E. & L. Chell


Market Square, Hailsham (looking south-east)

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Photographers, 64 High Street, Hailsham. Edwin Chell was born at Leek in Staffordshire in about 1860. In 1893 he married Lela Godfrey from Boscombe at Bournemouth, who had been born in about 1872, and was the daughter of Lavinia and William Godfrey, a cabinet maker and post master. After a few years in Hurstmonceux, where their first child, Lily Chell, was born (in 1896), Edwin and Lela settled in Hailsham. In the 1901 census he is referred to as a life insurance agent, but Kelly's 1905 Sussex Directory lists E. and L. Chell as photographers. In the 1911 census Edwin is described as a dairyman and photographer, and Lela as his business assistant. By 1911 the Chells had had five more children: Ivy Chell, born in 1897 at Hailsham; Nellie Chell, born in 1899; Mollie Chell, born in 1901; Leslie Steel Chell, born in 1902; and Nora Chell, born in 1904.

Edwin and Lela Chell issued a series of rather grainy halftone view cards of Hailsham and Hellingly, but as far as is known no real photographic view cards, and only one "special event" card, a halftone of a meeting of the Heathfield Scouts. All the cards have white borders, and are labelled "Chell, Photo" under the pictures. They were on sale by 1905, if not earlier.

Edwin and Lela almost certainly did not print the cards themselves, but commissioned them from a firm of printers. The majority of cards have a broken line along their left sides and were evidently cut out of booklets containing sets of perhaps six. The backs (with the exception of a card of the Station Hotel at Hellingly and another of Horsebridge Mills, which may have been special printings) are headed "Pictorial Post Card" in bold capitals. W. F. Crowther at Mayfield and an anonymous shopkeeper in Heathfield sold detachable cards of their areas, which were of almost identical design (Crowther's cards cost a penny for six). A firm called the "Pictorial Postcard Co. Ltd." operated in the City of London from 1903 to 1908, but it is not known to have printed view cards of the type under discussion. Very probably, the Chells, Crowther and the Heathfield shopkeeper used some other supplier.

Edwin and Lela Chell set up a studio at their Hailsham home where clients could have their pictures taken. Edwin sometimes supplied his clients with their portraits in postcard form, stamping the cards on the back "E. Chell, High Street, Hailsham". One such card that has been found showing a genial-looking man seated in front of a painted backdrop purports to date from 1917, which would make it a late work. The Chells seem to have gone out of business as photographers shortly afterwards. Edwin died in 1935, aged 74 and Lela in 1937.

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