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In the 1881 census, Alfred Harding is recorded as lodging at the “Wheatsheaf Inn”, in Little Common, Bexhill-on-Sea. He gives his occupation as “photographer”, which would make him the first photographer to be recorded in Bexhill. He may not have had a studio in Little Common but may have been, just, an itinerant photographer getting work wherever he could.
Before the 1871 census nothing is, really, known about Alfred and the census doesn’t tell us very much about him. He says that he is 25, and living at 1 Station Road, in Frindsbury, Rochester, Kent with his wife, Ann, aged 23, and his two young sons, Alfred, aged 2 years, and James, just 1 year old. He gives his occupation as “theatrical”, with no other explanation as to what that might mean. His place of birth he gives as Ramsgate, in Kent, and that of his wife as Boughton, again, in Kent. Both sons, he says, were born in Maidstone.
In the 1881 census, however, he is lodging, as said before, at the “Wheatsheath Inn” (landlord was James Adams) and with him are his wife, Ellen, who gives her age as 22 and her place of birth as Wadhurst, in Sussex, and his 13-year old son, Alfred – but the other son, James, is missing.
From those two censuses, it would seem that Alfred must have been married twice – or, at least, had two “wives”. Ann, the first wife, was born in 1848, in Boughton, in Kent while Ellen, the second wife, was born much later in 1859, in Wadhurst, Sussex.
It would seem that, in the 10 years between the censuses, Alfred’s first wife died and he remarried – did his son James, also, die?
Subsequent censuses become less reliable and most local newspaper were in their infancy, so reports and advertisements are unavailable.
As an itinerant photographer no example of his work exists – it’s just because of that one reference to him in the 1881 census that he has a place in the history of Bexhill.