John Sparks Heward


Coaching in Sussex, Worthing to Littlehampton road (photo credited to J. S. Heward)

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In 1903 an anonymous publisher, who may have been E. T. W. Dennis & Sons Ltd. of Scarborough, started issuing a series of charming halftone cards of rural life in Sussex. The cards feature old watermills, ox teams, heavy horses, harvesting and other countryside subjects. Most have a wide white border either underneath the pictures or, less commonly, on the right hand side; a few are borderless. The pictures often soften into whiteness as they meet the border, an effect that is sometimes described as vignette, although the term is confusingly also used to refer to "thumb-nail" sized pictures inset into a larger picture or decorative design. The captions on the cards are printed in small plain, black or more rarely white capitals and are generally accompanied by a brief quotation or exclamation, for example "Hurrah! For a hunting morning" and "I love everything that's old: old friends, old times, old manners" (Goldsmith).

The card selected here as the title picture shows a stagecoach hurrying along a country road between Worthing and Littlehampton. The photographer is stated to have been J. S. Heward. Other cards in the series similarly labelled "Photo- J. S. Heward" show oxen at Crowborough, cyclists at Fittleworth, Washington Windmill, Bosham Watermill, Cocking Watermill and Coultershall Watermill (near Petworth). Strangely, however, the series also includes cards that are labelled "Photo- V.S. Heward" (see Gallery). The initial "V" on these aberrant cards is almost certainly a misprint. All the pictures can be confidently assumed to have been taken by John Sparks Heward, a native of Littlehampton. It is possible that Heward supplied the photographs for some other cards in the series that lack photo credits, for example, a so-called village Parliament at Amberley. All the cards marked "Heward" seem to have been on sale by autumn 1904.

John Heward appears to have published very few cards of his own. Three examples are reproduced in the Gallery, including a black and white, borderless real photographic card of the River Arun at Burpham, which lacks a caption but is labelled "J. S. Heward, Public Library, Littlehampton" in the lower right corner of the photo. There is a printed label on the back "J. S. Heward, Arundel Road, Littlehampton", and the card is postmarked 1910.

Heward was born in Littlehampton in 1858. His father, another John Heward, was a ship owner, born in the town in about 1806. His mother, Ann Heward, formerly Sparks, was about 8 years younger than his father. She also came from Littlehampton. John had an elder brother, George. In 1867 the Heward family was living at Gratwick Place in Littlehampton. The 1871 census records that 13-year-old John had been sent to Elm Hall School at Mitcham in Surrey. In 1881 he was back in Littlehampton, living with his now widowed mother at 1 Arundel Road. He is described in the census as an unemployed ironmonger.

By the time the 1891 census was held, John Heward had become a nurseryman and florist. He had also married. His wife, Elizabeth, had been born in Arundel in about 1860. The couple had twin daughters, Joy M. Heward and Mabel D. Heward, aged 5, who had been born in Arundel. They lived at 48 Arundel Road in Littlehampton, together with Elizabeth's mother, Elizabeth Suter, a retired stationer. The 1901 census locates the Hewards at 3 Norfolk Place in Littlehampton. Joy was now called Ivy, and two more children had been born, William G. Heward (aged 7) and Kathleen Mary Heward (aged 1). John Heward, now 43, described himself as a retired florist.

Kelly's 1905 Sussex Directory lists John S. Heward as a private resident at Longford, Barcombe near Lewes. It would be interesting to know why he moved to Barcombe. He was not there long. By 1907 he had returned to his former home at 48 Arundel Road in Littlehampton and become Librarian at the town's Public Library in Maltravers Road. He was still Librarian in 1930, but retired soon afterwards. His work as Librarian helps to explain the label on the Burpham card. In 1933 he co-authored with Eva Robinson Reminiscences of Littlehampton. He died in 1936, aged 78.

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