Douglas Studio


Unidentified group of horse riders, perhaps outside a riding school

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Photographic studio in Hastings, which opened for business in 1930 or 1931 and was still active in the late 1940s. The proprietor was Douglas Joseph Engler Smith, who had been born in Poplar or Millwall on March 12, 1888. His daughter, Betty J. Smith, worked for him for several years colouring and tinting.

Although born in London, Douglas Smith spent nearly all his working life in Hastings. In 1911 when the census was held, he was living in Hastings High Street with his parents, James Henry and Alice Elizabeth Smith. James, who had been born in Marylebone in about 1861, ran the Jenny Lind Public House, assisted by Alice, who was a year younger and hailed from Southwark. Douglas is described in the census as "Manager, photographers", and doubtless worked in one of the many studios in Hastings. In 1914 he married Elsie Cottew at Eastbourne. Born in Herne Bay she was about the same age as Douglas. The couple went on to have a son, John Douglas Smith as well as their daughter, Betty.

During the First World War, Douglas served in France, surviving a mustard gas attack. Later, he ran a shop at 44 High Street in Hastings, selling gramophones, baby carriages, etc. In 1929 or 1930 he moved with his family to a house called Thornyridge at Westfield for about a year. Having received an offer for this house that they couldn't refuse, the Smiths relocated to Stepaside, 50 St Helen's Park Road.

Kelly's 1934 Sussex Directory gives the Douglas Studio's address as 4 Trinity Street in Hastings, but by the time the 1935 Directory was compiled the firm had relocated to 2 Trinity Street (assuming, of course, that the street had not merely been renumbered). Between 1936 and 1938 it moved again, to 11 Cambridge Road, opposite the local Post Office.

The Douglas Studio was responsible for several cards of Yew Tree Farm at Northiam, which in the mid 1930s was run as a guest house and tea house. The cards were presumably produced in arrangement with the owner, Mary Mason. The card illustrated above can be assumed to have been a separate private commission. It was issued in the late 1930s when the Studio was located in Cambridge Road. Douglas Smith died at Hastings early in 1967, aged 78. By this time he had settled at 1 Cornwallis Gardens.

Betty Smith married William Maurice King at Hastings in 1939. For a short time after the war, William worked with his father in law as a photographer, before emigrating to Australia. He ran a studio himself for a few years in Hobart, Tasmania. Betty's brother, John Douglas Smith, served as a pilot officer in the RAF during the Second World War and died in September 1942 when his plane was shot down.

Acknowledgement: this website is greatly indebted to Marilyn Saklatvala (Hastings) for kindly supplying information about her grandfather, Douglas Smith.

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