Entrance to the Chain Pier

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Mystery publisher of a small number of sepia-tinted real photographic postcards of Brighton, in particular the Chain Pier. Built in 1823, the Chain Pier soon became a major tourist attraction, but it gradually fell into disrepair and eventually was destroyed by a storm in December 1896. Although the photographs of the Pier must obviously have been taken before the storm, the postcards have divided backs, and so cannot have been issued any earlier than January 1902, five years after the demise of the Pier. No postmarks have been reported.

Although the Chain Pier cards could no doubt be obtained individually, they were also available for sale in packs containing perhaps as many as six different cards. The publisher did not disclose his name, but added a small, quite distinctive monogram to the pictures on some of the cards. This consisted of the three capital letters S, W and P, stacked vertically and partly interwoven. It is not immediately apparent in what order the letters are meant to be read. Reading from the top downwards the monogram could be interpreted as spelling out the initials SWP, but the W in the middle is twice the size of the other two letters, so perhaps the monogram was intended to represent the initials SPW. No photographer with the initials SWP or SPW is reported to have operated in Brighton in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Many of the town's leading photographers, such as Donovan, took pictures of the Chain Pier, but as far as can be determined these differed from those used for the postcards.

Peter Booth (Withdean) has found a card with the same monogram as the Chain Pier cards showing a short stretch of the Ditchling Road in Brighton, north of Five Ways. A brickworks that can be seen in the distance closed in about 1907, which provides a last possible date for the photograph. As the card is numbered 17 this suggests that there are other cards, even more elusive, still waiting to be found.

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