A. M. Breach (1875-)
Archibald Mark Breach was born in Hastings in 1875, the son of Mark Breach, a "master mariner" or ship's captain (born 1845 at Hastings) and Alice Hannah Wilkins (born 1847 at Islington, London). The Breach family had been long established at Hastings as fishermen and fish merchants. Alice's father, Benjamin Wilkins (1818-1886) had moved from London in the 1860s to run a tobacconist's shop at 47 Robertson Street, Hastings.
In 1896 Archie Breach is recorded as a photographer at 4 Cornwallis Street, Hastings, but in 1897 he moved to another studio at 25 White Rock on the seafront and after about a year he moved again, to 21 White Rock, which had been the studio of Melancthon Moore. Breach kept this studio until 1905 or 1906. During this period he continued to live at 44 Milward Crescent, which his mother ran as a boarding house.
During the last years of WW1, Breach often photographed the man who would become King George VI together with his father George V on an occasion when the king came down to inspect a parade of Royal Flying Corps men, of which one was the future king and billeted in the town. There were also a number of informal photographs that Breach managed to take of the younger George playing cricket at Priory Meadow.
Although Breach undertook conventional studio photography, he seems to have preferred to concentrate in summer on outdoor work, photographing parties of holidaymakers and young couples as they strolled along the promenade or amused themselves on the beach. He also photographed groups of holidaymakers in front of their hotels and boarding houses. He sold many of these "souvenir" photographs as postcards, which he embossed "A. M. Breach, Hastings".
By 1911 Breach acquired the studio of Jarrett & Co. at 194 Queens Road in Hastings, but soon had second thoughts and sold it. He retained his studio at 37a White Rock until 1922, but by 1923-24 he replaced it with a new studio (the Memorial Studio) at 72 Cambridge Road, Hastings. Pike's 1927 Directory records that he had moved his business yet again, to 40 Havelock Road. By this time he had left Devonshire Terrace to set up home at 60 Mount Pleasant Road. By 1935 he was living a few streets away, at 29 Nelson Road off Queens Road. The 1939 Electoral Register records that he and his wife shared the Nelson Road house with his sister, Annie Alice Breach.
Breach was still working as a photographer from his home in Nelson Road in 1948, at the age of 73. Soon afterwards, however, he retired and he died in late 1954. His wife, who survived him, lived on at Nelson Road until at least 1956. Some of his negatives are now in the care of Hastings Museum.
During his long career as a photographer Breach published many real photographic cards of Hastings. His card of Milward Crescent is particularly interesting as it shows the street where he once lived. He wrote his name in Indian ink along the curving pavement, bending his name to match the shape of the pavement. Breach also recorded local events, such as the fire on the S.S. Lugano off Hastings in April 1906, crowds on Election Day in 1906, and Empire Day at Hastings in 1909. Some of his real photographic cards of the stricken Lugano are dabbed a sinister red where the fire was most intense! Breach was still publishing postcards of local events after the First World War. For example, just before Easter 1919 the former German submarine Submarine SM U-118, a French war prize, which was being towed to Cherbourg, broke its tow rope off Beachy Head and drifted eastwards, becoming wrecked on Hastings beach. Breach issued a selection of cards of the stranded vessel, including at least one showing sightseers climbing on board.
On sunny summer days Breach often positioned himself near the entrance to the pier, offering to take photographs of the holidaymakers. He would return at intervals to his studio to print the photographs to sell as picture postcards. He also followed groups down onto the beach to photograph them paddling or bathing, and was seemingly more than willing to wade into the sea to take pictures of groups of young women in clinging bathing costumes! Postcards of seaside entertainers were another specialty.
Some Breach cards lack captions. Captions, when present, are often written entirely in capitals. Some "H"s have curly, left hand descenders. The writing is in fact quite distinctive, making the cards easily recognisable even when they are not labelled "Breach". Some cards have Breach's name and address (e.g. Havelock Road) on the back or are blind-stamped "A. M. Breach, Hastings", and some have generous white borders, whereas others have no borders at all.
In 1905 or 1906 Breach moved his studio to 37a White Rock, replacing P. J. Swain.