H. Cross "Medal" Series


Rev. Smythe officiating at the launching ceremony for a new Rescue Boat at St Leonards. Postally used June 1906

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The publisher of the oddly named H. Cross "Medal" Series of postcards of Hastings and St. Leonards has not been firmly identified. Judging from their subject matter and postmarks, the cards were offered for sale only briefly, from autumn 1905 to the summer of 1909 or possibly a little later. They are rarely found today, which suggests that they were produced in small numbers and were stocked by very few shops.

One obvious possibility is that "H. Cross" was actually the publisher's name. Early in the last century, several residents of Hastings and St. Leonards with the surname Cross had a first name beginning with H. The most likely to have published the postcards was Harriett Cross, who lived at 41 Priory Street in Hastings, and is described in the 1901 census as a photographer's assistant. Born in Hastings and 31 years old, she was unmarried and lived with her mother, who also was called Harriett Cross, and her father, Francis Cross, a painter and decorator. Both parents had been born in Norfolk. Also living at 41 Priory Street were her two unmarried sisters and a brother.

It is not known which photographer Harriett Cross worked for (although King Bros. or A.M. Breach are possibilities - see later), but she may well have produced postcards as part of her day job, which gave her the idea of producing her own cards as a spare time enterprise. Of course, this is only one possible interpretation of the "H. Cross" tag - it may have referred to something entirely different.

The H. Cross "Medal" cards all have white borders and most have captions that are written in neat blocky capitals. A few lack captions. The words "The H. Cross 'Medal' Series" are printed in black up the left side of the correspondence space.

The card shown above records the launching ceremony for a new rescue boat for sea anglers at St. Leonards. It was sent to the Rev. Maughan at Bedford with the comment:

"We do things in a Christian way at St Leonards. We do not even launch a new boat without the Church's blessing. Behold the Rev. F. J. Smythe saying the office at the launching of the new life-boat of the Angling Association. In Bedford of course the ceremony would be performed by some worldly harridan like Mrs Fry, and the ceremony would consist of vast overeating at the expense of Col. Riley and an excess of drinking at the expense of Mrs Knight Watson. We know better.

I thought Robin would like this card: it shows the prevalence of the errors of Rome and the craftiness of the priests of this place. Look at the clergyman's Popish hat!"

Another card in the H. Cross "Medal" Series showed the SS Lugano on fire off Hastings in April 1906. The photographer embellished the card with a drop of red ink to simulate the glow from the flames, which was a device that the Hastings photographer A. M. Breach also employed on his cards of the burning ship. Did H. Cross work for Breach and copy his idea of using red ink or did Breach copy Cross?

In June 1906 the Mayors of ten Normandy towns accompanied by other Frenchmen visited Hastings to take part in L' Entente Cordiale celebrations. At least two cards showing the dignitaries and crowds of onlookers were issued in the H. Cross "Medal" Series, but with an acknowledgement on the front of the cards: "Photo King Bros." Did H. Cross work for the King Brothers or simply persuade them to make their negatives available, perhaps in exchange for some unrecorded favour?

A portrait photo card in the H. Cross "Medal" Series depicts the Rev. Forbes Winslow (c. 1843-1912), who was for many years Rector of St. Paul's Church at St. Leonards. A celebrated preacher, he was a self-proclaimed "hater of cant and sanctimonious humbug". It would be interesting to know whether other portrait photos of local worthies were published in the "Medal" Series.

A card of the First Sussex Royal Engineers building a demonstration pontoon bridge in Alexandra Park at Hastings was posted in May 1909, but could possibly have been offered for sale a year or so earlier.

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