Rustington Allen

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Edwin Allen - Photographer of Rustington

[ABOVE] Rustington at the end of the 19th Century. A view of  The Street, Rustington, by Littlehampton photographer John White (born 1850, Lyminster). The Lamb Inn and the parish church of St Peter and St Paul's can be seen in the centre background.

Edwin ALLEN (1845-1925) - active as a photographer in Rustington between 1902 and 1924

Edwin Allen was born in Lambeth, South London, in 1845.

In 1873, Edwin Allen married Sophia Ann Lane (born 1842, Weymouth Dorset). Edwin's bride Sophia Ann Lane, was the daughter of Elizabeth and John Lane, a gas works foreman. Sophia Ann Lane and her twin sister Harriett Louisa Lane, were baptised at Holy Trinity Church, Weymouth on 3rd November 1842. Sadly, Harriett Louisa Lane, Sophia's twin sister, died in infancy the following year. Sophia Ann Lane had two younger sisters, Mary Jane Lane (born 1848, Weymouth) and Harriett Louisa Lane (born 1851, Weymouth), who had been given the same name as Sophia's deceased twin. Sophia's youngest sister Harriett was to be the subject of a notorious murder case in 1874. [See the panel below, entitled 'Henry Wainwright and the Murder of Harriett Louisa Lane'].

When the 1881 census was taken, Edwin Allen was employed as a "Coachman" in Woburn Mews, London, but his wife was living with her parents, John and Elizabeth Lane, in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire.

At the time of the 1901 census, Edwin and Sophia Allen were residing at 179 Ashmore Road in the Paddington district of London. Edwin Allen is described on the census return as a fifty-five year old "Photographer".

Rustington historians, Bev and Mary Taylor have established that Edwin Allen and his wife Sophia arrived in Rustington around 1902. The various editions of Kelly's Directory of Sussex records Edwin Allen as a photographer at Church Road, Rustington, between 1905 and 1924. The 1911 census records Edwin and Sophia Allen at Ash Villa, Church Road, Rustington. On the census return Edwin Allen is described as a "Photographer", aged 65.

Edwin Allen operated a photographic portrait studio which had been erected at the rear of his residence in Church Road. Surviving cabinet portraits show that he was using painted backdrops and items of rustic furniture as studio props.

According to Rendell Williams of SussexPostcards.Info Edwin Allen started to produce picture postcards featuring views of Rustington and Angmering during the first decade of the 20th century. Rendell Williams has recorded picture postcards carrying Edwin Allen's photographic views postmarked with dates ranging between 1907 and 1911.

Edwin Allen worked as a professional photographer in Rustington until about 1924, when Edwin and Sophia Allen retired to Littlehampton. Edwin Allen died at 61 East Street, Littlehampton on 14th April 1925, aged 79. Edwin's widow, Mrs Sophia Ann Allen died in 1927 at the age of 83.

[ABOVE] A cabinet portrait of a young woman, photographed around 1905 by Edwin Allen of Church Road, Rustington.

Henry Wainwright and the Murder of Harriett Louisa Lane

Before Edwin Allen and his wife Sophia settled in Rustington, they were personally involved in a notorious murder case. The evidence that Edwin Allen and Sophia Allen provided led to the conviction of Henry Wainwright for the murder of Mrs Allen's youngest sister Harriett Louisa Lane (1851-1874).

Henry Wainwright (born 1838, Whitechapel, London) had been a successful businessman who owned a brush-making factory in East London, where he employed 103 men, women and boys. In 1871, using the assumed name of 'Percy King', Wainwright "married" Harriett Louisa Lane, a twenty year old milliner. Harriett, who was the youngest sister of Mrs Sophia Allen, set up home with Wainwright and over the next few years gave birth to two daughters - Beatrice Louisa (born 1872, Mile End, London) and Miriam Harriett (born 1873, Bethnal Green, London). Unfortunately for Harriett, Henry Wainwright was already married with 5 children. Henry Wainwright had married Elizabeth Fanny Minshull (born 1840, Birmingham) in Stepney, East London, in 1862. When Wainwright "married" Harriett, he was residing with his wife and children in a fine Georgian house in Tredegar Square, Mile End, and was employing two 'live in' domestic servants.

