Edward Hilton


Chinese Gardens, Hurstpierpoint

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Photographer, who lived at 2 Russell Street in Brighton for about six years during and just after the First World War. Hilton specialised in publishing picture postcards of military camps and training exercises in central and southern Sussex. The majority of the cards have white borders around the photographs, which are normally sepia-toned, but a few cards are borderless. Superimposed on the photographs are captions in facsimile handwriting, sometimes entirely in capitals, but in other cases in a very neat script with numerous loops and with capitals only at the start of words. On early cards the captions generally end with the words "Photo. Hilton", but cards published towards the end of the war more generally conclude with the words "Hilton, Brighton" or "Hilton of Brighton". On a few late cards Hilton also experimented with printing his name and Russell Street address within the borders beneath the photographs.

Possibly one of the first cards that Hilton produced after settling in Brighton showed a German field gun that had been captured on the Western Front and bought to Preston Barracks (see Gallery). According to the card's caption the gun was exhibited in front of Brighton Town Hall on 20 November 1915. It is unclear whether the card was produced in anticipation of this event or at a later date. During 1916 Hilton began issuing cards showing military camps on the edge of Brighton and at Pease Pottage near Crawley. Another sepia real photographic showed "Some of the entertainers to the blind and wounded soldiers, Carlton Club, Ship Street, Brighton, 14/4/16. Photo. Hilton". Between 1917 and 1919, Hilton took large numbers of photographs of camps at Brighton and Seaford.

Hilton issued few cards of a non-military nature. A card of the exterior of Brighton Hippodrome, the popular Variety Theatre in Middle Street, is labelled "Photo By E. Hilton". An indistinct postmark has been found that is probably 1916. Another card (see above) shows the "Gymnasium, House and Lawn" at the Chinese Gardens at Hurstpierpoint. Mgr. Eamon Johnson's funeral at Brighton on July 18, 1916, was the subject of one or perhaps several cards. A card of three adults, one posing as a baby and the other two pretending to be her parents, was issued to celebrate Brighton Baby Show in July 1917.

Hilton is not listed at Russell Street in Pike's 1913 Brighton Directory and judging from the evidence of the cards he set up in business in the town late in 1915. The 1918 Electoral Register records that he had a wife, Blanche Hilton. The Spring 1920 Register also lists a Harry Hilton at 2 Russell Street, who can be shown by other records to have been Edward and Blanche's son. The Hilton family had left Russell Street by the time the Spring 1922 Register was compiled.

Researching Hilton's family background has proved unexpectedly difficult because of surname changes, re-use of first names by different family members, remarriage and frequent changes of address. All attempts to locate him in the 1881 and earlier censuses, and in the index of births, have so far proved unavailing. The 1891 and later censuses suggest that he was born in Lambeth in about 1860, but, as far as can be determined, he first appears in official records, seemingly out of nowhere, on June 12, 1881, when, under the name Edward Hilton Slaughter, he married Mary Ann Freeman at St Andrews Church in Lambeth. He gave his age as 21, as one would expect if he had been born in 1860, and described himself as a porter. The vicar, who filled in the marriage certificate, failed to enter the names and occupations of the fathers of the bride and groom, noting only that both men were deceased. Perhaps the vicar was just being lazy or careless rather than deliberately uncommunicative.

The records show that Edward Hilton Slaughter and his wife, Mary Ann, went on to have three children. The first, Florence Mary Slaughter, was born in 1882 in Tottenham in London and married Arthur Forty a domestic servant. In 1911 she, Arthur and their three children were living at 1 Howell Street in Paddington. Her brother, Edward Hilton Slaughter Junior, was born in 1886, again in Tottenham, but died in 1900 at the age of 14 when he fell down a lift shaft at the Grand Hotel in Northumberland Avenue off Trafalgar Square where he was working as a page. Mary and Edward's last child, Ethel May Slaughter, was born in 1889 at Cheshunt. Shortly after this, Mary died, presumably because of complications over the birth.

Later in 1889 the widowed Edward remarried at Hampstead. His new wife was Blanche Tasker, who had been born in 1868 at St Pancras according to some documents, but at Henry Street off the Tottenham Court Road according to the 1911 census. She was the daughter of Thomas Tasker, a greengrocer. Edward's father is stated on the marriage certificate to have been Henry Slaughter, a painter, but so far all attempts to locate him in census returns have failed.

Blanche went on to have at least nine children by Edward. The first was Blanche Hilda Slaughter, who was born in 1890 at Cheshunt. The 1891 census records that Edward and his family were living in a house in Waltham Lane in Cheshunt. He is described as a superintendent of an insurance company, and his wife as a stationer and tobacconist. Blanche Hilda's baptism certificate of 1891 noted that her father was working as a commission agent, latterly for an insurance company.

Edward then moved with his family to 59 Archway Street in Barnes, a short walk from the south bank of the Thames. It was here that Blanche gave birth to her second child, Constance Hilton Slaughter, on 19 December 1892. Blanche , who registered the birth, recorded that her husband was still working as a superintendent for an insurance company.

