Devonshire Studios


Willingdon, with Butt's Brow and Cold Crouch in the distance

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62a Cavendish Place, Eastbourne. During and just after the First World War some good quality real photographic cards of Willingdon and Ratton were published, nearly all anonymously. Some of the cards are general views, but many show individual houses and were presumably produced expressely for the owners. The black and white photographs on the cards usually have white borders. The handwritten captions in quite large blocky letters are distinctive (especially the letters "G" and "N"), and usually the cards have serial numbers prefixed by an "R", for example R.9 (the Post Office), R.31, R.41, R.43, R.48 and R.51), though some cards lack both prefix and number. Postmarks seen range from 1915 to 1920.

Mike Green (Barcombe) has found an example of card R.51 that is labelled on the back "Devonshire Studios, 62 Cavendish Place, Eastbourne". Under the heading "Post Card" is a logo of a winged horseshoe (or horseshoe magnet) gripping what appears to be a globe. Presumably further searching will turn up other R cards with the same studio name and address. A few other Sussex postcard publishers (for example, R.W. Cartwright) bought in ready-to-print photographic cards with the horseshoe logo, but it was far from a popular choice.

The Devonshire Studios are listed in Gowland's Eastbourne Directories from 1913 to 1920, but no mention is made of the proprietor's name. The Studios evidently closed in 1920, as they are not listed in Pike's 1920-21 Eastbourne Directory or in Gowland's Directories after 1921.

A Polish émigre called Leon Balk operated the identically named Devonshire Studios at 69a Devonshire Road at Bexhill from about 1906 until 1915 (see entry for Otto Brown). The coincidence of name (including the plurality) may indicate that on leaving Bexhill Balk went on to set up the Cavendish Place studios in Eastbourne. Further evidence is provided by the strange horseshoe logo, which has been found on the back of a card of the "Colonnade Orchestra" that Balk issued while he was at Bexhill. Although more research is needed, there are clearly quite strong grounds for supposing that Balk was the self-effacing publisher of the Willingdon and Ratton cards. During the First World War foreigners in Britain were regarded with great suspicion, and, although Balk was a naturalised British subject, he may have not wanted to attract attention to himself by putting his name on the cards.

The Devonshire Studios published a rather uninspired card of Thornwell Tea Gardens at Wilmington. The teas were very popular, unlike the card, which is rarely seen today. No postmarks have been reported. The caption on the card is written in a rather flowery copperplate, utterly different from the handwriting on the captions on the R cards.

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