STORIES SEEN THROUGH A GLASS PLATE

H6940 — Mrs Pratt sitting at table, 1914

Box 34

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Image 2: H6939 — Mrs. Pratt, 1914

Image 3: H6941 — Mrs. Pratt’s house, 1914 — detail

Image 4: H6941 — Mrs. Pratt’s house, 1914 — detail

 

‘Mrs Pratt revealed’ — Monica Brewis, Researcher Reeves Archive Project

Audio transcript at bottom of page

 

This is probably Sarah Anne Pratt of Sewells, Toronto Terrace, Lewes. When she died she bequeathed her goods to naturalist Edwin Pratt and dairyman Joseph Martin. Her effects amounted to £77 1s 3d. Pratt & Sons (1852-1952) was a well known firm of Brighton taxidermists, who specialized in birds and provided specimens to the Booth Museum, Brighton

 

“Photo of Mrs Pratt.

 

The photograph shows Mrs Pratt seated in a room packed with knick-knacks and furniture. At the time that this photo was taken, Pratt was a common name in Sussex and therefore it’s not easy to establish with certainty who this woman is. However according to Probate records, Mrs Sarah Anne Pratt, a widow who died in 1919 lived in Lewes at Toronto Terrace and left half of a very modest legacy to Edwin Pratt, a naturalist. This suggests that Mrs Pratt may have been a member of the family of Pratt & Sons, a firm of well-known taxidermists based in Brighton. The firm’s reputation for work of the highest quality was established when Edward Booth commissioned the firm to create The Dioramas of British Birds which can still be seen today at the Booth museum in Brighton.

 

Mrs Pratt may have married Henry Pratt, who was the eldest son of Henry Pratt, who founded the firm in 1852. Henry settled in Brighton and became a successful clock maker, whereas his two brothers, John & Edwin continued in the family business and, in due course, passed on the business to their sons, confusingly also named John & Edwin. Therefore the Edwin Pratt who inherited a small legacy from Sarah Anne was possibly her nephew.

 

The 1891 census lists a Sarah Anne Pratt a widow aged 56 years living in Brighton and gives her occupation as a watchmaker, which is consistent with Henry Pratt’s occupation as a clockmaker. This would mean that Mrs Pratt in the picture would have been around 79 years old when the photo was taken.

 

The 1911 census lists an Edwin Albert Pratt aged 38 living in Brighton. His occupation is given as a taxichemist — taxidermists had various titles at this time, and he was married to Annie Elsie Pratt, aged 29. It seems very likely that this is the Edwin Pratt who inherited money from Mrs Pratt, and it’s tempting to speculate that the figure seen in the mirror above the fireplace could be Edwin’s wife, Annie Elsie.

 

Mrs Pratt was clearly an avid reader. A few titles from the books can be identified, but today only Richard Jefferies ‘The Life of the Fields’ is still in print. The other books are a collection of sermons with the title ‘The Passion for Souls’ by John Henry Jowett, and then there is Edna Lyall’s ‘ A Hardy Norseman’. Lyall was a very popular novelist at the time, born in Brighton and died in Eastbourne in 1903. But in addition to writing novels she was also an early feminist. Mrs Pratt has on the shelves ‘A Life of Edna Lyell’ by J.M. Escreet and there are so many clues about this elderly lady in the photograph, perhaps someone who sees the photo can tell us more?”