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John Hicks was the second child and only son of Ann and William Hicks, a professional photographer. William Hicks (1830-1888) was originally from Heathfield, in Sussex, and, around 1857, set up a photographic portrait studio at Ryde, on the Isle of Wight where, in 1859, his son, John, was born.
John Hicks’ birth was registered on the Isle of Wight during the fourth quarter of 1859 and he was baptised at St. Thomas’ Church, Ryde, Isle of Wight, on 29th January 1860.
By 1864, William Hicks had left the Isle of Wight and returned to his native Sussex with his wife Ann and their two children – five year old John and his older sister Clara (born 1858, Ryde, Isle of Wight).
William, in early 1864, opened a photographic studio in Eastbourne where he continued in the business of photography for the next fifteen years, running studios at Cornfield Road, Albert Place and Seaside Road, before, finally, finishing his career, as a professional photographer, at a studio situated at 3, Terminus Road. By the late 1870s, John Hicks was running the Terminus Road studio for his father.
According to Charles Simmons, an Eastbourne businessman who resided near the Terminus Road studio at the time, the young John Hicks was not a particularly diligent photographer. In an article, published in the Eastbourne Gazette in December 1899, Simmons recollected the time when John Hicks would “cast up his books at the end of the summer, and after remarking, “It has been a good season!” would close his premises until the following spring!”’. Though Simmons, specifically, states “this was done by Mr. John Hicks, a photographer”, he was looking back over twenty years and may have been referring to the working practices of John’s father, William Hicks – we’ll, probably, never know for certain.
By the time of the 1881 census, William Hicks was no longer taking an active role in the studio he, once, ran in Terminus Road. By this time, the Hicks family were living comfortably at a house called “Mayfield”, near Upperton Gardens, in Eastbourne. In the census, William Hicks, aged 50, describes himself as a “Builder” and, son John, aged 21, as a “Photographer”.
Around this time the Hicks’ studio at 3, Terminus Road, Eastbourne was sold to Rudolph Vieler (born c1853, Westphalia, Prussia).
In 1881, John’s sister, Clara Hicks, married John Berryman (born in 1853, in Wells, Somerset), who was a professional photographer with his own studio in Deal, Kent.
After 1881, John Hicks is no longer listed as a studio proprietor in Eastbourne so it is possible that he joined his brother-in-law, working as a photographer, until we pick him up again, in 1884, when he opened a photographic studio, at No 18, Richmond Terrace, Carfax, in Horsham. It was here, in the studio in Horsham (generally known as the “Carfax Stuio”, that John would work as a photographer for the next fifteen years.
In 1884, John married Jane Williams (born 1860, Chelsea, London), the niece of Alexander McBain of Eastbourne, apparently a wealthy man who derived his income from “Houses & Dividends” and was possibly a business associate of John’s father, William, who was, now, a builder.
After their marriage, John and Jane Hicks settled in Horsham, where their first child Louisa Clara Hicks was born during the second quarter of 1885.
John Hicks – Photographer in Horsham
On 13th November 1888, John’s father, William Hicks, died at the age of 57, at his residence of Woodlands, Horsham Road, near Heathfield in Sussex. Around this time, John Hicks became a father for the second time. Mrs Jane Hicks gave birth to a daughter named Dorothy May Hicks during the fourth quarter of 1888. By 1890, John Hicks was living with his family at 15 East Street, Horsham.
In February 1890, John’s mother, Mrs Ann Hicks, died during a train journey from Horsham to Eastbourne. John’s mother did not live to see the birth of her third grandchild, Thora Margaret Hicks [birth registered in Horsham during the fourth quarter of 1891]. John and Jane Hicks’ fourth child, a son named William Alexander Hicks, was born in Horsham during the second quarter of 1898.
John Hicks remained at 18 Richmond Terrace until around 1900, when he sold the Carfax Studio to William Henry Brigden. For a short time, John Hicks worked at a studio attached to his home address at 15 East Street, Horsham. In trade directories of the time, Hicks’ studio address is given as 15e East Street, Horsham. When the 1901 census was taken, John Hicks and his family are recorded at 15 E East Street, Horsham. In the census return, John Hicks is described as a “Photographer – own account (at Home)”, aged 41. Also listed on the census return are John Hicks’ wife Mrs Jane Hicks, aged 40, and their four children – Louisa, aged 15, Dorothy aged 12, Thora, aged 9 and three year old William.
John Hicks – Photographer in Bexhill
By February 1902, John Hicks had left Horsham and had established a new studio in Bexhill-on-Sea. On 8th February 1902, John Hicks placed a “Public Notice” in the Bexhill-on-Sea Observer to announce that he had opened a photographic studio at 14 Devonshire Road, Bexhill. According to the notice in the Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, the studio had been “fitted with all the most modern Lenses, Apparatus, and Accessories for securing the best results in Portraiture”.
John Hicks worked as a professional photographer in Bexhill-on-Sea until about 1912. The 1911 census records John Hicks, described as a “Photographer”, aged 51, living in accommodation attached to his photographic studio at 14 Devonshire Road, Bexhill. Sharing John Hicks’ home was his fifty-year old wife, Mrs Jane Hicks, and their son, William Alexander Hicks, now a thirteen year old school boy.
By the time Kelly’s 1915 Directory of Sussex was published in August 1915, John Hicks’ studio at 14 Devonshire Road, Bexhill had closed and the business premises had become a branch of Boots the Chemists.
The Family of John Hicks of Bexhill-on-Sea
All three of John Hicks’ daughters married in Bexhill-on-Sea. Louisa Clara Hicks (born 1885, Horsham), the eldest daughter of John and Jane Hicks, married Howard Nicholson Hilliard (born 1885, Leytonstone, Essex) in 1907. [The marriage of Louisa Clara Hicks and Howard Nicholson Hilliard was registered in the registration district of Battle – which included Bexhill-on-Sea – during the First Quarter of 1907]. Howard Nicholson Hilliard was the son of Susannah Elizabeth Cole and George James Hilliard. In the early 1900s, Howard’s father was running a fly-carriage business in Bexhill-on-Sea, but by 1911 Mr and Mrs Hilliard were letting out apartments at 18 Marine Mansions, The Marina, Bexhill-on-Sea.
Shortly after his marriage to Louisa Hicks, Howard Nicholson Hilliard travelled to New Zealand. [Passenger records note that H. N. Hilliard, aged 21, departed for Wellington, New Zealand in 1907]. Howard Hilliard must have returned to England the following year as Louisa gave birth to their first child, John George Nicholson Hilliard, during the First Quarter of 1909. At the time if the 1911 census, Howard Hilliard, his wife Louisa and their two year old son were living in Bexhill-on-Sea. Howard Hilliard and his family later emigrated to New Zealand, sailing from the port of Liverpool to Sydney, Australia, in 1911.