Charles Edward Stuart Thomas


Paddling at Bognor. The onion topped Kursaal in the distance was a popular entertainment complex

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Bookseller and stationer, 11-13 Chapel Road, Worthing, with branches at The Arcade in Bognor High Street and at 1-2 Terminus Road in Littlehampton. Before the First World War F. C. Trowbridge managed the Bognor branch and J. J. Glover the Littlehampton branch, which also housed a flourishing lending library. Thomas seems to have continued in business until about 1919 when he sold out to Ramsden Bros. In her book Around Worthing in old photographs Dr Sally White publishes a photo of the Chapel Road shop in its hey-day with its windows crammed with sales items.

Thomas acted as local agent for the Paris publisher, Levy and Son, who produced a series of collotype cards of Bognor, some of which are labelled on the back "C.E. Thomas, The Arcade, Bognor". He also sold a series of coloured collotype cards of Bognor, printed in Treves, which are labelled "C.E. Thomas. Bognor" on the reverse. In addition, he got Valentines of Dundee to supply him with collotypes claiming to have been "Published by C.E. Thomas, Bognor".

By 1912 Thomas was selling sepia-tinted real photographic cards of Bognor marked "Charles E. Thomas, Bognor". Subjects include the tree-lined Upper Bognor Road and holidaymakers with large hats and bloomers paddling in the sea. The photographs lack borders and later examples are labelled (quite unnecessarily) "This is a real photo" in a little box in their lower left or right corners. Albert Shoesmith produced cards of Battle and Hastings of very similar design, with the same strange little box, and he may possibly have printed the Bognor cards for Thomas and even taken the photographs.

The Bognor branch was not alone in issuing cards. By 1912 the Littlehampton branch was selling sepia-tinted real photographic cards of Littlehampton and Arundel labelled "Published by Charles E. Thomas, The Library, Littlehampton". These lacked the little box seen on later printings of the Bognor cards, but were of similar quality.

Thomas was born in the Brompton area of London in 1864 and married Mary Anne M. Gooch in Kensington in 1894. She had been born in Roydon in Norfolk and was the daughter of a brushmaker. Thomas moved to Worthing by 1895 and set up in business as a bookseller and stationer in Chapel Road (initially at Number 25). In the following year Mary gave birth to a daughter, Edith M. Thomas, who seems to have been her only child. The bookselling and stationery business rapidly prospered and by 1901 Thomas and his family were living in a large villa called Oakley Lodge in Liverpool Gardens, a leafy and fashionable residential street in Worthing. This was to remain their home for many years.

In addition to postcards, Thomas published The Photographic View Album of Worthing and Neighbourhood (undated) with 24 collotype illustrations "photographed and printed by Valentine and Sons, Limited, Dundee", aimed no doubt at both residents and holidaymakers.

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