For a few years, Henry Wainwright was able to maintain his two families, but in 1874, his brother William Wainwright, with whom he ran the brush-making business, dissolved their partnership because of Henry's mounting debts. Henry Wainwright was now bankrupt and had to find work with a corn merchant. Not only was Wainwright under financial strain, he was also being harassed by his 'common law' wife Harriett, who was drinking heavily and demanding that he supported her and their two young children. It appears that Harriett had discovered that Wainwright was already married and was now threatening to tell his wife about his second family.

In September 1874, Harriett went missing. A year later, the decomposed and dismembered body of a young woman was discovered and Henry Wainwright was arrested and charged with the wilful murder of Harriett Louisa Lane.

At Henry Wainwright's trial at the Central Criminal Court, Edwin Allen and Sophia Allen were called to give evidence to support the prosecution's case that the murdered woman was Harriett Louisa Lane. In her testimony, Mrs Sophia Allen described her younger sister's physical characteristics, giving details of Harriett's small stature and a distinctive mark on her sister's leg, a scarring that had resulted from a childhood accident. Interestingly, Mrs Allen produced a family photograph which supported the identification of Harriett Lane as the murder victim:

"I and my sister about six years ago were photographed together at Shoreditch in a standing posture. This is the photograph that was taken. I was dressed in a blue silk, and my sister in a black dress. My sister is the lady on the right hand. She had light hair of a golden tinge."

Edwin Allen, the victim's brother-in-law, gave evidence about 'jet buttons' that belonged to Harriett Lane and were found with the human remains.

Henry Wainwright was found guilty of Harriett Lane's murder and was executed at London's Newgate Prison on 21st December, 1875.

Harriett Louisa Lane, who was murdered by Wainwright Henry Wainwright, Harriett's killer, and his execution [RIGHT]

Carte-de-visite Portraits by Edwin Allen of Rustington

[ABOVE] A carte-de-visite portrait of a young woman, photographed around 1905 by Edwin Allen of Church Road, Rustington. [ABOVE] A carte-de-visite portrait of a baby seated on a chair, photographed around 1905 by Edwin Allen of Church Road, Rustington. [ABOVE] A carte-de-visite portrait of a young woman, photographed around 1903 by Edwin Allen of Church Road, Rustington.

Cabinet Portraits by Edwin Allen of Rustington


[ABOVE] A cabinet portrait of a middle-aged woman holding a flower, photographed in the lady's garden around 1903 by Edwin Allen of Church Road, Rustington.   [ABOVE] A cabinet portrait of a bearded man, photographed in his studio by Edwin Allen of Church Road, Rustington around 1905 .
Edwin Allen's Photographic Studio in the garden of his home in Church Road, Rustington

Like many photographers who operated their businesses in residential areas, Edwin Allen set up a photographic studio in the back garden of his home.


[RIGHT] A photograph taken around 1912 showing a rear view of the houses in Church Road, Rustington. In the back garden of Ash Villa, the home of Edwin and Sophia Allen, can be seen a white building with the word "PHOTOGRAPHER" painted on the roof. This white structure would have served as Edwin Allen's workshop, darkroom and portrait studio. Around 1924, Edwin and Sophia Allen retired to Littlehampton, and the outside studio at Ash Villa, Church Road, passed to William Singleton, who served as Rustington's resident photographer until about 1934.

[PHOTOGRAPH : Courtesy of Peter Merrett ]


[ABOVE] The Old Manor House, Rustington photographed by Edwin Allen around 1910. The older man leaning on the wall on the left has been identified as George Gates (born 1838, Goring, Sussex), an agricultural labourer and carter. The black-bearded man on the right standing by the wheel-barrow is possibly George Gates' eldest son George Gates junior (born 1838, Goring, Sussex). [ABOVE] The parish church of St Peter & St Paul, Rustington. Even though Edwin Allen died at his home in Littlehampton, the old photographer and his wife Sophia Ann Allen, were buried in the graveyard of the parish church in  Rustington, the village where he had lived and worked as a photographer for over 20 years.

A selection of Edwin Allen's picture postcards can be viewed on Rendell Williams' website SussexPostcards.Info via the link below:

Edwin Allen of Rustington



Thanks to Rendell Williams of the SussexPostcards.Info website and the Rustington historians Mary Taylor and Bev Taylor. I am grateful to Peter Merrett for supplying the photograph of Edwin Allen's workshop and studio in Church Road, Rustington. The testimony given by Edwin Allen and Mrs Sophia Allen at the murder trial of Henry Wainwright can be found on the Old Bailey website via the following link:   HENRY WAINWRIGHT, THOMAS GEORGE WAINWRIGHT, Killing > murder, 22nd November 1875.


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