Eastbourne Photographers (G)

Click here to Return to Home Page

Thomas Stafford Gowland (1835 - 1923)


Thomas Stafford Gowland was born in 1835 in the Cornhill district of the City of London. Thomas was the eldest son of Thomas and Ann Gowland, both parents being watchmakers of 5 Leadenhall Street, London. Thomas Stafford Gowland was baptised on 19th November 1835 at St. Peter's Church in Cornhill, London. Thomas Gowland junior was apprenticed as a jeweller and, on the completion of his apprenticeship, he was made a Freeman of the City of London.[ A younger brother James Gowland ( born c1845, London ) also became a jeweller and goldsmith ]

Thomas Gowland's eldest sister, Elizabeth Stafford Gowland (born c1831, London) had married Frederick Hopkins (born c1819, London ), a bookseller from London, and around 1857 the couple moved down to Eastbourne  to take over The Library at 16 Marine Parade. On 20th June 1861, Mrs Elizabeth Stafford Hopkins gave birth to a son named Frederick Gowland Hopkins. ( This son later went on to become a famous biochemist and a winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology ). When Frederick junior was still an infant, his father died - either from a lung disease or, according to some reports, as a result of scarlet fever. The widowed Elizabeth Stafford Hopkins ran the business alone for a short time after her husband's death, but in 1862 Thomas Stafford Gowland, then aged 26, joined his sister at The Library in Marine Parade.

Gowland's Library

Frederick Hopkins died around 1862, when he was in his early forties. His widow Mrs Elizabeth Stafford Hopkins had recently become a mother and probably found it difficult to manage The Library and care for her one year old son, Frederick junior. In 1862, Elizabeth's younger brother Thomas Stafford Gowland arrived in Eastbourne to help her run the business. On 26th August 1862, Thomas Stafford Gowland married Jessica (Jessy) Wood ( born c1834 Ewell, Surrey ) at St Nicholas' Church in Brighton. Initially, The Library went under the name of "Hopkins & Gowland", but Thomas took complete control of the business in the Summer of 1863. His widowed sister Elizabeth and her son Frederick junior eventually left Eastbourne and went to live with James Gowland, an unmarried younger brother who, as a 16 year old, had assisted in The Library, but was now running a jewellery shop in Enfield, Middlesex.

[LEFT] An advertisement for The Library at 16 & 17 Marine Parade, Eastbourne, which appeared in the Eastbourne Gazette on 23rd August 1865. For a brief period in 1862, The Library was run by Mrs Elizabeth Stafford Hopkins and her brother Thomas Stafford Gowland, but by the Summer of 1863, T. S. Gowland was listed as the sole proprietor. This 1865 advertisement for T. S. Gowland's business provides an indication of the wide range of goods and services provided by The Library -  books, newspapers, stationery, drawing materials, toys, baskets, guide books, views of Eastbourne, and a wide range of fancy goods. The Library also contained a "commodious Reading Room" and provided "pianofortes for sale or hire". The Photographic Studio at The Library was acquired by Thomas Gowland before the end of 1864, when he purchased it from George Willes Hale.

[ABOVE] This is believed to be a portrait of Thomas Stafford Gowland (1835-1923), pictured when he was in his late forties. ( Portrait by G & R Lavis of Eastbourne ).Thomas Stafford Gowland  was only a young man of twenty-nine when he purchased George Willes Hale's photographic studio at the Marine Parade Library in 1864. [PHOTOGRAPH  COURTESY OF JOHN GOWLAND ]



The Library at 16 & 17 Marine Parade, Eastbourne

A Library was established on the seafront at Eastbourne in1794. The earliest proprietor appears to have been Frederick George Fisher, who is listed as a bookseller and stationer in an Eastbourne Directory of 1791.  George Fisher's Library and Lounge is recorded in the mid 1790s and a Francis Fisher is listed as the proprietor of The Library in 1802.

