>Sepia Saturday 74: The Age of Contraptions

•Sunday, May 15, 2011 • 2 Comments


The early 20th Century was, it seems, the age of contraptions, due in no small part to the genius of people like W. Heath Robinson, whose imagination knew no bounds.  In the household of my formative years the term “gold-plated Heath Robinson” – somewhere in that vague area between noun and adjective – came to signify not just any old complicated what-you-ma-call-it, generally constructed from recycled bits and pieces that happened to be lying around, but a device put together with some flair and panache.  If it actually did the job intended this was, of course, handy, but incidental.  One of his more famous cartoons was the potato peeler, shown above, no doubt designed to the free hundreds – nay, thousands – of bored staff from their tedious tasks in field kitchens behind the lines all along the Western Front, for the far more stimulating duties which awaited them in the trenches.

A great many of these contraptions, unsurprisingly, never amounted to much, and only n0w see the light of day due to the penchant for people like yours truly for pointless dwelling on the past, and an unexplainable desire to unearth such curiosities from dusty archives.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This rather unusually shaped bicycle may not have been designed, or even owned, by my great-grandfather Frans Smit (1865-1955), but there are no obvious scuff marks or gaping tears in the elbows or knees of his suit, so presumably he had mastered the required technique.  The otherwise friendly Friesian cow seems to be showing a little alarm, and may be concerned that it’s some new-fangled milking machine, rather than a human plaything.  According to a note on the reverse, the photo was taken at Sneek on “Pinksteren 24,” which my mother interprets for me as Pentecost or Whitsunday, 1924, and my trusty Calisto calendar utility tells me was on 20 May.

By this time Frans Smit and his wife Akke de Jager (1863-1951) were living in Amsterdam, but he was born in nearby Leeuwarden, and they returned frequently to south-west Friesland on holiday, often with children and grandchildren in tow.  Judging by the frequency of its appearance in family albums, and in spite of the apparently rather featureless landscape, Sneek was a favourite destination.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Apart from a frame of roughly conventional, if low slung, shape and vertically-extended handlebar, the apparatus appears to have the usual wire-spoked wheels with pneumatic tyres, mud guards, cable-or rod-operated rim brakes and forks.  When examined in detail, however, the absence of the normal rotary pedals becomes evident, replaced by two sets of what appear to be lever-style pedals.  I think they might operate in a similar manner to those of children’s pedal cars – drive rods and crank axle – but the method of linkage to the back wheel/hub is hidden, so I can’t be sure.  The thought briefly occurred, both to my wife and to myself, that it might have been designed without any propelling mechanism – in other words, a push bike in the true sense of the word – but I think that even in Holland where a rise of a couple of metres might be regarded as significant topography, that might be a little pointless.

However the contraption worked, I hope he carried a supply of Elliman’s Universal Embrocation (or whatever the local equivalent was at that time), and didn’t venture too far afield.  It doesn’t look a very easy bike to push for miles, in the event of a puncture or some other misadventure.

Sepia Saturday this week has a photograph of an early aerial contraption which looks as though it might have benefited from having the pedal design from Frans Smit’s velocipede. I’m keen to head off and see what delights other contributors have unearthed.  I’m also hopeful that visitors brought here by said meme, presumably also folk with a keen interest in the esoteric and irrelevant, might have come across something similar in their wanderings, and can enlighten us further.


>Derby Photographers: Diana Studios, 1928-1952

•Sunday, May 15, 2011 • 3 Comments

>Since I am currently updating the profile of Derby photographic firm, the Diana Studio, I’m taking the opportunity to share three new portraits here.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
This cheeky looking girl, perhaps five years old, has no difficulty playing the part of a gypsy girl in this early portrait from Diana Studios. The studio setting is simple with a shaggy rectangular rug on the floor, and a dark backdrop painted with a rural scene which was used by the studio in their early years. The girl with her striking pose and costume are clearly the centre of attraction. I estimate it was taken between 1929 and 1932.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
The Diana Studios’ first postcard portraits were pre-printed with a “divided back” design on the reverse, so that they could be sent through the post. Even though they continued producing postcard sized portraits, they soon changed the design in favour of a simple studio stamp which was applied directly to the back of the printed photo, as shown above. The firm operated from at least early 1928, at centrally situated premises in St Peter’s Street, Derby. An early portrait describes the studio at 45 St Peter’s Street, situated “over the Carlton Shoe Shop,” but later designs are from 48 St Peter’s Street, which appears to be on the opposite (east) side of the street.

