Sussex Photographic (or Photo) Co.


Hastings from East Hill (1916 postmark)

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Hastings photographers. The Sussex Photographic Co. operated from an unrecorded address in Hastings for its first few years, but from 1909 to 1914 it was located at 4 Earl Street, which was the home of Albert Shoesmith. Parson's 1914 Hastings Directory lists Shoesmith as the proprietor of the Sussex Photographic Co., but whether he founded the firm is unclear. In 1914 the Sussex Photographic Co. moved to 154 Queens Road, where Shoesmith & Etheridge joined it after only a few years. After 1930 it expanded to occupy both 153 & 154 Queens Road, but was then replaced by Shoesmith and Etheridge.

The company started issuing printed cards of Sussex in about 1905, but for some years achieved only modest sales judging from the scarcity of the cards today. By about 1912, it was producing both collotypes and high quality real photographic cards. The collotypes have neatly printed titles in capitals, usually at the bottom left of the pictures. Some lack borders while others have wide white borders.

The real photographic cards are of many different types; most have black and white photographs, but sepia toned cards are also known. Many real photographic cards issued before the First World War (from the Earl Street address) with black and white photographs have white borders around the photographs and printed captions placed centrally in the bottom border, with a serial number to the left. Cards with printed captions and black and white photographs that were issued during and after the war (from Queens Road) generally lack borders, and have captions positioned centrally either at the top or the bottom of the pictures. Other cards with black and white photographs were issued with handwritten captions. The photographs on these cards generally have borders, and usually the captions are written entirely in capitals, but on some cards each word starts with a capital and the remaining letters are lower case. It is clear from differences in the handwriting that at least three individuals wrote the captions.

Many cards are labelled on the back "Real Photographic Series". Some of the sepia views were printed in France, and are very different in style from the commoner black and whites. The Sussex Photographic Co. allowed the Rotary Photo Co. of London to use some of its pictures on its Rotary Photographic Series cards.

Places covered include Hastings (views of the harbour, the 1913 storm damage, the East Lift, etc.), Battle and Bexhill (multi-views seen), Catsfield (1915 postmark), Cooden, Etchingham, Hurst Green, Lovers Seat at Fairlight, Northiam, Winchelsea, Robertsbridge and, rather surprisingly, Beeding. In addition, there were cards of football teams and sporting events.

Numbers on the cards suggest that at least 850 were issued. Postmarks suggest that the real photographic cards achieved their highest sales in the years just before the First World War, but they could still be purchased in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

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