By 1817, The Library was in the hands of John Heatherly (1774-1839), the son of a milliner and haberdasher of Eastbourne. John Heatherly was a bookseller and bookbinder by trade with a shop in Church Street. When he acquired The Library, Heatherly developed the Lounge into a Reading Room. The Reading Room was supplied with periodicals and daily newspapers which "arrive the same day by the coach." Heatherly also added a Billiard Room and provided 'Apartments', consisting of 3 sitting rooms and 11 bedrooms, to accommodate visitors to Eastbourne.

[RIGHT] The Library depicted in an early woodcut illustration. At this time the address of The Library was given as Sea Houses. This stretch of the seafront only became known as Marine Parade in the late 1850s.

In 1819, John Heatherly published " A description of East-Bourne and its Environs". In this early guide book, Heatherly gives an account of what The Library had to offer local residents and visitors to Eastbourne :

" ... a good library kept by Heatherly with an excellent lodging-house over it having the accommodation of the daily papers and periodical publications. The Library itself is a very spacious apartment, and for a small sum the subscriber has the benefit and amusement of reading as well as the room to lounge in, if thought proper. This is a great accommodation to those who prefer lodging at a distance from the sea, yet wish occasionally to contemplate the grandeur of that element. In the adjoining room is an excellent billiard table kept quite select for the use of gentlemen only."

[LEFT] A lithograph of Heatherly's Library, Eastbourne, drawn by A. Denman around 1819.

After John Heatherly died in 1839, The Library was run first by his widow and then by his three nieces - Ann, Caroline and Georgiana Lay - who were known as "The Three Misses Lay". Around 1845, the "Three Misses Lay" were succeeded by another trio of sisters - Elizabeth Hopkins ( born 1815, Newington, Surrey ), Marian Hopkins ( born 1821, Newington, Surrey ) and Emma Hopkins ( born 1824, Newington, Surrey ). A younger sister Georgina Harriot Hopkins ( born 1832, Newington, Surrey ) worked as an assistant in the shop.

In 1857, Frederick Hopkins, a cousin of the Hopkins sisters, moved down to Eastbourne to take over the running of The Library. Around this time the address of The Library changed from Sea Houses to Marine Parade. Melville's Directory of 1858 lists Frederick Hopkins, Library & Reading Rooms, 16 Marine Parade, Eastbourne.

[RIGHT] A print published around 1858 by Frederick Hopkins of Eastbourne showing The Library at the far right with its distinctive curved balcony.

 When Frederick Hopkins died around 1862, his brother-in-law Thomas Stafford Gowland came down to Eastbourne to assist his widowed sister. Thomas Stafford Gowland initially acted as a business partner and The Library briefly went under the name of " Hopkins & Gowland". By August 1863, Elizabeth had turned the business over to her brother and for the next 50 years the Library went under the name of "T .S. Gowland".

Attached to The Library and Reading Rooms, which were "liberally supplied with Newspapers and Periodicals," was a shop "where articles of a miscellaneous description could be purchased at reasonable prices." In addition to books and newspapers, T. S. Gowland sold stationery,  drawing materials, cigars, toys, and all types of fancy goods. Gowland also sold and hired out piano-fortes and operated a photographic studio on the premises.

[LEFT] A photograph of Gowland's Library, taken around 1900. T. S. Gowland closed The Library around 1913 and the building was demolished in 1948.[PHOTOGRAPH  COURTESY OF JOHN GOWLAND ]

Gowland's Family

Thomas Stafford Gowland had married Jessy Wood on 26th August 1862, at St Nicholas' Church in Brighton. The daughter of Mary and William Steward Wood, Jessy was a couple of years older than her husband, having been baptised in Ewell, Surrey on 7th February 1833. Thomas and Jessy Gowland's first child was born around 1863 and christened John Steward Gowland. A second son, Thomas William Gowland, was born in 1867. The couple's third child was Jessy May Gowland, who was born in 1872.