Image © and courtesy of Patricia Hurworth
Patricia Hurworth sent me these two portraits of herself by Diana Studios which are clearly a cut above the standard postcard style. Not only has the portrait been enlarged – to a size of 117.5 x 164.5 mm – but it has been quite elaborately hand coloured.

Image © and courtesy of Patricia Hurworth
They were taken in 1945 or 1946, and the second which is roughly trimmed and remains uncoloured, may have been a studio discard. Both feature the painted backdrop showing a column and painted panelling which used in the Diana studio in the late 1930s and early to mid-1940s. The studio apparently continued operating until 1952.

Many thanks to Pat and others for their contributions.

>Cromford Bridge Chapel

•Sunday, May 15, 2011 • Leave a Comment

>Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Charles Leslie Lionel Payne, Cromford Bridge Chapel
17 August 1959
This was my father’s favourite picture of his Dad, Charles Leslie Lionel Payne (1892-1975), and he kept a framed, slightly trimmed enlargement on the top of the bookcase next to his chair in the lounge. My Dad took the photo himself during a visit back home to England in the summer of 1959, and it is pretty much how I remember my grandfather even though my memories mainly date from fifteen years later, the year before he died.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Ethel & Leslie Payne, Glenwood Road, Chellaston, August 1959
My father has pencilled the location and date on the back so I know that they visited Cromford Bridge Chapel, south-east of the village of Cromford, on Monday 17 August. It is possible they took the bus there from his parents home in Glenwood Road, Chellaston, but I rather suspect they went for a drive in my father’s new Ford Consul (XGC 913), recently purchased from Kenning Motors to be shipped back to Southern Rhodesia.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Cromford Bridge Chapel, 26 April 2009
Photo © and courtsey of Nigel Aspdin
The stone building in the background, with its Gothic arched doorway, is the last substantial surviving remnant of the Cromford Bridge Chapel, a scheduled ancient monument and apparently one of only six still such chapels remaining in England, another example being St Mary’s Bridge Chapel in Derby.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Cromford Bridge and Arkwright’s Fishing Lodge, 26 April 2009
Photo © and courtsey of Nigel Aspdin
Although situated immediately adjacent to the 15th Century Cromford Bridge, between the southern end of the bridge and a square fishing lodge – constructed in the late 18th Century by Sir Richard Arkwright – if you aren’t already aware of its existence you’re likely to miss it, as it is neither signposted nor easily visible from the road.

Image © Canon Derek Buckley and courtesy of Picture the Past
Photograph of Cromford Bridge Chapel, undated
by Canon Derek Buckley
The land on which the chapel and the adjacent fishing lodge stand belonged to my grandfather, together with the fishing rights along the adjacent stretch of the River Derwent, and Bow Wood Farm a little further downstream and on the left bank. He inherited the properties from his father Charles Vincent Payne (1868-1941) and donated the freehold of the chapel and land immediately surrounding it to the Derbyshire Archaeological Society in November 1943. The farm, lodge and fishing rights were later auctioned in July 1947.

Image © and courtesy of the Derbyshire Archaeological Society
Survey of Cromford Bridge Chapel after Excavation, October 1951
Mantell & Widdows (1952)
Judging by its first mention in historical documents in 1504, when the vicar of Wirksworth left a bequest in his will for the repair of the roof (Cox, 1877), it was probably built in the late 14th or early 15th Century (Mantell & Widdows, 1952). A watercolour dated 1786 shows the west gable of the chapel still extant, but was converted into cottages, which were then partly demolished by Richard Arkwright in 1796.

