Archibald Mark Breach


Milward Crescent, Hastings, where Breach lived (July 1907 postmark seen)

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Hastings photographer and postcard publisher. Breach was born in Hastings in 1875, the son of Mark Breach, "master mariner" or ship's captain (born 1845 at Hastings) and Alice Hannah Wilkins (born 1847 at Islington, London). The Breach family had been long established at Hastings as fishermen and fish merchants (see David Simkin's detailed survey at ( Alice's father, Benjamin Wilkins (1818-1886) had moved from London in the 1860s to run a tobacconist's shop at 47 Robertson Street, Hastings.

Mark and Alice married in Poplar in London early in 1875, and Archibald was their first child. When the 1881 census was held, Mark Breach was away at sea, but Alice and Archibald were living at 48 Cambridge Gardens, Hastings. In 1886 Alice Breach gave birth to a daughter, Annie Alice Breach. When the 1891 census was held, Alice and Mark were back in Poplar, at 62 Canton Street, but Annie and Archibald (or Archie, as he was called) were living with their maternal grandmother, Hannah Wilkins, at 47 Robertson Street in Hastings. Hannah, a 65-year-old widow, had been born at Swansea. In 1901, Alice, Archie and Annie were living with Hannah at 44 Milward Crescent in Hastings in a house called Ronongo. Mark Breach, who is listed in a local Directory as a ship's Captain, was presumably once more at sea. Ronongo is one of the Solomon Islands, and perhaps Mark visited it on one of his voyages and fell in love with it.

In 1896 Archie Breach is recorded as a photographer at 4 Cornwallis Street, Hastings, but in 1897 he moved to another studio at 25 White Rock on the seafront and after about a year he moved again, to 21 White Rock, which had been the studio of Melancthon Moore. Breach kept this studio until 1905 or 1906. During this period he continued to live at 44 Milward Crescent, which his mother ran as a boarding house.

Although Breach undertook conventional studio photography, he seems to have preferred to concentrate in summer on outdoor work, photographing parties of holidaymakers and young couples as they strolled along the promenade or amused themselves on the beach. He also photographed groups of holidaymakers in front of their hotels and boarding houses. He sold many of these "souvenir" photographs as postcards, which he embossed "A. M. Breach, Hastings".

In 1905 or 1906 Breach moved his studio to 37a White Rock, replacing P. J. Swain. During 1906 Alice Breach gave up her Milward Crescent home, probably because of failing health. She and her son returned to live at their old home at 48 Cambridge Gardens, before moving to 6 Devonshire Terrace in Devonshire Road, Hastings, where she died on September 23, 1908, with her son in attendance. The death certificate describes her as the "wife of Mark Breach, a master mariner", but does not say whether he was still alive. No entry for Mark has been identified with certainty in the Register of Deaths, and it is not known when or where he died.

On November 28, 1908, shortly after his mother's death, Archibald Breach married Ethel Florence Tapner at the Congregational Church in Robertson Street in Hastings. A year younger than her husband, she was the daughter of Edward Tapner, an upholsterer. The marriage certificate notes that Archibald was the son of Mark Breach, "formerly a mariner (master)", but this could mean that he was retired rather than dead. After the marriage, Ethel joined her husband at 8 Devonshire Terrace, which for many years they ran as a boarding house, called Ronongo after the Milward Crescent house that the new occupants had renamed Hadleydene.

By 1911 Breach acquired the studio of Jarrett & Co. at 194 Queens Road in Hastings, but soon had second thoughts and sold it. He retained his studio at 37a White Rock until 1922, but by 1923-24 he replaced it with a new studio (the Memorial Studio) at 72 Cambridge Road, Hastings. Pike's 1927 Directory records that he had moved his business yet again, to 40 Havelock Road. By this time he had left Devonshire Terrace to set up home at 60 Mount Pleasant Road. By 1935 he was living a few streets away, at 29 Nelson Road off Queens Road. The 1939 Electoral Register records that he and his wife shared the Nelson Road house with his sister, Annie Alice Breach.

Breach was still working as a photographer from his home in Nelson Road in 1948, at the age of 73! Soon afterwards, however, he retired and he died in late 1954. His wife, who survived him, lived on at Nelson Road until at least 1956. Some of his negatives are now in the care of Hastings Museum.

During his long career as a photographer Breach published many real photographic cards of Hastings. His card of Milward Crescent (see above) is particularly interesting as it shows the street where he once lived. He wrote his name in Indian ink along the curving pavement, bending his name to match the shape of the pavement. Breach also recorded local events, such as the fire on the S.S. Lugano off Hastings in April 1906, crowds on Election Day in 1906, and Empire Day at Hastings in 1909. Some of his real photographic cards of the stricken Lugano are dabbed a sinister red where the fire was most intense! Breach was still publishing postcards of local events after the First World War. For example, just before Easter 1919 the former German submarine U118, a French war prize, which was being towed to Cherbourg, broke its towrope off Beachy Head and drifted eastwards, becoming wrecked on Hastings beach. Breach issued a selection of cards of the stranded vessel, including at least one showing sightseers climbing on board.

On sunny summer days Breach often positioned himself near the entrance to the pier, offering to take photographs of the holidaymakers. He would return at intervals to his studio to print the photographs to sell as picture postcards. He also followed groups down onto the beach to photograph them paddling or bathing, and was seemingly more than willing to wade into the sea to take pictures of groups of young women in clinging bathing costumes! Postcards of seaside entertainers were another specialty.

Some Breach cards lack captions. Captions, when present, are often written entirely in capitals. Some "H"s have curly, left hand descenders. The writing is in fact quite distinctive, making the cards easily recognisable even when they are not labelled "Breach". Some cards have Breach's name and address (e.g. Havelock Road) on the back or are blind-stamped "A. M. Breach, Hastings", and some have generous white borders, whereas others have no borders at all.

For further information on Breach, in particular his studio portraiture, you are recommended to visit David Simkin's website

Acknowledgement: Grateful thanks are due to David Kibble (Lewes) for his help in the preparation of this publisher's profile.

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