Photographic Career

[LEFT] A photograph by T. S. Gowland showing a view of  The  Library at 16 & 17 Marine Parade, Eastbourne, where a  photographic studio was based from 1863. (PHOTOGRAPH  COURTESY OF JOHN GOWLAND ). [CENTRE] Advertisement for The Library Photographic Rooms in Marine Parade, which appeared in Gowland's Guide to Eastbourne in 1863 (COURTESY OF JOHN GOWLAND ). [RIGHT] A vignette portrait of Fanny C. Hibon  photographed in 1871 by  T. S. Gowland at his studio in The  Library at 16 & 17 Marine Parade, Eastbourne. Fanny Charlotte Hibon  (1840-1905) was born in Piccadilly, London and lived in Lambeth for much of her life. This carte-de-visite is inscribed "Fanny C. Hibon, 1871" and is evidence that Gowland was taking photographic portraits for at least six years.

Soon after taking full control of The Library in the spring of 1863, Thomas Stafford Gowland invited George Willes Hale, the proprietor of a photographic studio opposite Trinity Church in Seaside Road, to set up another studio at his library in Marine Parade. On 2nd September 1863, in an advertisement in The Eastbourne Gazette, George W. Hale announced that he endeavoured to "meet the public's requirements for cheap and superior portraits, by opening a First-Class Establishment at Mr. Gowland's Library, Marine Parade, Eastbourne." George Hale's photographic studio at Gowland's Library was open for business from 10 o'clock in the morning to 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Hale had engaged a photographic artist from one of the leading London studios and charged 10s 6d for ten carte-de-visite portraits.

Hale's arrangement with Gowland's Library lasted less than eighteen months. On 4th January 1865, T. S. Gowland placed a notice in The Eastbourne Gazette, which advised the public that "having purchased of G. W. Hale Esq., the whole of his photographic business", he was "enabled to execute any number of portraits in the very best style." In addition, Gowland mentioned that not only had he acquired " all the negatives taken by G.W.Hale Esq.", but also, in his new capacity as Photographer, that he was prepared to take " views of houses, horses, dogs or anything ! ! " Gowland added that he was able to take " the best and most perfect portraits that are to be found." Thomas Gowland charged 2s 6d for a single carte-de-visite portrait and 10s 6d for a dozen copies.

[ABOVE] The back of a carte-de-visite issued by T.S. Gowland shortly after he took over The Library studio of  George W. Hale at the end of 1864. It was usual practice to overprint the details of a new proprietor on the remaining stock of  printed card mounts produced by the previous studio..



[ABOVE]. A cdv portrait of a seated woman with ball of wool and crochet, by  T. S. Gowland, The  Library, 16 & 17 Marine Parade, Eastbourne. ( c1868 ).

[ABOVE]. The printed back of a carte de visite by  T. S. Gowland of The  Library,  Marine Parade. Gowland used this design from about 1866 to the mid 1870s.

Gowland's Competitors

When Thomas Stafford Gowland took over Hale's Photographic Studio at The Library, there were only about three other photographic portrait studios in Eastbourne. In 1865, Gowland faced competition from The Eastbourne Photographic Establishment at 42 Terminus Place ( proprietor, Henry A. Niblett ), Mr. W. Miller's Victoria Photographic Studio at 5 Albert Place, Seaside Road, and Hicks' Original Photographic Studio at 4 Cornfield Road. Miller's Victoria Photographic Studio produced the cheapest carte-de-visite portraits, charging only 6s 6d for twelve. William Hicks, a native of Heathfield, had operated a studio on the Isle of Wight between 1856 and 1860, before establishing a studio in Eastbourne in 1864. Hicks called his establishment a "First-Class Photographic Studio" and charged 10s 6d for a dozen carte-de-visite portraits ( the same price scale offered by Gowland ). The following year, William Hicks took over Miller's studio at 5 Albert Place and as W. Hicks & Co the company operated two studios in Eastbourne. In the summer of 1866, the London firm of G & R Lavis acquired Henry Niblett's large studio at 42 Terminus Place. The husband and wife partnership of George Lavis and Rebecca Lavis had been running a successful high class studio at 135 Regent Street, London and had decided to establish a branch studio at a Sussex seaside resort. Even before the Lavis' takeover in 1866, the premises at 42 Terminus Place was described as the "Largest Gallery in Eastbourne" and the firm of G & R Lavis dominated photography in Eastbourne for the rest of the century.