Image © Canon Derek Buckley and courtesy of Picture the Past
Photograph of Cromford Bridge Chapel, undated, by Canon Derek Buckley
Excavations carried out in 1951 by the DAS demonstrate, as suggested a century and a half earlier by William Woolley, that the chapel was originally a good deal more substantial, extending some distance towards the east. A large Gothic window in the east wall facing Cromford Meadow, which during the mid-18th century was reported to have contained the quartered coat of arms of Lord Talbot, had presumably been installed some 150 odd years earlier.

Image © Copyright Rob Bradford
Cromford Bridge, 29 April 2005, courtesy of Geograph.co.uk
Image © Copyright Rob Bradford and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Tudor & Currey (1939), writing in support of an enquiry before the Second World War, describe the adjacent bridge and chapel remnants:

Cromford Bridge is a particularly graceful structure, in an equally beautiful situation, of three arches spanning the River Derwent … the chapel by the bridge was not only a bridge chapel with the usual functions in relation to wayfarers, but also a parochial chapelry for this outlying portion of the extensive parish of Wirksworth … An interesting feature … is a lookout aperture in the north wall from which a view of the river is obtained. This detail is unusual in bridge chapels, and seems to indicate a watch over the river-crossing, probably a ford, before the building of the bridge.

Cromford Bridge Chapel before renovation, 1951
By the time the necessary funds had been procured and the renovation work started in ugust 1951, the walls of the bridge chapel were in even more of a “deplorable condition” than they had been in 1939. Trees were growing in the tops of the walls and ivy was disturbing even the foundations, so these were removed and the masonry repaired. At the same time, the DAS took the opportunity to excavate with a view to investiating the early history of the chapel. A complex series of foundations of various ages was unearthed, difficult to interpret, but which include a possible substantial stone abutment to a timber bridge across the Derwent which emay have existed prior to the current one.

Image © Harry Gill and courtesy of Michael Fay
Cromford Bridge Chapel during renovation, 1951-1952
The chapel does not appear to have deteriorated much since the 1905s renovation work, but little further has been done to protect it, and it remains largely unnoticed.


Anon (1947) Sale Notice: Cromford (with vacant possession), 22 July 1947, Lot 1: The Capital Dairy Farm known as Bow Wood Farm, Lot 2: Fishing Rights on River Derwent & Fishing Lodge adjoining Cromford Bridge, Marchant Brooks & Co., Collection of Brett Payne.

Anon (1991) The Derbyshire Village Book: Cromford, Derbyshire Federation of Women’s Institutes & Countryside Books, ISBN 185306 1336, reproduced in part on John Palmer’s Wirksworth web pages.

Anon (2011) Cromford Bridge Chapel, Derbyshire Heritage web site.

Anon (n.d.) Cromford Village, Arkwright Society Local History Trail No. 8, Leaflet.

Bunting, Julie (2009) Cromford Bridge Chapel – Cromford, The Peak Advertiser, 15 June 2009, Reproduced by Rosemary Lockie at Wishful-Thinking.

Cox, John Charles (1877) Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire, Vol II. The Hundreds of the High Peak and Wirksworth, Chesterfield: Palmer & Edmunds, pp. 571-574, Reproduced by The Internet Archive.

Daykin, Yvonne (2011) Cromford Bridge Chapel, Cromford Village in Derbyshire, on the Cromford Village web site.

Fay, Michael (2005) The End of a Long and Winding Road, Reflections, January 2005, Vol. 14, Issue 156, pp. 37-39, reproduced in part on The Andrews Pages.

Mantell, K. & Widdows, B. (1952) Cromford Bridge Chapel, Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 72,
pp. 126-130.

Stroud, Gill (2001) Derbyshire Extensive Urban Survey Archaeological Assessment Report: Cromford, 30p.

Tudor, T.L. & Currey, P.H. (1939) Cromford Bridge and Bridge Chapel, Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 60, pp. 159-163.

