XL Series


Laying the tramlines in Robertson Street, Hastings (XL Series)

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Unidentified Hastings or St Leonards publisher, active in 1905 and 1906. Valentines of Dundee issued cards of many places in Britain in their "XL Series", for example showing a rough sea at Hastings (1907 postmark noted). Of totally different origin are some cards of Hastings, St Leonards, Crowhurst and Sedlescombe that are embossed on the side edge "XL Series" or "XL Art Series", or else are labelled on the back "The XL and Duplex Series". Some of these cards record subjects of purely local and temporary interest, such as storm damage to Hastings seafront in November 1905, which must mean that they were the work of someone who lived in the area and had a camera at the ready. The XL Art Series included panoramic views of Hastings taken with a wide-angle lens.

Two XL cards record the "Laying of tramways" in Bohemia Road and London Road, St Leonards (at the top, near the junction with Town Road). A third shows the scene of an explosion on August 26, 1906, when a stone cover was thrown into the air, and landed on a pram, killing a holidaymaker's child. Also interesting are cards of the toll house on St Leonards Pier, after it was blown over by the wind on November 26, 1905 and the S.S. Lugano anchored and on fire off Hastings in April 1906 (the photograph must have been taken from a boat).

David Kibble (Lewes) has advanced the ingenious suggestion that the mystery publisher of the XL cards was Frank Thomas Nix Lee, who was a stationer, sub postmaster and tobacconist at 69 Bohemia Road in St Leonards, trading as "F. T. Nix-Lee". The name XL for the cards might derive from the final letter of Nix and the first letter of Lee.

Frank Lee was born at Stratford in North London in about 1878 and was the son of Susanna and John Lee, a draper. The 1911 census records that he was married to Agnes Amelia Lee and had a son (John Arthur Bartlett Lee) and daughter (Margaret Mabel Lee). His son had been born in North London in 1904, and Frank and his family appear to have settled in St Leonards soon afterwards, although there is no reference to them in Kelly's 1905 Sussex Directory or Pike's 1905 Hastings and St Leonards Directory. Presumably, they arrived at St Leonards during the course of 1905, which raises the question of whether Frank would have been in time to photograph the laying of the tramlines.

Acknowledgement: Grateful thanks to David Kibble (Lewes) for his help with the compilation of this publisher's profile.

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