[LEFT] A cdv portait of a woman and child by T. S. Gowland, The  Library, 16 & 17 Marine Parade, Eastbourne c1866; [CENTRE]  A cdv portrait of a man with a baby on his knee by T. S. Gowland. An inscription on the back  of the carte gives the date as September 1871 and identifies the child as "Ada" ;[RIGHT] A photographic view of a castle  published by Gowland in the 1870s. Even after he abandoned studio portrait photography, Gowland continued to sell photographic views of the area.

Throughout the rest of the 1860s, Eastbourne's resident population and seasonal visitors could only support three or four studios. In 1861, the population of Eastbourne had reached 5,778. At the time of the 1861 Census, only Albert Vidler was working as a professional photographer in Eastbourne. The population of Eastbourne grew steadily and by 1871 the number of residents had exceeded the 10,000 mark. In Eastbourne from 1866 to 1870, only the names of Gowland, Hicks and Lavis appear under the heading of ' Photographers' in Sussex trade directories. In 1870, this trio was joined by Oxfordshire born George Churchill, who set up a studio at 4 Cornfield Road. The name of T. S. Gowland does not appear in lists of Eastbourne photographers from this date until 1877, when he published his own Eastbourne directory, yet there is evidence, including dated cdvs, which confirms he was active as a photographer during this period. In Gowland's Eastbourne Directory of 1877, Thomas Gowland includes his own studio at 16 & 17 Marine Parade in his list of Eastbourne photographers. Gowland gives details of three other Eastbourne studios - George Churchill, William Hicks & Co. and G & R Lavis. There were at least two other professional photographers working in Eastbourne in 1877 - Robert Morton-Day at 45 Gildredge Road and the Scottish photographer David C. Downie, who had opened a studio at 124 Terminus Road, opposite Eastbourne Railway Station, the previous year.

The population of Eastbourne more than doubled between 1871 and 1881. The 1881 Census gave Eastbourne's population as 21,510. Eastbourne's growing population and regular seasonal visitors could now be serviced by half a dozen studios. Not long after publishing his 1877 Directory of Eastbourne, Gowland decided to bow out of the photography business. Thomas Gowland had by this time invested in other business interests and he probably regarded his photographic studio as an unnecessary expense. The arrival in Eastbourne of the veteran photographer William Hardy Kent, who purchased Morton-Day's studio in Gildredge Road in 1878, probably convinced Gowland that it was time to exit what had become an overcrowded marketplace.( W.H. Kent remained in Eastbourne until his death in 1907 at the age of 88 and the photography business he founded continued in Eastbourne until 1929).

Thomas Gowland's Business Interests

An obituary to Thomas Stafford Gowland published in in the Eastbourne Chronicle on 7th April 1923, begins with the phrase "A life of great personal and business activity." The obituary goes on to mention a number of Gowland's commercial enterprises. Besides running the library and the photographic studio, Thomas Stafford Gowland also worked as an auctioneer, bookseller, advertising agent, stationer, printer, newsagent and publisher. Gowland was the proprietor of bathing machines on Eastbourne beach and from the late 1890s until his death in 1923, he owned the Royal Marine Steam Laundry. Gowland was the publisher of the local newspaper The Fashionable Visitors' List and his name was associated with a number of guides to Eastbourne. In 1863, he published Gowland's Guide to Eastbourne and from 1871 until the early nineteen-twenties he issued annual editions of Gowland's Eastbourne Directory. In the 1870s, T. S. Gowland was selling books from his branch establishment at 25 Seaside Road. These premises later operated as Gowland's Stationery Stores. By 1895, the stationery store and printing works in Seaside Road were being run by his eldest son John Steward Gowland. His younger son, Thomas William Gowland, became the Secretary of Gowland's Royal Marine Steam Laundry situated in The Crumbles.

