William Edward Sims


Lester & Sons steam bakery delivery van, Mayfield

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Photographer, who in 1905 and 1906 lived at 7 Brecon Terrace in Church Road, Rotherfield, but in 1907 left the village and set up home and business in the High Street at Hurstpierpoint. By 1911 he moved to "The Cottage" in Hassocks Road, Hurstpierpoint.

Sims was born at Sutton in Surrey in about 1884. He had two elder sisters, Constance Mary Sims (born at Rotherfield in late 1877 or early 1878) and Eliza Gertrude Sims (born around 1881 at Crowborough). In his late teens he worked as a domestic footman at Speldhurst, near Groombridge in Kent. How he became a photographer is unrecorded. When the 1911 census was taken, Sims, who remained unmarried, was living at The Cottage with his two sisters (likewise unmarried) and his 63-year-old widowed mother, Eliza Ann Sims, who had been born at Tunbridge Wells. Both sisters helped him with his photography.

Sims produced high quality black and white (more rarely sepia tinted) real photographic cards that are easily recognisable and keenly collected. Most have neat, handwritten captions, usually at the base of the photographs. The lettering is often somewhat curvy. Sims was one of the few photographers to take the trouble to dot his "i"s! His rendering of the name "Hurstpierpoint" with strongly descending "p"s is distinctive, but sometimes he just wrote "Hurst".

Sim's earliest real photographic cards are of the Rotherfield area. The example selected as a titlepiece, which shows a baker's cart from Mayfield, is stamped on the back in bluish purple ink "W.E. Sims, Church Road, Rotherfield" as is a card of the June 1906 Rotherfield Fair, which has a caption written directly on the photograph in scarlet ink.

Later real photographic cards depict Hurstpierpoint and its surroundings. They nearly all have narrow white borders and white captions, and are often marked "W.E. Sims. Photo" to the left or right of the captions, though anonymous cards are also known. Sims was on hand to record many local events at Hurstpierpont, for example the "Memorial Procession for King Edward VII. Hurstpierpoint. May 20th 1910" and a Military Camp at Hassocks in July 1911, but he also produced some fine view cards. His study of Clayton windmills shows Jack with a full set of sweeps, which indicates that it cannot have been taken later than 1908. Sims was still working as a photographer in Hassocks Road in Hurstpierpoint in 1938. He died at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton on 17 January 1950, aged 66. The probate register gives his address as Danny Corner, Hassocks Road in Hurstpierpoint. He left effects of £729 to his sister, Eliza Gertrude Sims.

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