Gowland Bros.


Grand Parade, Eastbourne (1921 postmark)

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Stationers, booksellers and printers, Seaside Road, Eastbourne. Gowland Bros. sold a series of good quality real photographic cards of Eastbourne and Beachy Head from about 1910 until the early 1920s or later. The pictures are sepia-toned or more rarely black and white, and with a few exceptions are labelled "Gowland Bros., Eastbourne". They all have 4-digit serial numbers. Judging from the handwriting of the captions, the cards were originally bought in from the same supplier who printed cards for retailers all over South East England (including Fish & Son at Eastbourne), and is thought by many to have been Bender and Co.of Croydon. At a later stage, Gowland Bros. may have switched to another supplier.

Gowland Bros. also sold coloured photogravures of Eastbourne and Beachy Head that were manufactured by the R. A. Publishing Co. of East London, but were labelled "Published by Gowland Bros., 25-26 Seaside Road, Eastbourne". In addition, they supplied the Burlington Hotel, the Pilot Inn at Meads, and perhaps other Eastbourne hotels with halftone publicity cards.

The proprietors of Gowland Bros. were John Stewart Gowland, born in about 1863, and Thomas William Gowland, born in 1867, both sons of Thomas Stafford Gowland (1835-1923), who was one of Eastbourne's leading businessmen in the late nineteenth century. Originally a Londoner, Thomas Stafford moved to Eastbourne in 1862 to help his widowed sister, Elizabeth Stafford Hopkins, with the running of her late husband's subscription library and stationer's shop at 16 and 17 Marine Parade. In the same year he married Jessy Wood from Ewell in Surrey. In addition to the two boys, John Stewart and Thomas William, the couple had a daughter, Jessy May Gowland, born in 1872.

In 1863 Thomas Stafford Gowland acquired control of the Marine Parade business from his sister. Soon afterwards he persuaded an existing Eastbourne photographer to open a portrait studio on the premises. After only a few years he bought the photographer out and took charge himself, selling portraits and a range of local views in carte de visite format, labelled "T. S. Gowland, Photographer, The Library, 16 & 17 Marine Parade, Eastbourne". Towards the end of the 1870s he seems to have decided to abandon photography and devote all his time to his other business interests. Earlier in the decade he had opened a printing works, bookshop and stationery business at 25 Seaside Road, which in about 1900 he transferred to his two sons, who continued it under the name of Gowland Bros. Possessed of immense energy, he was also the owner of a steam laundry, and a one time auctioneer and theatrical entrepreneur. Even in the coldest weather he enjoyed a morning swim in the sea from the end of Eastbourne pier.

When the 1911 census was held, John Stewart Gowland had been married for 18 years. He and his wife, Florence, and son, John Stafford Gowland, lived at 2 Winchelsea Road, close to the Seaside printing works and stationery business, though interestingly the census makes no mention of his involvement with Gowland Bros. and describes him as a "bathing machine proprietor". His younger brother, Thomas William Gowland, was unmarried and lived with his parents at 16 and 17 Marine Parade. He is stated to be a "printing and stationer employer", in contrast to his father, who is described as a "laundry employer".

After the First World War Gowland Bros. moved to 52 and 54 Seaside Road in Eastbourne. Postcard publishing formed only a tiny part of its business, and there is no reason to suppose that Thomas Stafford Gowland took any of the photographs that appeared on the cards, though his sons may have done so. Until the early 1920s the firm's main concern was to compile and publish annual Directories of Eastbourne. It was still actively trading as a bookseller and stationer in Seaside Road in the late 1930s.

Thomas William Gowland died at Eastbourne in 1946, aged 78. His older brother, John Stewart, lived to be 88 and died in 1952.

For further details of Thomas Stafford Gowland's remarkable life and the history of the Gowland Library, see David Simkin's much fuller account at

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