Charles Clarke


Boltro Road, Haywards Heath

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Printer and newspaper publisher, Boltro Road, Haywards Heath. Wyn Ford and Conway Gabe in their book The metropolis of mid Sussex, a history of Haywards Heath (1981, Charles Clarke Ltd., Haywards Heath) provide a detailed biography of Charles Clarke. He was born at Bideford in Devon in February 1841 and at the age of 14 was apprenticed to a printer and bookbinder, who started a local newspaper and gave Clarke a taste for journalism. Later he moved to Cornwall and then briefly to Somerset, before finding more secure employment in 1864 at Uckfield. The following year, he married Hannah Stevenson, six years his senior and the daughter of George Stevenson of Fletching, who ran a small boarding school for boys. The 1871 census locates the couple at "School House" at Fletching, where they lived with George, then aged 78, and the boarders. They had four children all born at Fletching: Robert Clarke (aged 5), Mary Ann Clarke (3) and one-year-old twins, James and George Clarke.

During 1871, Clarke and his family moved to 7 Boltro Road, Haywards Heath, where he established his own printing and bookbinding business. The next year his eldest son, Robert, died, but his second daughter, Emma Attree Clarke was born, who lived to be 97. Ada Elizabeth Clarke was born a year later. Sadly, in 1875 his wife Hannah died, leaving him with the five surviving children to look after. Not surprisingly, he soon married again. His second wife, Teresa Milne, from south London, bore him a fourth daughter, Lois Clarke, in 1880. Teresa died in November 1907.

Clarke busied himself printing stationery and publishing yearbooks and almanacs until January 1881 when he launched the weekly Mid Sussex Times, which from small beginnings became a great success and continues to this day. At one time, the "Middy" as it became known, had a workforce of nearly 200, but computerisation and mechanisation has reduced staffing levels considerably. From an early stage, George and James Clarke helped their father to run the paper, and they continued to work on it after his death. His daughters also helped with proof reading and a host of other tasks.

Ford and Gabe reproduce a studio portrait of Clarke in old age, a balding man with a white beard and twinkling eyes. By all accounts he was kindly and humorous with a host of friends. For many years an energetic supporter of the Primitive Methodist Chapel in Haywards Heath, he later he became an equally ardent Congregationalist, and the Congregationalist Chapel in South Road was filled to overflowing for his funeral service in March 1921.

Clarke was never a major postcard publisher, but his name appears on the front of a series of coloured collotype cards of Haywards Heath, including a view of Boltro Road. It is unclear whether he sold the cards only at the Middy offices or made them available to retailers generally. Postmarks suggest that the cards first appeared in 1904 and remained on sale for at least the next four years. The cards, which were printed in Germany, quite closely resemble some coloured cards issued by Harry Tullett, except that these were mostly halftones. Possibly, Tullett took the photographs for Clarke.

Clarke also published some black and white collotypes of Haywards Heath that were printed in Saxony, but these, though well produced, do not seem to have been as popular as his coloured cards.

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