Photograph of Charles Leslie Lionel Payne at Cromford Bridge Chapel, 17 August 1959, Loose paper print by Charles Bernard Payne, Collection of Brett Payne.

Photograph of Ethel & Leslie Payne and Ford Consul, Glenwood Road, August 1959, Loose paper print by Charles Bernard Payne, Collection of Brett Payne.

Photographs of Cromford Bridge Chapel by Canon Derek Buckley, Undated, Canon Derek Buckley Collection, Refs. DCHQ005014 & DCHQ005017, Picture the Past by North East Midland Photographic Record.

Photographs of Cromford Bridge Chapel by Nigel Aspdin, 26 April 2009, taken with Canon EOS 350D.

Photograph of Cromford Bridge by Rob Bradford, courtesy of Geograph.co.uk.

Photograph of Cromford Bridge Chapel, c.1951-1952, by Harry Gill, in Fay (2005).

>Derby Photographers: Monsieur Emmanuel Nicolas Charles (1827-1863)

•Monday, May 9, 2011 • 8 Comments

>Image © and Collection of Brett Payne

This photograph of an unidentified elderly man, seated in the studio E.N. Charles at 2 Midland Road, Derby, looking slightly weary, perhaps after a strenous walk to the studio, and with his top hat on the floor beside him, may be one of the first carte de visite portraits taken in that town.  Although undated, I believe it is earlier than any of the three other examples from this photographer that I have seen.  I’ve come to this conclusion partly from the seated pose, which is much closer to that typically used by photographers in the mid- to late 1850s, the era of the collodion positive or ambrotype.  Sadly, the reverse does not display a negative number, such as the No. 774 shown on the back of what I think must be a slightly later portrait from the same studio.

Image © and Collection of Brett Payne

The design on the reverse, printed in gold ink, shows two cherubs holding flags, a seated lion, a phoenix standing atop a laurel wreath, and a book with the following text: “Album Photo. by Mons. Charles Midland Road Derby.”  I believe the use of the term “Album Photo” may be a reflection of the main use of the carte de visite at that time, in other words intended to be placed in a purpose-designed album, side-by-side with portraits of royalty and other celebrities of the day.

The Derby Mercury, 12 November 1862 

A newspaper advertisement from Derby stationers E. Clulow & Sons in November 1862 offers “carte de visite albums, a large stock of new and beautiful patterns just received.”

Emmanuel Nicolas Charles arrived in Derby in 1855 and set up a studio in Station Street with a partner,  possibly chemist James Morris.  Although born in France, he had married a young woman from Leicestershire in 1850, and lived briefly in both Nottingham – where he worked as a journeyman machinist – and Leicester, before settling in Derby.  By late 1856, he was working alone, with premises at 2 Midland Road, as shown by trade directory and census entries from 1857 until 1862.  He died on 29 March 1863, at the young age of 35, leaving his widow Sarah with two young sons.

Sarah Charles reputedly then operated the studio with the help of her husband’s assistant Walter William Winter, but it must have been only briefly, because she married him in the second quarter of 1864.  W.W. Winter took over the photographic studio, and built it up into a successful business which still thrives today.

E.N. Charles could only have been offering carte de visite portraits for a very limited period, perhaps from late 1860 at the earliest until March 1863.  Sarah Charles and W.W.Winter probably continued to use card mounts printed with her late husband’s name until stocks were exhausted, or new designs could be ordered.

In fact, a portrait in the collection of the Derby Local Studies Library taken before November 1865 (shown above) is mounted on a card with Mons. Charles’ name  and a coat of arms on the reverse, but “W.W. Winter, late M. Charles, Photo. Derby” printed on the front.  It seems likely that Winter may have had the remaining stock of cards overprinted not long after taking over the business.  This also provides us with the latest date of commencement of the Winter reign.

Winter continued to use the “late E.N. Charles” on his card mounts until the late 1860s or early 1870s, when a completely new design featuring an engraving of his new studio on the opposite side of Midland Road was introduced.

