Alfred King (A. King & Son)


Arundel from the bridge

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Photographer, Littlehampton. King was born in 1850 at Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, the son of John Cole King, a stonemason, and Mary King. His father had been born at Newchurch about five miles north of Ventnor in about 1828, and his mother even closer, at Wroxall, in about 1823. He was one of six children.

The 1871 census records that King was living with his parents at Upton Road in Ryde. He is described as an assistant photographer. According to H. J. F. Thompson in his book on Littlehampton artists and photographers (The Littlehampton Story No. 3 - The picturemakers, 1981, Littlehampton Printers, Littlehampton), King later crossed to the mainland to work for a number of years for the Chichester photographers, Russell and Sons, helping to run their branch studio in Terminus Road at Littlehampton. When Russell and Sons closed the branch in about 1880, King decided to take over the studio and set up in business on his own account. In 1882 he married Kate Fielder, who had been born at Chichester in about 1861. He and Kate had two children: Fred, born in 1883 or 1884, and May or Maisie, born between 1886 and 1888.

In 1891 King moved with his family to new premises at 37 High Street, where he had a new studio built to his own specification. Thompson's book includes a picture of the studio with its large picture windows and skylight, which was only a few doors away from his rival John White's High Street studio. The Sussex County Guide and Business Indicator (1891) noted "Mr. King makes a speciality of children's photographs, in the taking of which he has gained high distinction; his productions giving general satisfaction, and display much artistic merit, which, in a great measure, is due to the instantaneous process which he adopts". By "instantaneous process" the writer meant the use of faster film allowing shorter exposure times, eliminating the need for head-clamps and other tiresome restraints.

By 1901 King had enlisted the help of his son Fred in the running of the studio. Although portraiture was the mainstay of the business, he responded to the increasing demand for postcards by producing black and white and also sepia real photographic cards of Littlehampton, Arundel and Burpham. Some cards have a border or strip beneath the photograph carrying a printed label: "A. King. Photographer Littlehampton". Some seemingly later cards with borders on all four sides are blind stamped "A. King & Son, Littlehampton".

King often issued cards of local events such as river regattas and processions. One of his more interesting "event" cards shows the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk's visit to Littlehampton in 1907 for the laying of the foundation stone of the new swing bridge.

Many of the cards that King published lacked captions, which clearly irritated some buyers, who felt obliged to explain when they sent the cards just what the pictures showed. King was also rather prone to writing "King, Photographer, Littlehampton" in an annoyingly prominent position across the middle of his postcard views. However, he was capable of excellent work when the spirit moved him. Thompson reproduces an impressive studio portrait by King showing Mr. Tanner, the Littlehampton Station Master, resplendent in his railway uniform.

King closed his High Street studio in 1910 and retired. He is believed to have moved to 34 New Road in Littlehampton. The 1918 Electoral Register lists an Alfred King at this address, but names Margaret Alice King as his wife. Unless the New Road King was a namesake, he must have remarried. Local Directories and Registers make no mention of his son Fred, who may have left the area.

Alfred King is believed to have died in 1938, at the age of 88.

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