In the middle of the 19th century, Bexhill was a small village in Sussex situated between Eastbourne and Hastings. During the 1880s, the area south of Bexhill village was transformed into an exclusive seaside resort by Reginald Sackville, 7th Earl De La Warr. In 1861, Bexhill’s population was just over 2,000, yet by the late 1880s the population of the new seaside town had reached almost 6,000.
Many businessmen were attracted to the rapidly expanding seaside resort of Bexhill-on-Sea. Robert John Batchelor (1825-1910), Arthur Bruges Plummer’s father-in-law, moved down from North London in the mid-1880s and established an upholstery business in Westbourne Terrace, Devonshire Road, Bexhill-on-Sea. The firm of Batchelor & Son, upholsterers and furniture dealers, are recorded at 7, Westbourne Terrace, Devonshire Road, Bexhill-on-Sea in local trade directories during this period.
Arthur Bruges Plummer, while serving as the Managing Partner of A. & G. Taylor’s photographic portrait studio in Brighton, had witnessed at first hand how lucrative retail photography could be. Around 1887, Arthur Bruges Plummer established his own photographic portrait studio at 3 Devonshire Terrace, Bexhill, close to Bexhill-on Sea’s Railway Station.
On 14th April 1888, an advertisement for Arthur Bruges Plummer’s studio at 3 Devonshire Terrace, Bexhill-on-Sea, appeared in the Bexhill Chronicle newspaper. The advertisement detailed A. B. Plummer’s scale of charges. The first copy of a a carte-de-visite portrait would cost a customer 1s 6d, but the unit price could be reduced considerably if the customer ordered multiple copies. Three copies of the carte-de-visite portrait would cost 3 shillings and a dozen copies could be obtained for 6 shillings, bringing the unit price down to 6d. The larger cabinet portrait would cost 2s 6d at Plummer’s studio, but a dozen copies of the cabinet format portrait could be had for 15 shillings. Vignette portraits, where the image was blurred at the edges to suggest a crayon portrait, carried an extra charge. Twelve copies of a “cabinet vignette” photographic portrait would cost 18 shillings. Plummer was proud of his reasonable prices. At the foot of the advertisement in the Bexhill Chronicle newspaper, Plummer stated that “Notwithstanding the low rates of charges, the work produced will be found of great delicacy and finish and in every way equal to the productions of the most expensive studios.”
Arthur and Clara Plummer’s second son, Arthur Herne Plummer was born in Bexhill-on-Sea during the 2nd Quarter of 1888. During their stay in Bexhill-on-Sea, Clara and Arthur Bruges Plummer produced at least three more children – Harold Francis Plummer (born 1890, Bexhill), Clara Plummer (born 1893, Bexhill- died 1893, Bexhill) and Kathleen Claire Plummer (born 1895, Bexhill).
It appears that Arthur Bruges Plummer was the first person to establish a permanent photographic portrait studio in Bexhill-on-Sea. ( Previously, Bexhill was served by itinerant photographers, such as Alfred Harding and his son Alfred junior, who were lodging at the Wheatsheaf Inn, Little Common, Bexhill, at the time of the 1881 census). Unfortunately for Arthur B. Plummer, his monopoly in the production of photographic likenesses in Bexhill was not to last very long. By 1888, photographer Charles Ash Talbot had opened his Rembrandt Studio in Station Road, Bexhill. Plummer held on for another year ( In February 1889, A. B. Plummer, “Artist and Photographer”, was offering a cabinet portrait and a carte-de-visite portrait at a joint price of 1s 6d), but by the Summer of 1889, he had closed his photographic studio in Devonshire Terrace. By June 1889, Plummer’s business premises at 3 Devonshire Terrace, Bexhill was occupied by tea and coffee merchants Deacon, Deacon & Co. and a Servants’ Registry Office run by two sisters, Mary and Anne Brett.
Arthur Bruges Plummer abandoned photography and invested in new business ventures. In the 1892 edition of the Bexhill Chronicle’s Directory to Bexhill-on-Sea, Mr A. Plummer is recorded at 8 Laburnham House, 7 Western Road, Bexhill-on-Sea. In the late 1890s, Arthur Plummer was the owner of apartments at 8-9 Albany Road, Bexhill-on-Sea. The 1901 census records forty-one year old Arthur Bruges Plummer as a “Coal, Coke & Builder’s Merchant”, residing with his wife and four surviving children at 1 Sea Road, Bexhill-on-Sea. Kelly’s Hastings & St Leonards Directory (with Bexhill) – Buff Book published in 1901 lists A. B. Plummer as a coal merchant at 1 Sea Road, Bexhill-on-Sea. By 1911, Arthur Plummer had retired from business. The 1911 edition of Kelly’s Post Office Directory for Sussex lists Arthur Plummer’s private residences as 3 Sackville House, St Leonards Road, Bexhill and Hillrise, Kiln Bank, Little Common, Bexhill. Arthur Bruges Plummer died in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, in 1932, aged 73.
Arthur Herne Plummer (1888-1978), Arthur Bruges Plummer’s second son, married Jane McCormick at Trinity Church, Hampstead on 28th June 1913. The couple’s first child, Arthur Desmond Herne Plummer was born on 25th May 1914. Arthur Desmond Herne Plummer later became a Conservative politician and Leader of the Greater London Council. Knighted in 1971, (Arthur) Desmond Plummer was elevated to the House of Lords in 1981, becoming Baron Plummer of St Marylebone.