Thomas Alfred Leighton


Coloured halftone of the Western Parade, Eastbourne (1908 postmark)

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Engraver, printer and stationer, Eastbourne. Leighton issued some coloured halftone cards of Eastbourne that were printed in Britain and had two third sized pictures impressed within wide white margins (as in the example shown above). These were on sale by 1908, and were labelled on the reverse "Published by T. Leighton, Terminus Road, Eastbourne". Later, Leighton published some high quality black and white collotype cards of Eastbourne and also brightly coloured collotypes of Litlington, Wilmington and East Dean (with an excess of rose red) that were printed in Germany. These two types of collotype cards are labelled on the reverse: "Published by Leighton the Engraver, 48 Terminus Road, Eastbourne". A 1912 postmark has been seen.

Seemingly of still later date is a coloured collotype card of Eastbourne beach and pier that has been found. Labelled on the back "Published by T. A. Leighton, Terminus Road, Eastbourne", it carries a penny stamp but is incompletely franked. Its existence suggests that Leighton continued selling coloured collotypes after postage rates on cards were raised to penny in 1918, outsourcing the printing to an as yet unidentified British firm.

Thomas Alfred Leighton was the third of five children of George and Caroline Amelia Leighton, formerly Crocker. George, who had been born in London in about 1838, was a clothier or tailor. When the 1861 census was held, George and Caroline had only recently married and were living in Gay Street in Bristol. George was employed as a clothier's cutter. Their first child, Helen M. Leighton ("Ellen"), was born at Bristol in 1861. After this, they moved to Abergavenny, where their second child, George Henry Leighton, was born on January 5, 1863 at their home in Castle Street. When Caroline registered the birth she described her husband as a tailor. Whether he was working on his own account or for someone else has not been established. The Leightons then moved again, this time to Swansea, where they stayed for at least four years. Their second son, Thomas Alfred Leighton, was born on December 9, 1866 at their home at 224 High Street, Swansea. Caroline, who once again registered the birth, stated that her husband was a "clothier". She had two more children at Swansea: Charles James Leighton in 1868 and Caroline Amelia Leighton ("Amelia") in 1870. The 1871 census gives the family's address as Victoria Place in Elliot Street.

The 1881 census records that George Leighton had moved from Wales with his family and was running a hotel at 1 Station Road in Hastings, between the railway station and the Town Hall. Thomas Alfred and Charles James Leighton were attending a boarding school in Church Road, Hastings (Highbury House, run by a Robert Johnstone). George Henry Leighton had left school and become a tailor in Hastings, but was still living with his parents.

In 1884 George Henry Leighton married Fanny Louisa Foster, who had been born in Hastings. They went to live at 44 George Street in the Old Town, just behind Marine Parade. Their first child, Caroline Amelia Leighton, was born in 1885. She was followed by George Alfred Leighton in 1889 and Elsie May Leighton in 1891.

Kelly's 1895 Sussex Directory lists George Leighton & Co. as tailors at 44a George Street. The "& Co." may be a reference to George's brother, Charles, who in 1891 was employed as a tailor at Linslade in Buckinghamshire. Charles moved back to Hastings and may for a few years have joined George at George Street. By 1899 he set up on his own as a tailor at 185 Queens Road, Hastings. The 1901 census reveals that he had married, and that he and his wife, Amelia Frances Leighton (born at St Leonards), had a 5-month-old son, Alfred C. Leighton. By 1911 he was living at 5 St Helen's Crescent in Hastings, and had two more sons, Reginald (aged 7) and Gerald (aged 6).

Thomas Alfred Leighton established his engraving business in Eastbourne in 1887. It is not known where he trained or why he chose to leave Hastings. In the 1891 census he is listed as an engraver boarding at a lodging house at 7 Seaside; Kelly's 1895 Sussex Directory also gives his address as 7 Seaside, and describes him as a printer and stationer, making no mention of engraving. In the 1899 edition of the Directory he is recorded as an engraver at 28 Junction Road, with a stationer's shop and post office at 18 Seaside.

In 1891 Thomas Alfred Leighton married Blanche Maria Mitchell, who had been born at Uckfield, and over the next ten years they had four children. Oliver Thomas Leighton was born at Eastbourne early in 1893, and after leaving school assisted his father with the engraving and stationery business. Kelly's 1938 Sussex Directory lists him as a general dealer at 95 Cavendish Place. Gladys Blanche Leighton was born towards the end of 1894 and by 1911 had become a milliner's apprentice. John Alfred Leighton was born in late 1898 and Frederick Keith Leighton in late 1901.

By 1901, perhaps at Thomas Alfred's urging, George Henry Leighton moved with his family to Eastbourne, to a house at 65 Susans Road off Seaside Road. George continued to work on his own account as a tailor.

By 1905 Thomas Alfred Leighton moved his engraving business to 48 Terminus Road in Eastbourne. An advertisement in Kelly's Sussex Directory for that year records that he sold stationery, printed wedding cards and headed notepaper to order, and also engraved silver cups, prizes, presents, door plates and memorial brasses. The same Directory records that George Henry Leighton had become the proprietor of a stationer's shop at 28 Seaside Road. This seems to have been a replacement for his brother's old shop at 18 Seaside. By 1909 George Henry was also operating a "Bazaar" at 55 Seaside. He died early in 1911, when he was only 48. The census of that year reveals that the widowed Fanny and her two youngest children were still living at 28 Seaside Road. George Alfred Leighton had followed in the family tradition and become a tailor, while Elsie was working as a shop assistant.

Gowland's 1912 Eastbourne Directory lists two shops called "Leighton's Bazaar" at 28 Seaside Road and 58 Seaside. A Mr T. Meakins was in charge of the latter shop, while George Henry doubtless retained control of the first shop, though he is not actually named. Thomas Alfred Leighton continued to run the Terminus Road business, having briefly opened and then closed a branch in Grove Road. Kelly's 1915 Sussex Directory reported that Fanny Louisa Leighton was running the stationery shop at 28 Seaside Road, and that Thomas Alfred's Terminus Road shop was trading under the name "Leighton's Bazaar Limited". By 1918 Thomas Alfred moved his Terminus Road business to 1 Terminus Place, where he remained until 1924 or later.

Pike's 1913 and 1914 Directories record that a T. Leighton, presumably Thomas Alfred, had become the proprietor of a postcard gallery at 52 Queen's Road in Hastings. The gallery seems to have ceased trading soon after the outbreak of war.

In the 1901 census Thomas Alfred Leighton is described as an "engraver on metal". He and his family were living at 16 Elms Building in Seaside Road. Rudolph Vieler had his photographic studio at 19 Elms Buildings, and quite possibly supplied Leighton with the photographs for his cards. Thomas Alfred and his family were still living at the Elms Buildings in 1909, but by the time the 1911 census was held, they had moved to 36 Gore Park Road in Eastbourne, where they remained until at least 1934. Leighton died at Eastbourne late in 1938, aged 71.

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