T. S. Gowland was an enterprising businessman. Not only did he establish a steam laundry and operate one of the earliest photography studios in Eastbourne, Gowland introduced the excursion steam-ship or pleasure "paddle steamer" to the town. The Eastbourne Chronicle noted that Gowland "was responsible for the bringing of the first pleasure steamer to Eastbourne, - a boat called "The Rapid", which , it is said, somewhat belied its name."


[RIGHT] An advertisement for The Eastbourne Royal Marine Sanitary Steam Laundry Company which appeared in Gowland's Eastbourne Directory of 1906. Thomas Stafford Gowland was the Chairman and Managing Director of the Royal Marine Steam Laundry for over twenty years.


Thomas Gowland's Other Interests

Thomas Stafford Gowland was an enthusiastic swimmer and bathed in the sea nearly every day. Gowland was also active in the organisation and management of social occasions and entertainment in Eastbourne. At various times, Gowland was Secretary of the Eastbourne Flower Show and the Eastbourne Regatta. Thomas Gowland worked as a kind of theatrical agent, arranging visits by the Opera company of Richard D'Oyly Carte and the German Reed Entertainers, a touring company of dramatic and musical entertainers run by the musician Thomas German Reed (1817-1888) and his wife Priscilla Reed (1818-1895), an accomplished singer and dancer.

Gowland's Views

The Eastbourne Chronicle described T. S. Gowland as "a Churchman and also a staunch Conservative", but he never became an elected local politician. The Chronicle reported that Gowland "never ... aspired to membership of any of the local governing bodies, contenting himself with watching somewhat critically the doings of those authorities" and "taking an occasional platform part in public meetings of ratepayers". Gowland also took a critical view of the behaviour of some of Eastbourne's inhabitants. He apparently used the Eastbourne Courier newspaper to criticise the conduct of local fishermen. In 1881, his derogatory remarks led to a violent confrontation (see extract opposite).


Mr Gowland of the Library. Upsetting the Fishermen

On 8th March, 1881, Frederick Bollard Hide, fisherman, was charged with being drunk and disorderly.

Mr Thomas Gowland, of the Library, Marine Parade, said  - about half past six on Monday evening he was in his house,upstairs, when he was called down as someone (Hide) wanted to see him. Gowland, however, expecting mischief, kept out of the way until Hide left.

Gowland afterwards went for a policeman and while he was gone, Hide and another person returned and wanted to get upstairs and were violent towards Gowland's wife and sister. Hide expressed his intention of strangling Gowland and dragging him round town.

When Gowland returned with a policeman they found Hide again in the shop at Marine Parade.

PC Plumb *said, as a result of what Gowland told him he went with him to the Library and found Hide there. PC Plumb requested Hide to leave, which he did, but remained outside on the pavement  and refused to go away. He was drunk, so PC Plumb removed him to the lock-up. Hide complained that something derogatory about the fishermen had appeared in the Courier and he had had just a little difference with Gowland as a result.

Mr Gowland said he did not wish to press charges, but he did not see why he should be subjected to annoyance by people like Hide, who, when he (Gowland) appeared on the Parade, howled and hooted after him as if he was a mad dog.

Hide was fined 1 shilling and costs of 7s 9d.

Account extracted from the Eastbourne Gazette (9th March 1881) and the Eastbourne Chronicle (12th March 1881) by Ted Hide of Eastbourne.

