose League Fete, Goodwood Park, 1914 (at least 3 cards),
     Drumhead Service, Brunswick Lawns, Hove, April 4, 1915,
     "Mr & Mrs Chater Lea entertain our brave heroes at Cransley Lodge, Aug 12th 1916",
     Empire Day, Hove, 1917,
     "Our wounded at the Golliwog Club, Portslade, 1917",
     Preston sale of work, November 27, 1917,
     Wounded soldiers and V.A.Ds at Brighton railway station in 1918 (at least 10 cards),
     Inspection & trial of new motor fire engine, Hove, February 18, 1919,
     Reception of a tank in Hove Park, September 1919,
     Hove Peace Celebrations, 1919,
     "Charity Sports, Brighton Whit Monday 1920 Start 20 mile walking race",
     Portslade Carnival, Loxdale, May 26, 1920 (several cards),
     Hove High School Sports, 1920 (at least 8 cards),
     No. 5 Cavalry Lodge R.A.O.B. Annual Dinner, Hove, 1920,
     Baby Week, Hove (at least four cards)
     "Children's welcome to H.R.H. Prince of Wales, Preston Park, Brighton, Feb 1, 1921" (at least 6 cards),
     Dedication of the War Memorial at Hove, February 27, 1921 (and cards showing floral tributes),
     Opening of the Bowling Green, Western Lawns, Hove, 1921,
     Preston Midsummer Fete, 1921,
     Horticultural Society's Outing, July 20, 1921,
     Brighton, Hove & Sussex Horticultural Society visit to Gatton Park, 1921 (2 or more cards).
     H. H. & A. H. Association outing to Gatton Park, 1922 (at least 6 cards),
     Girton House School Sports, Hove, 1922 (at least 8 cards),
     Guider's training week, St Michaels Hall, Hove, April 1923 (at least 8 cards),
     Visit of the Duke & Duchess of York to Hove 1924,
     Preston Fete 1924,
     Hove School of Music coming of age, 1904-1925. Concert, Town Hall, Hove 1925.

Wiles seems to have been much in demand producing photographs of Brighton and Hove clergymen. He also attended a great many Brighton and Hove Albion football matches, from 1910 onwards until at least 1923, photographing the teams in action as well as the crowds of spectators. Presumably he took the photographs of the spectators before kick-off and the action pictures soon after the start of the matches, so that he could rush back to George Street to complete the developing and printing and then return to sell the cards as souvenirs to the departing spectators when the matches were over. He evidently collaborated closely with his brother George, and when he was unavoidably absent photographing other social events George stood in for him. David Ticehurst in his book, Brighton and Hove Albion, a portrait in old picture postcards (1994, S.B. Publications, Seaford), reproduces an interesting selection of the two brother's football match cards.

In 1918 Thomas Wiles bought a second shop, at 31 George Street, just two doors away from his existing shop. Called Ye Olde China Shop, it had been rather neglected by its previous owner. Elizabeth and Ivy took over the running of the shop, leaving Wiles to concentrate on his existing business. Stevens reports that some of the sugar bowls and other china that they sold had local scenes printed on them that Wiles had photographed.

In the early 1920s Wiles moved with his family to live just north of the Downs at 18 Oldlands Avenue in Hassocks (or, as it would now be termed, Keymer). He also put his two George Street shops up for sale, though not it would seem immediately. Cards have been found that he published in the summer or autumn of 1922 that are labelled on the back "Wiles, 18 Oldlands Avenue, Hassocks, Sussex", so he and his family must already have set up home in Hassocks by this date. According to Brian Stevens, however, Wiles sold his china shop five years after buying it, i.e. in 1923, while Kelly's Sussex Directory published in June 1924 continues to list him as the proprietor of both the George Street shops. Moreover, it is known that, after moving from George Street, Wiles briefly set up a studio at 46a Blatchington Road in Hove, which he closed by 1927. The inference must be that for a few years he commuted to Hove by train from his new home in Hassocks.

Wiles published a number of cards of Burgess Hill and Wivelsfield after leaving Hove. Some reflect his love of history, for example "Wivelsfield Church in 1929. Built Abt 1129" and "The old bridle path where King Charles was hiding". He died at Hassocks on November 9, 1950, aged 80, leaving effects of £1844.

Acknowledgement: Grateful thanks to Les Curwood (Oxfordshire) for correcting errors in an earlier version of this account and providing additional information.

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