>Recent additions to the Scarratt postcard archive

•Sunday, May 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

>In the last month or so I’ve added some new images of postcards by the Derbyshire photographer Frank Scarratt to the gallery. Several of these were not listed in Rod Jewell’s excellent Yesterday’s Derby and its Districts, so I thought I’d share these from shortly before and after the Great War, even though they are low resolution images found mainly on eBay. Their appearance in the short time since I started this project demonstrates that there are probably still many more of the “missing” numbers in the catalogue sequence yet to be “discovered.”

799. Wirksworth Road, Duffield
Sepia postcard, F.W. Scarratt, 1913
Frank Scarratt’s bicycle is parked at the kerb and he has managed to capture several residents attending to their daily business, as in so many of his shots from this period.

Wirksworth Road in Duffield hasn’t changed much in the last century, apart from the removal of a couple of large trees. I guess there are far fewer bicycles and prams, and a few more motor vehicles (Click the image for Google Maps’ Street View).

902. Barton-under-Needwood Church
Sepia postcard (narrow white border), F.W. Scarratt, 1914
Three girls happily pose for Frank in this pre-war view of Barton-under-Needwood, in adjacent Staffordshire. Perhaps they were even relatives, as his father was born in Barton and he still had a cousin living there in 1901.

The parish church of St James in Barton-under-Needwood is still surrounded by substantial trees, which makes for a pleasant environment but renders Google’s Street View car a little hampered.

1241. Tank, Normanton Recreation Grounds, Derby
Sepia postcard (narrow white border), F.W. Scarratt, 1925
This must be a rare one, because it fetched a pretty good price. In the Bygones section of the Derby Evening Telegraph, republished here, a staff member of the Derby Museum and Art Gallery asked readers for information about a First World War British Mark IV tank presented to Derby in recognition of the town’s “fund-raising efforts to help pay for the production of Britain’s new secret weapon.” Leslie Simnett of Belper recalled its arrival at the Normanton Recreation Ground on a warm sunny day in 1919 or 1920:

I cannot recollect any ceremony taking place but I do clearly remember an invasion of little and not-so-little boys, all eager to fight mock battles, happy to bang their heads and graze their bare knees on this new-found plaything.

Reg Ward of Sinfin, a former resident of Normanton, had more information about its removal:

I watched the military cutting it up with acetylene welders for scrap metal just before or in the early years of the Second World War. I used to live in the Normanton area and spent a lot of time on the park.

1403. Tennis Courts, Osmaston Park Road, Derby
Sepia postcard (narrow white border), F.W. Scarratt, 1929
I couldn’t locate this scene with any certainty. I’m not even sure whether it was in Derby or at Osmaston Park, but perhaps a Derby resident can help. No doubt the tennis courts are long gone.

1481. Shardlow Road, Derby
Sepia postcard (narrow white border), F.W. Scarratt, 1931
With all the development that has taken place to the south and south-east of Derby in recent years, it will probably be difficult to locate this image, but I suspect it was somewhere near Alvaston.

1730. 5x-multiview, Castle Donington
Sepia postcard (Multiview with palette, narrow white border), F.W. Scarratt, 1936
One of the popular multiviews, this contained five scenes at Castle Donington just across the county border in Leicestershire, several of which were also published as individual postcards (1537 – Hall with Deer; 1809 – Key House).

If you have any Scarratt postcards that you’d like to share, I’d be very happy to add medium to low resolution images to the gallery. (Email)

>Sepia Saturday 73: An early daguerreotype of a Derby couple?

•Friday, May 6, 2011 • 18 Comments

>Image © and courtesy of David Lamb
Three years ago David Lamb sent me these scans of what turned out to be the first, and as yet only, daguerreotype portrait from a Derby photographer that I have seen. It also happens to be one of the nicest early portraits of a couple that I’ve come across. The manner in which the daguerreotypist has seated and captured his subjects not just touching, but with their shoulders overlapping, the subtle tinting with which he has embellished the delicate surface of the copper plate, and despite their direct gaze into the cameras lens, give a warmth and intimacy that you don’t often see in early portraits. To see what I mean, head over to the Library of Congress’s large collection of daguerreotypes: of the 767 displayed online, only about twenty feature couples, including family groups, and I could only find one or two which even approach the feeling of familiarity of David’s family portrait.

