Arrow Series


Royal Mail Ship Dieppe leaving Newhaven Harbour, possibly on its first revenue earning voyage

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This series is well known to collectors of Sussex cards, but its publisher has not been identified. The cards are generally marked on the front or back with an arrow sign followed by the word "Series", though unmarked examples can sometimes be found. As many as perhaps 90 percent of the cards feature Newhaven and Seaford, or nearby villages such as Bishopstone, Alfriston, Southease, Telscombe and Piddinghoe. Nearly all the remainder depict Crawley, Worth and Balcombe, but at least two cards of Pulborough and district are known. Why the cards should have this strangely discontinuous geographical distribution with a marked concentration in part of the far south of Sussex and a lesser concentration in part of the north has not been satisfactorily explained.

Collotype cards in the Arrow Series showing both the northern and southern areas were on sale by 1905, followed not long afterwards by halftones. A few sepia-tinted real photographic cards of Newhaven and Seaford appeared by 1908, and two years later production was greatly stepped up. As far as is known, however, no real photographics of the northern area around Crawley and Balcombe were ever produced.

Many of the printed cards in the Arrow Series have black and white or sepia pictures, but others (both collotypes and halftones) are coloured. The cards are of very varied design and were evidently bought in from many suppliers: some were "Printed in England", others in Treves, Prussia, Saxony and Berlin.

Starting in 1910 an anonymous printing firm took over the production of most if not all of the Arrow Series real photographic cards of the Newhaven area, at the same time introducing many new cards. It also produced cards of many other parts of Britain, from Devon north to Scotland, supplying individual retailers as well as postcard publishers. There is good evidence that the mystery firm was Bender and Co. of London Road in Croydon and its associate company, the Photo Printing & Publishing Co. (see the July 2011 edition of Picture Postcard Monthly). The handwriting of the captions on all the cards that the anonymous printer produced is distinctive (as in the example above), with capital letters only at the start of key words, "t"s crossed at a jaunty angle, and backward pointing tails on "y"s and "g"s that parallel the line of text. The earlier real photographics in the Arrow Series differ in having captions in plain, rather characterless capitals.

Between 1910 and 1920 at least 70 (possibly as many as 100) different real photographic cards of Newhaven were published in the Arrow Series. Some of the cards were merely re-issues of earlier printed and real photographic cards, but most were additions to the Series. Although many of the photographs evidently date from about 1910, at least 14 cards of Newhaven town and harbour reproduce photographs that were taken at a time when outdoor photography was in its infancy, and thus predate the publication of the Arrow Series by many years.

Possibly the oldest of the photographs shows the Phoenix Arms in Meeching Road, Newhaven. According to the caption on the card the photograph was taken in 1860. Of similar vintage is an undated photograph of the "Old Toll Bridge & Toll House, Newhaven" showing the picturesque wooden cantilever drawbridge erected in 1784, which was replaced by a swing bridge in 1866. A view looking down the High Street towards the harbour is dated 1870, while two views looking west up the High Street, one showing the Blue Anchor Inn, are dated 1880, as is a view of Fort Road. The top of the High Street is represented by two cards, one showing the scene in 1888, the other in 1890. Cards of the "Old High Street, Newhaven, Bannisters first shop" and "Old High Street, Newhaven" (W.D. Stone's shop) though undated are undoubtedly early views, as are cards entitled "Old Ship Yard, Newhaven" and "Old Piers". A view of the Brighton Road is stated to have been taken in 1890 and another, showing the "Brighton Road Entrance, Newhaven", is labelled 1895.

It has not so far proved possible to identify the pioneer photographer who took the historic pictures of Newhaven reproduced on the Arrow Series cards. Directories provide no obvious lead. At least one of the photographs is said to have been found on an early carte de visite that frustratingly lacked a publisher's label! The mystery photographer must have been working in Newhaven in the 1860s and still active in the 1890s, unless someone else took over. He or she need not, of course, have been the same person who later published the Arrow Series.

