Isaac Mockford


Mockford's Stores, Broad Oak, Heathfield

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Proprietor of a general store and post office on the Burwash Road in the centre of Broad Oak, near Heathfield. Mockford was born at Broad Oak in 1861. His father, the Rev. George Mockford, was a Strict Baptist in charge of the village's Ebenezer Chapel. George had been born at Southerham, Lewes, on December 27, 1826, and was the eldest survivor of 12 children. He started work as a shepherd boy on the Downs then took a post in a soap factory in Lewes. He moved to Heathfield in October 1858. He and his wife (Anslie Mockford, formerly Harriss) had two daughters and six sons, Isaac being the fourth. For many years, the family lived at Ebenezer Cottage, next door to the Chapel. In old age, George was persuaded to write down the story of his life and many battles with poverty and self doubt. B. A. Ramsbottom has reproduced George's inspirational account in his book Six Remarkable Ministers (1994, Gospel Standard Publications). Anslie died in 1891 and George in 1899.

George Mockford's third oldest son, who was named Ebenezer and had been born at Heathfield in 1860, acquired Southerham Farm at Heathfield. Isaac Mockford, by contrast, chose to become a grocer and draper. He married when he was only 19. He and his wife, Annie, who came from Warbleton and was just a year older, went on to have two children: William Mockford, born in 1881, and Esther Mockford, born in 1883. The 1891 census records that they lived at Broadoak Cottage, under the same roof, it would appear, as a family called Richardson and also John Mockford and his family. John was a younger brother of Isaac, who also married before he was of full age. In 1891 he was working as a grocer and draper, presumably assisting Isaac.

Although Isaac's trade was concerned mostly with groceries and draperies, he also dealt in ironmongery, books and stationery. In Around Heathfield in old photographs (1990, Sutton, Stroud, p. 59) Alan Gillet and Barry Russell reproduce a c. 1890 photograph of Isaac standing at his shop door, wearing his grocer's apron. In the late 1890s having become a sub-postmaster, he decided to add a second story to his shop.

Mockford started selling his own postcards of Broad Oak and Heathfield in about 1905. Some of the cards were real photographics, but others were halftone copies of photographic prints. The cards were usually signed "I. Mockford" or "Isaac Mockford, Heathfield" on the front, though some were anonymous. Captions, when present, were written in blocky capitals, leaning noticeably to the right. In about 1910 Mockford started selling some more professional looking sepia-tinted real photographic cards with neat handwritten titles. Although he probably took the photographs, an anonymous firm, widely believed to have been Bender and Co. of Croydon, carried out the printing of the cards. This firm supplied cards with titles written with the same distinctive handwriting to shopkeepers all over Sussex and in many other counties. Mockford, himself, sold cards of this type of not just Heathfield but also Burwash.

By 1915 Mockford had begun issuing a second series of sepia-tinted real photographics of Broad Oak with machine-printed titles in tiny capitals. These cards have a more "home-made" appearance than their predecessors, and on several cards (such as the example shown above) the titles have been added rather clumsily to the photographs, leaving smeared "halos". To the right of the captions the photographs are labelled "Published by Isaac Mockford, Broad Oak, Heathfield". The card reproduced above is arguably the most interesting in the series because it shows Mockford's two-story shop. A horse with a cart waits patiently on the dusty road while an unseen customer finishes his shopping. A collotype version of this card also exists, but lacks any indication of its publisher.

Mockford died in 1929, aged 67.

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