 *PC Plumb later became Eastbourne's Chief Constable


[ABOVE] Thomas Stafford Gowland, the white bearded figure seated in the centre of the picture, poses with his fellow "Christmas Morning Bathers" on Eastbourne Pier on Christmas Day, 1907. Gowland  took a dip from the end of  Eastbourne Pier every year, over a period of forty years. [PHOTOGRAPH  COURTESY OF JOHN GOWLAND ]

Thomas Gowland - the "Daddy" of Eastbourne Bathers

Thomas Stafford Gowland's obituary in the Eastbourne Chronicle of 7th April 1923 made a special note of his passion for swimming in the sea:

"Mr. Gowland's enthusiastic love of swimming and sea-bathing was maintained practically throughout his long life. The doyen of pier bathers, he greatly enjoyed his early morning dip from the Pier head, a practice he kept up almost unintermittently for forty years, summer and winter. By the older habitues of the bathing assembly he was known familiarly as "Daddy".

 In February 1895, the sea temperature had fallen to below freezing and ice was seen upon the water, yet T. S. Gowland was determined to take his usual morning swim. A meteorological report of the time remarked : "There are many residents who bathe from the Pier Head the whole year round, but during February their number was reduced to one.....the veteran bather, the elder Mr Gowland....the severity of February was not sufficient to stop him from his usual morning plunge from the Pier Head."

[BELOW] The white bearded Thomas Gowland poses with a group of "Christmas Morning Bathers" in 1905 and 1906.

" A life of great personal and business activity .. "


[ABOVE] Thomas Stafford Gowland, the white-bearded figure seated in the centre, photographed in 1922 towards the end of his long life. Standing on the left is his son Thomas William Gowland. The man on the right is his grandson John Gowland. The two boys are John Gowland's two sons - Maurice, sitting on his great grandfather's lap, and Kenyon, who was killed in 1940 while serving in the RAF.  [PHOTOGRAPH  COURTESY OF JOHN GOWLAND ]

Gowland's Children

John Steward Gowland (born c1863). Bathing Superintendent, Eastbourne Corporation. Married Florence Bretton in 1892.

Thomas William Gowland (born 1867) Stationer and Printer.

Jessy (Jessie) May Gowland (born 1872) married Edwin Stanley Hoare in 1896.

[ABOVE ] Thomas Stafford Gowland (1835-1923), photographed in 1907 when he was seventy-two years of age. A detail from the group portrait of  the Eastbourne Bathers photographed in December 1907.

Thomas Stafford Gowland died on the 4th/5th April 1923 at the age of eighty-seven. The Eastbourne Chronicle published a death notice and obituary a few days later on 7th April. The article began:

"A life of great personal and business activity, and one identified formerly with some of the better known public societies, came to an end with the regretted death of Mr. Thomas Stafford Gowland, who passed away at his residence, 17, Marine Parade, on Thursday at the advanced age of 87. Although in failing health, he had been able to get about until quite recently. His last walk was, in fact, taken so lately as on Tuesday week, whilst he took to his bed a day or so only before his death."

The article went on to give this assessment :

" A Knowledgeable man and a man of inflexible integrity and right good nature, he had a wide circle of friends by whom he was held in high regard."


Thomas Stafford Gowland's body was cremated on Monday, 9th April 1923 at Golders Green in London, but a memorial service was held the same day in Eastbourne at St Andrew's Church, Seaside. T. S. Gowland's married daughter, Mrs Jessie May Hoare, took over the Royal Marine Laundry and lived at 17 Marine Parade until the outbreak of the Second World War.


Thanks to John Gowland ( T. S. Gowland's great, great grandson) and Ted Hide of Eastbourne for providing information and illustrations for this page. Other sources include, The Library, 16 & 17 Marine Parade by M. Lewis, Obituary on the Death of Mr. T. S. Gowland, Eastbourne Chronicle (7th April 1923),