Henry Claude & Ernest Sydney Burnett (Burnett & Co.)


Ditchling (coloured card, 1907 postmark)

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Printers and stationers, Church Road, Burgess Hill. Born in 1874, Ernest Sydney Burnett was the elder son of Francis Burnett, a newsagent and stationer, and his wife, Amelia. The family lived in Station Road, Horley. Francis had been born at Worth in 1845 and Amelia at Brighton about two years later. Henry Claude Burnett was born in 1879.

After a brief stay in Horley the Burnetts moved by 1891 to the High Street in Burgess Hill, where Francis took over as postmaster. By now there were eight children: five girls and three boys. Ernest Sydney Burnett had left school and worked as a printer's assistant. His brother, Henry Claude Burnett, was still at school.

Ernest married Amy Mercy Scrase on September 6, 1900, at Burgess Hill Parish Church. He was continuing to work as a printer, and lived in Keymer Road, probably with his father. Amy, who lived at The Chestnuts in Burgess Hill, was the daughter of a local farmer, Alfred Scrase. She had been born in 1873 at Burgess Hill.

The 1901 census records that Ernest and Amy had moved to 7 Church Road, Burgess Hill. Henry was boarding in Bromley and working as a printer and compositor, while Francis was a postmaster at 1 Keymer Road.

Kelly's 1903 Sussex Directory records that Burnett & Son were printers in Station Road in Burgess Hill, which would seem to imply that Ernest had formed a partnership with his father. Ernest's home is listed as 8 Church Road Villas. In about 1904 Henry acquired a shop at 17 Church Road and started trading as a stationer. Ernest at this date was still a printer in Station Road, but by 1907 he had moved to Prospect Place. By 1909 he began sharing the Church Road premises with his brother. By 1910 Henry together with a partner called Miles began selling not only stationery but also sheet music, converting the shop into a music store, which traded as Burnett & Miles. Ernest continued to share the premises, working as a printer. Henry seems to have left Burgess Hill around the time of the First World War, but Ernest remained as a printer at 17 Church Road throughout the 1920s. His home address was 16 Sussex Terrace in Mill Road, but by 1934 he moved his business premises from Church Road to Cyprus Road.

Many coloured and uncoloured collotypes of Burgess Hill, Ditchling and Hurstpierpont can be found with "Burnett & Co., Church Road, Burgess Hill" printed on the front (or in some cases on the back). The first cards appeared in 1904 and postcard production continued until at least 1914. Some uncoloured collotypes with handwritten captions in uneven blocky capitals are labelled "H. C. Burnett, Burgess Hill" on the back and were on sale by 1907. In addition, Henry Burnett published coloured halftones of Burgess Hill wih wide white borders and recessed pictures. Double-sized panoramic view cards of Burgess Hill have also been reported.

As far as is known, neither of the Burnett brothers was a photographer, and, even though Ernest was a printer, many if not all the cards were printed in Germany. However, the fact that the brothers sold cards not only of Burgess Hill but also Ditchling and Hurstpierpoint suggests that they were genuine publishers and not mere retailers.

In 1912 Burnett & Co. published Burgess Hill, its history and guide. Presumably this was one of Ernest's initiatives, whereas his brother is likely to have played the major role in publishing the postcards.

Edward Sydney Burnett died in 1952, aged 78.

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