The Arrow Series cards provide a fascinating record of the steamships that served on the Newhaven-Dieppe route in the years before and just after the First World War. One well-known card shows a French steamer, believed to be the Tamise (1893-1913), leaving Newhaven Harbour. It was later republished (along with at least one other Arrow card) by Taylors of Eastbourne. Another real photographic card (reproduced above) shows RMS Dieppe (built 1905) steaming rapidly seawards out of Newhaven Harbour, emitting clouds of black smoke. Michael Langley in Sussex shipping - sail, steam & motor (2004, Middleton Press, Midhurst) dates the photograph as c. 1922, but Henry Oakley, who published his own version of the card and was almost certainly the photographer, recorded the date as July 1905! Significantly more modern is an Arrow Series card of RMS Rouen off Newhaven. The ship was built in 1912, and a 1914 postmark has been found. The Rouen is also seen in a second card entering Newhaven harbour while in service before the First World War (a 1917 postmark has been seen and the ship became a French Naval vessel during the War). Also depicted on Arrow cards are the RMS Newhaven (1911 correspondence noted), RMS Arundel (January 1915 postmark) and the elegant RMS Paris (1915 postmark).

The identity of the publisher of the Arrow Series remains the subject of much speculation. There is no proof that the publisher was based in Sussex, but this seems quite likely because no Arrow Series cards of other counties are known, apart from a much later series of the same name in Lancashire, which obviously had a different publisher. It has been suggested that the publisher of the Sussex cards had a surname such as Archer or Bowman that prompted him (or her) to choose "Arrow" as a name for the cards, but this idea may be entirely fanciful. The publisher, whoever it was, evidently had time to link up with local photographers and persuade them to provide pictures for cards in the series, presumably in return for payment. Henry Oakley and Richard Oxley were undoubtedly two of the photographers, though, like the firm of A. M. Bliss in Lewes, they probably each contributed only a few pictures. The publisher may have had to take many of the photographs for the Arrow Series cards himself.

A few halftone Arrow Series cards of Newhaven edged in purple were printed by Millar & Lang Ltd. of Glasgow in their "National Series". No postmarks have been reported but the cards were issued before postage rates on cards were raised from 1/2d to 1d in 1918. Millar & Lang were major publishers of cards in Britain, but it would be unwise to conclude on the basis of these relatively scarce purple edged cards that they were the creators of the Arrow Series. In all probability, they did little more than print a few Arrow cards to special order, with Bender & Co. supplying the majority of cards from 1910 until the start of the First World War.

In the early 1920s the Yorkshire firm of Lilywhite Ltd. took over production of the Arrow Series of real photographic cards, retaining the name and familiar arrow logo. The photographs gained crisp white borders and printed captions. Some cards, without serial numbers are labelled "Copyright - Printed by Lilywhite Ltd. Dunkirk Mills, Halifax, England" on the back. Others cards carry a serial number on the front such as NVN 12 (NVN being an abbreviation for Newhaven) and are labelled "Copyright L. L. H." on the back, LLH being shorthand for Lilywhite Ltd. Halifax. Some Lilywhite cards were re-issues of the earlier cards, but a few were newly minted, as styles of dress indicate. As Peter Howell has pointed out, Card NVN 6 of Newhaven High Street provides a distant glimpse of a cinema poster advertising Charlie Chaplin's film "The Kid", which was released in 1921. Postmarks on the NVN and unnumbered cards start by 1922.

Lilywhite began printing their own cards in about 1910 (see Anthony Byatt, Picture postcards and their publishers, 1978, Golden Age Postcard Books, Malvern), too late to have been the original publisher of the Arrow Series. Arthur Frederick Sergeant, who founded Lilywhite, was a keen photographer and had previously set up the Halifax Photographic Company, but there is no evidence that this earlier firm created the Arrow Series.

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