Emil Vieler


Bexhill: Central Parade, looking east from Marina Court with Wilton Court Hotel in mid distance and the Kursaal on the right

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Photographer, Bexhill-on-Sea. David Simkin at gives a detailed and very useful account of the lives of the Vieler brothers. Emil Vieler was born at Iserlohn in Germany (Westphalia) on February 19, 1851, and was one of nine children of Carl Peter Ludwig Vieler, a merchant (1819-1888), and Wilhelmina Sophie Vieler (née Brauckhagen), who died in 1856 at the age of 36. In 1857 Carl Vieler remarried. His new wife, Sophia Augustine Neuhaus (1832-1889), bore him another eight children!

In about 1861 Carl Vieler left Germany to become a "foreign produce merchant" or "provision dealer" in Bradford. Accompanying him were his second wife and seven of their children, including Emil. At this date Bradford had a thriving community of German merchants, mainly trading in textiles. In 1870 the Vieler family were living at 30 Trafalgar Street, but by 1879 they had moved to 13 North Parade, Bradford, where Carl Vieler died, on October 29, 1888, leaving effects of £281. After his death, it is thought that his eldest son, Paul Vieler, took over the grocery business or else replaced it with another. Two other sons, Julius and Ernest Vieler, traded as wool merchants.

In 1874, Emil married Sarah Russell, who is believed to have been born in 1840. She was the daughter of a well-known Bradford businessman. Shortly afterwards Emil and Sarah moved to King Street in Huddersfield, where he set up in business as a portrait photographer. The couple's first child, Beatrice Gertrude Louise Vieler, was born towards the end of 1874, followed by Francis Victor Vieler in 1877, who died in infancy, then Herbert Charles Vieler, who was born in 1878, Florence Isabel Vieler in 1880, and finally Ada Bertha Vieler in 1882.

In about 1877, one of Emil's younger brothers, Rudolph Wilhelm Vieler, born at Iserlohn in 1853, moved to Eastbourne where he too became a portrait photographer. Perhaps with Rudolph's encouragement, Emil decided to leave Huddersfield around 1893 and set up afresh in Bexhill, which was a rapidly growing resort offering good business opportunities. Kelly's 1895 Sussex Directory locates Emil's studio at Station Road, Bexhill. The 1899 edition gives his address as 11 Upper Station Road. By 1901 Herbert Vieler was helping his father run the business, which continued to prosper. By 1911 Emil opened a new studio, called the "Imperial Studio" at 26 Station Road ("Rembrandt House"). He died on December 16, 1912, and his son Herbert took over the studio. He left effects of £348.

Emil's eldest daughter, Beatrice, married a draper, William Hobden (born 1875 at Herstmonceux), in 1898 at Bexhill, and the newly-weds then settled in Worthing. Florence and Ada never married. When the 1911 census was held, they were living with their widowed father at 26 Station Road. Florence died in 1961 in Eastbourne, and Ada in 1968.

Emil published many real photographic cards of Bexhill and district. These are generally labelled on the back "Emil Vieler, Photographer, Imperial Studio, Bexhill-on-Sea" and on the front "Vieler, Bexhill-on-Sea". The captions were handwritten on the negatives, usually in very small, block capitals that lack any embellishment. On some cards, however, the captions have been written by someone who favoured larger capitals and embellished the letters "E" and "L" with short descenders curving to the right. Possibly this was Emil and it was his son Herbert who was responsible for the plainer and more microscopic captions.

The real photographic cards cover a range of subjects, such as the cliffs at Cooden, the Central Parade and seafront at Bexhill, the funeral procession for Mrs Sewell at Bexhill in January 1909, floods in Egerton Park at Bexhill in 1909, storm damage to the seafront in 1910, Norman's Bay including a military camp, and views of Hooe village. Emil Vieler or perhaps his son allowed G & S Rice of 20 Sea Road at Bexhill to reproduce Emil's best selling card of the Parade (shown above) under their own name instead of his, presumably in exchange for a royalty. 1911 seems to have been a busy year for Emil - topical scenes that he recorded included the Coronation Celebrations at Bexhill on June 22, 1911, "The Right Honourable Earl Brassey opening the Colonnade, Bexhill-on-Sea, July 24, 1911" and the "Funeral of the Maharajah of Cooch Behar, Bexhill-on-Sea, September 21, 1911".

Bexhill's burgeoning pride in its new Colonnade quickly turned to anguish when in March 1912 severe gales and heavy seas battered the Sussex coast wrecking some of the more exposed parts of the Colonnade. Emil quickly returned to the scene with his camera, but this time to record not the pristine elegance of the structure but its untimely dilapidation. For him ill winds that created havoc provided welcome business opportunities.

One of Emil's last and finest cards shows the trawler "Gamester" on fire off Bexhill attended by a destroyer and the Eastbourne lifeboat on May 17, 1912. The light is especially dramatic and the boats show as dark silhouettes against the foam flecked sea.

Acknowledgement: Grateful thanks are due to Adrian Vieler (Henfield), grandson of Ernest Vieler, who has provided invaluable information about the history of the Vieler family.

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