W. E. Baxter Ltd.


Ashcombe six-sail windmill, Kingston near Lewes (blown down in a gale in March 1916)

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Stationers and printers, 35 High Street, Lewes. Around 1915 Baxters published the Brew Series of at least 22 quality real photographic cards of Lewes and neighbouring villages such as Offham, Barcombe Mills, Glynde and Kingston (the famous six sail windmill). Earlier, the firm's name had appeared on some coloured and sepia-tinted cards of Lewes that were actually produced by F. Frith & Co. Ltd. of Reigate and on other cards printed in Saxony. Baxters also sold a booklet of six tear-out collotype cards of Lewes that again may have been the work of Frith, although the cards are labelled "W. E. Baxter, Lewes" on the back. The booklet cost a mere three pence!

Baxters are believed to have opened a short-lived branch at Steyning - several collotype cards of Steyning are known (1908 postmark seen) marked "W.E. Baxter Ltd., Steyning & Lewes".

The Baxter family came to Lewes from Surrey. After training in London, John Baxter (1781-1858) settled in Lewes and set up a printing press on School Hill in 1802. He invented a composition inking roller, which proved to be a major technical advance, and published a wide variety of books, including the illustrated "Baxter" Bible and Horsfield's History of Lewes. In 1837, together with his youngest son, William Edwin Baxter, he launched the highly successful Sussex Agricultural Express, which continues today as the Sussex Express. William edited the paper for many years and succeeded his father as proprietor.

Of John Baxter's three sons, the best known was George (1804-1867), who moved to London in 1827 and became a celebrated engraver and colour printmaker. George invented an elaborate process of printing using a succession of engraved metal plates and wood blocks to transfer oil paints to paper. The resulting "Baxter Prints" are keenly collected today.

William Baxter, who was born in about 1808 or 1809, lived in Lewes High Street. His wife, Anne, came from Shropshire. One of their sons was Wynne Edwin Baxter, who was born in 1844. By 1881 Wynne was working as a solicitor in Lewes, and over the years he built up a very successful business. He and his wife, Kate, lived at 208 High Street. Ten years later he had remarried and with his new wife Caroline was living at 9 Albion Street.

The Baxter printing works in Lewes remained in use until quite recently but have now been replaced by flats.

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