(Hector) Roy Hudson


Compton Place, Eastbourne (Panoramic Photo Co. card)

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Eastbourne photographer and "photo publisher" at 12 Terminus Road in the 1930s, but after the Second World War at 13 Victoria Place, then 229 Terminus Road. Hudson traded first as the Panoramic Photo Co., then as Roy Hudson Photos Ltd. He seems to have disliked using his first name, Hector.

Hudson was born on May 27, 1901 at his parents' home, Jesmond, at Polegate. Soon afterwards his parents moved to nearby Eastbourne, and it was here that he was brought up and spent his working life.

Roy's father called himself George Hudson, but was born George Hudson Moses, at Newcastle upon Tyne in 1861, one of at least six children of William and Harriet Moses, who both came from County Durham (William from Houghton le Spring). The 1871 census gives the family's address as Russell Terrace, All Saints, Newcastle upon Tyne. Harriet seems to have died later in the year. William, who worked as a hosier and outfitter, was still alive in 1891.

George Hudson Moses moved to London in the 1880s (if not before) and married Rosa Frances Claxton from Newmarket in Suffolk at Lambeth on September 2, 1884. She was two years younger than George. The couple's first child, Harold Moses, was born at Paddington, London in 1886 and their second child, Lionel Oswald Moses, was born in 1887. Another son (who may have died in infancy) followed in 1891, when the family was living at 5 Blomfield Pavement in Hammersmith. By 1894 George and Rosa had left London with their children and had settled in Polegate. By this date George Moses was styling himself George Hudson. A fourth son, Leslie Victor Hudson was born at Polegate in 1894, and a fifth, Donald William Hudson, followed in 1896. It is not known whether any more children were born after Hector Roy.

George Hudson worked as a gentleman's outfitter in Eastbourne. His eldest son, Henry Hudson, assisted him for some years, but by 1915 set up in business on his own as a hosier at 5-6 Grand Hotel Buildings, Eastbourne. No doubt when the other sons left school, they too were invited by their father to join his business, which by 1912 became Hudson & Sons, and was located at 12 Terminus Road. The family lived at 9 Arlington Road in Eastbourne, close to Gildredge Park, in a house that they called Jesmond, re-using the name of their former Polegate home. Lionel Oswald Hudson, who had been educated at Hurstpierpoint College, married Ellen Leach at Brighton in 1912. The couple seem to have emigrated to the USA in 1935. George Hudson died at Eastbourne on 27 February 1927, aged 65, followed by Rosa in January 1936.

It is unclear for how long Roy Hudson helped to run Hudson & Sons after leaving school. According to his obituary published in the Eastbourne Gazette (September 1, 1982), he worked as a photographer for the Government and for the national and local press during the First World War, but there must be some doubt as to whether the writer actually meant the Second World War. During the 1920s Hudson seems to have carried out only a limited amount of photography and can be assumed to have been much occupied with the family business. A card of a school camp in Firle Park in 1926 found by Andrew Lusted is testimony to Hudson's growing skill as a photographer.

During the 1930s, Hudson began to disengage himself from the family business in order to become a full-time studio portraitist and publisher of picture postcards. In 1933 he issued real photographic cards of military training camps on the Downs at Wannock and Crowlink that he had enterprisingly photographed from the air. In 1934 he issued further cards showing a camp at Seaford from the air as well as portrait photos of individual soldiers based at the camp. In 1935 he supplied members of the 133rd Infantry Brigade (Kent & Sussex) camping at Wannock with portrait photo cards. He did not put his name on any of the cards from this period but instead labelled them: "Panoramic Photo. Co., 12 Terminus Road, Eastbourne". Around the same date he also issued a "Panorama Series" of black and white, white-bordered real photographic cards of Eastbourne, including a set of Compton Place. Despite all this activity, he seems initially to have regarded photography as something of a sideline, and Eastbourne Directories at the start of the 1930s list only Hudson and Sons, gentlemen's outfitters, at 12 Terminus Road. Pike's 1934-5 Directory (issued in October 1934) is the first to record the existence of the Panoramic Photo Co., noting that it shared the same premises as Hudson & Sons. A Panoramic Photo Co. card of the Willowfield Central School Pantomime of 1934 names both Roy and Donald Hudson as its producers. At this date Donald was working as a chemist.

