Arthur Cecil Fricker (Fricher's Photographic Series)


The Landport Farm ox team bringing in the harvest, Lewes

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Stationer, printer and lending library proprietor, 43 High Street, Lewes (opposite the Corn Exchange at the top of School Hill). Arthur Cecil Fricker was born on January 30, 1871 at Kingston in Surrey to James Augustus Fricker, a local house agent, and his wife, Maria Fricker. He had an elder brother, James P. Fricker, who became a clerk. After leaving school Arthur worked as a stationer in Kingston, before moving to Lewes. On 28 March 1894 he married Winifred Marion Goodwin at Hereford. Five years his senior she had been born at Peterchurch in Herefordshire. The 1911 census discloses that she had had a child that had died, presumably in infancy. She herself died at Lewes in 1912, aged only 46.

In March 1921 Arthur Fricker left Britain for South Australia on board the P & O ship "Berrima". The Electoral Rolls for South Australia for 1939-43 disclose that Arthur settled at Pyap on the Murray River in the far east of the state where he worked as a horticulturalist. Minnie, his new wife, was engaged in "home duties". It has not been established when and where Arthur died. His old shop in Lewes, which continued to be called "Frickers", was run by an Alex Clayton for a few years after Fricker emigrated, but closed in 1924.

Although Arthur Fricker doubtless stocked a wide range of postcards in his Lewes shop, he seems to have published very few cards himself, preferring to let others undertake the drudgery of production. He is best known today for his coloured halftone cards that combined the Borough Arms of Lewes (and sometimes also the martlet adorned County Arms) with a view of the town or local landmark, for example the Priory ruins or Lewes Castle. These heraldic cards, which were on sale by 1905, were labelled "A. C. Fricker, stationer, Lewes" on the back, but were evidently manufactured by one of the big national printing firms, such as Stoddart & Co. Ltd. of Halifax (publishers of the Ja-Ja Series of cards), possibly with little or no input from Fricker himself, whose primary if not sole concern was to act as retailer. By contrast there is good evidence that Fricker was indeed the publisher of six real photographic cards showing oxen at work on the Downs around Lewes, which are confusingly labelled "Fricher's (sic) Photographic Series". If Fricker himself had manufactured the cards, he would have ensured that his name was printed correctly, and the inference must be that the cards were produced for him by someone who was possibly not even a Lewesian and had an imperfect grasp of how his name should be spelt. Copyright notices dated 1904 held in the National Archives establish that the photographs were actually taken by Fricker's neighbour, George John Wightman of 39 Lewes High Street, though Fricker declared himself to be the copyright owner. Wightman was an ironmonger and co-founder of the well-known Lewes firm of Wightman & Parish.

The wide bordered photographs of the Fricher's Series cards have a characteristically soft focus and have tended to yellow with age. The cards are scarce, so perhaps they did not sell very well and were never reprinted with the spelling of the name Fricker corrected. It is a mystery why they only feature oxen.

Much less amateur in appearance are some cards of Lewes and district labelled "F. L. Series", which may also have been sold by Fricker, the F. L. standing for Fricker's Library. Unfortunately no copyright declarations that would definitely prove authorship have been traced.

Apparently unrelated to Arthur was Alfred E. Fricker, who in the late 1920s and early 1930s took over an existing stationer's shop at 19 Clinton Place in Seaford and marketed sepia-tinted real photographic cards of Bishopstone village and a view of the lower Ouse valley seen from Southerham, which he also issued as a coloured card. A second coloured card has come to light, posted in 1930, which shows the village of Litlington. It is doubtful whether Alfred actually produced any of these cards himself, and quite possibly he was merely a proxy publisher. A card of Cuckmere Haven and the Coastguard Cottages bearing Alfred Fricker's name is initialled J.V. and was undoubtedly printed by Valentines of Dundee.

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