From Barnes, Edward and his family may have moved to Lewisham, where Constance was recorded at school in 1896. After this he set up home at Dacres Cottage in Perry Vale in Forest Hill. Blanche's third child, Henry Hilton Slaughter (the Harry Hilton of the Brighton Electoral Register) was born at Dacres Cottage on 12 April 1896 (not 1897 at Hunstanton, as indicated by the 1901 census). On the birth certificate, Edward described himself somewhat enigmatically as a photographer's manager. Apparently, he had abandoned his insurance work in order to take on some sort of supervisory or management role in an existing photographic business. He seems to have quickly seized the opportunity to learn to be a photographer himself, gaining valuable technical expertise. It was in 1896 while living at Dacres Cottage that he registered his copyright and authorship (as Edward Hilton Slaughter) of a photograph of Choppy Warburton (1845-1897), a record-breaking runner and cycling coach, who was accused of doping riders in his charge.

In the late 1890s Edward decided to move from Perry Vale with his family to work as a photographer at New Hunstanton on the north Norfolk coast. Perhaps he was able to buy up an existing business. The 1901 census locates him and his family at 2 Beetonian Villa, The Mews in New Hunstanton.

Local directories indicate that Edward relocated his business from The Mews to The Esplanade in Hunstanton by 1904 and was still in business in the town in 1908. Some halftone postcards labelled "Hilton's Copyright Series" and real photographics ("Hilton's Series of Hunstanton") can be assumed to have been his work, although they were very different in design from his later Brighton cards. Subjects included local churches, the pier and seafront, oyster harvesting and a convalescent home. The halftones seem to have first gone on sale in 1905. Early examples were printed on very thin card and were sold in booklets of perhaps half a dozen assorted views from which individual cards could be detached for mailing. Examples from 1906 and later were printed more carefully on stiffer card and were sold seemingly individually.

During their years at New Hunstanton Blanche and Edward had four more children. Elsie Hilton Slaughter was born on 23 June 1899, followed by Naomi Slaughter in about 1901 and Josephine Hilton Slaughter (Jessie) on 23rd March 1903. Zena Hilton Slaughter was born in 1906, but died the next year. If the 1911 census has been read correctly, Elsie, Naomi and Jessie were born at Beetonian House, which may have been an alternative name for 2 Beetonian Villas.

After about ten years at Hunstanton, Edward decided to move with his family to Cambridge. Perhaps he thought that the town with its large relatively affluent population offered him better business opportunities. Blanche and Edward's daughter, Vera Hilda Slaughter, was born on 10 June 1909 at their first Cambridge home in Perowne Street. In 1911 when the census was held, Edward was a patient at Addenbrooke's Hospital in the town. The census, which lists him as Edward Hilton, describes him as a photographer, but does not record the nature of his illness. His wife, Blanche, was living in Perowne Street (at Number 32), and recorded her name as Blanche Slaughter, not Hilton.

Local Directories record that Edward was working as a photographer from 166 East Road in Cambridge from 1911 to 1915, under the name Edward Hilton (see Presumably, he had decided that his birth surname Slaughter deterred customers. It was at 166 East Road that Blanche gave birth to her last child, Derrick Hilton Slaughter on May 25, 1911

Edward and Blanche Hilton seem to have drifted apart in their final years. In the early 1930s Edward was living in west London. The local electoral roll of the time makes no mention of Blanche or any of the children, who presumably were living elsewhere. In 1933, at the age of 72, Edward embarked on the first of two brief visits to Australia, unaccompanied by Blanche. The purpose of the visits is unrecorded. The ship's papers variously describe him as a traveller, dealer and photographer. On his first visit he gave his address as 29 Kensington Park Road W11; when making his second trip at the end of 1933 he listed his address as 2nd floor, 15 Colville Square, W11 (just off Kensington Park Road). He died in Kensington on January 1, 1937, aged 76. Blanche lived to be 71 and died in Brighton in 1938.

Adrian Vieler has kindly provided additional information on the lives of some of the children of Edward and Blanche. In October 1911 Blanche Hilda Slaughter married Geoffrey Richard Leyland at Paddington Green. She died in 1969 at Brighton, aged 78. Constance Hilton Slaughter married George Burdon McKean in 1923 in Brighton. McKean, who had been awarded the VC for gallantry in the Great War, died in an accident at a sawmill north of London in 1926 when a sawblade disintegrated and a fragment penetrated his skull. Constance, his widow, remarried at Brighton in 1928 and died in Hampshire in 1982. Naomi Slaughter married Frederick James Greenfield at Brighton in 1921 and had a son, David, in 1934, who went on to have two children of his own. Naomi died in Brighton in 1963, Frederick in 1980. Jessie Hilton Slaughter married James Marchant in Eastbourne in 1920. Vera Hilda Slaughter married Bernard F. Elkins in Brighton in 1932. She is believed to have had seven children, and died at Eastbourne in 1983, followed by Bernard ten years later. Derrick Hilton Slaughter married Mary J. Lyons at Hendon in Middlesex in 1940. Their son James (Jim) Hilton was born in 1944.

Acknowledgement: Grateful thanks are due to Adrian Vieler for researching the complex Hilton family history especially for this website and to Jim Hilton, Derrick's son, for kindly providing additional details. Peter Booth has provided invaluable help georeferencing Hilton's view of the German gun at Preston Barracks.

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