By the time Kelly's 1936 Directory was compiled, Hudson had renamed his photographic business "Roy Hudson Photos Ltd.", and had also become a dealer in photographic materials. He continued to work alongside the family firm of outfitters until at least 1940.

Hudson was particularly active as a postcard publisher in the years immediately before the Second World War. He issued sepia-tinted, white-bordered real photographic cards of Alfriston, Eastbourne, Cooden, Birling Gap, Friston Church, Litlington Tea Gardens, Lullington Church, Wilmington, Seaford, Rottingdean and Brighton (Black Rock etc.). Coloured versions of some of the cards of Litlington Tea Gardens were also produced. Cards of a hotel at Crossbush near Arundel were doubtless produced to special order. In 1937 Hudson was airborne once again (in a biplane), photographing a military training camp at Falmer; two years later he returned to the air to photograph more camps at both Wannock and Falmer.

Hudson covered many important local festivities, such as the Eastbourne Carnival, where he photographed the Carnival Queens. He also attended more formal occasions, such as visits by royalty. His cards showing the Duke and Duchess of York arriving with their daughters for morning service at St. Mary's Church in the Old Town in March 1936 capture the couple in holiday mood. How soon it was to change! Within a year the Duke was crowned King George VI and his consort became Queen Elizabeth.

Hudson, though self-taught, was a talented photographer and a fellow of both the Royal Photographic Society and the Royal Society of Arts. His real photographic cards are of noticeably good quality. The photographs are sepia or black and white, and typically have white borders. Many cards are numbered; 5021 (Beachy Head lighthouse) is the lowest number so far noted and 7019 (The Mint House, Pevensey) the highest. Postmarks are mainly 1937, 1938 and 1939. Cards with numbers in the six or seven thousands are believed to date from after the war.

Notable cards include "The Beachy Head shepherd, with his dogs and sheep bells", a hunt meet on East Dean green, and views of the last Sussex ox team, which was based at Exceat Farm in the Cuckmere valley. A card of the High Street, Rottingdean (5275) shows an open top 1933 type bus. Groups of hikers posing in several of his Alfriston and Wilmington pictures may have been friends who agreed to spend the day out with Hudson while he took his photographs.

The family firm of outfitters does not seem to have survived the Second World War. By 1948, however, Hudson opened a new photographic studio and shop at 13 Victoria Place, off Terminus Road. By 1953 he was back in Terminus Road, at Number 229. He also bought the premises next door, which he converted into a restaurant known as The Farmer's Wife. By 1948 he had also taken over the running of the former Warschawski Studio at 20 Grand Parade in St Leonards, where he specialised in framing and reproducing photographs.

At his Eastbourne premises Hudson continued to undertake studio portraiture (offering "portraits of unique merit"), but whether he continued to issue postcards is uncertain, though a "Newphotos Series" may be a swansong. His shop windows displayed the inevitable portraits of local beauty queens and civic officials, such as the Mayor, as well as wedding groups, but Hudson also found time to photograph the misfits of society. One of his most admired portraits, in fact, was of "Old Boag", a well-known tramp, who lived in a hut by the railway line at Hastings (see Rex Marchant, Hastings Past, 1997, Phillimore, Chichester).

Hudson is remembered today as a kindly, rather eccentric man, with long, flowing hair, who liked to dress flamboyantly, with a cravat, plus fours and outrageous socks. He never married, and retired in 1965 to live on his own at 13 Park Avenue in Eastbourne. Last seen alive on August 22, 1982, he was found dead three days later. He left an estate valued at £242,000, settling some monies on his sister-in-law, Jessie Hudson, and nephew, Derek Hudson, but setting aside the bulk of his estate to be administered for charitable purposes in Eastbourne and Hastings (the Roy Hudson Trust). Having lost a gifted photographer, the two towns found that they had gained a valuable benefactor.

Acknowledgement: Adrian Vieler has unearthed much useful information about the Hudson (Moses) family for this website and has helped correct some regrettable errors in an earlier version of this entry.

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