Image © and courtesy of David Lamb
That the photographic medium is a thin copper sheet (measuring 65 x 80 mm or 2½” x 3¼” which is a 1/6th-plate) becomes evident when one turns it over, also revealing what are presumably fingerprints, possibly of the person who prepared and processed the photographic plate.

Image © and courtesy of David Lamb
The copper photographic plate is housed behind a brass matte or finisher and a sheet of glass, all within a wooden case which has a patterned embossed leatherette-style finish. The presence of a catch on the right hand side indicates that, in spite of it not appearing to be damaged, only half of the case survives. The cover would have been of similar shape, probably lined internally with silk or velvet, and possibly with a maker’s mark.

Image © and courtesy of David Lamb
The main reason that the images have been laguishing in my email inbox for so long is that I was really in need of some extra clues to help me proceed with its evaluation. My knowledge of clothing styles, particularly in the 1840s and 1850s, when the daguerreotype was at its most popular in the United Kingdom, is meagre. From what I can tell, the narrow lapels on the man’s coat, together with her lace collar, neck brooch and wide sleeves, suggest that it was taken in the 1840s rather than the 1850s, but I can’t be any more precise than that. If any readers can tell me more about the clothing, I’d be most grateful.

Image © and courtesy of David Lamb
There is a mark stamped into the front of the plate, in the top right hand corner: “NP: 40” appears from the list of daguerreotype plate marks on the Historic Camera web site, to refer to a French form operating “c.1840,” but I’ve been able to find out nothing further about the company, how long it was operating, etc. Many of the English daguerreotypists imported their plates from France, so this does not preclude the plate from having been exposed in England. I understand that the number “40” referred to the purity of the plate, i.e. 1 part silver to 40 parts copper.

Image © 2011 Brett Payne
Timeline of Early Derby Photographers 1843-1863
(click image for a more detailed version)
© 2011 Brett Payne
As described in David Simkin’s piece on early Derby photographers on my web site, and shown in the diagrammatic timeline (above), initial attempts by John Johnson and Thomas Roberts to operate daguerreotype studios in Derby between July 1843 and September 1845 were hampered by Richard Beard’s financially restrictive and rigidly enforced patent agreements. No records of any further daguerreotypes taken in Derby have been found, until Marcus Guttenberg paid a brief visit in September 1852.

The expiry of Beard’s country-wide patent in August 1853, and the almost coincident invention of the collodion positive process by Frederick Scott Archer, resulted in an explosion in photographer numbers in Derby from 1854 onwards. From a total of two practitioners at the end of that year, the number had ballooned to nine by the end of the decade, but there is no indication that any of them used the daguerreotype process. From advertisements in newspapers and trade directories of the time, the evidence points rather to calotypes, albumen prints and collodion positives being the media of choice in the 1850s and, after the popularisation of cartes de visite in the early 1860s, a rapid conversion to that format by about 1863.

However, it would be dangerous to assume from this data that Derby residents were unable to have their portraits captured by daguerreotype between late 1845 and mid-1852. As shown by an 1843 advertisement in The Derby Mercury, the successive occupants of the Bromley House portrait studio in nearby Nottingham, which operated almost continuously from late 1841 through the 1840s and 1850s, were not slow to look for potential customers in neighbouring towns. Nottingham was only a short train trip, or coach ride, away.

It’s always important to record and investigate the provenance of a photograph. David wrote:

This photo was in a box that my father shoved at me, to see if I was interested. Since most of the photos were of my mother’s family – and since this couple bears no resemblance to any of the photos of have for my father’s (Scottish) side – it would seem most likely that this couple are connected to my mother. Many of the photos were of the Holmes family, so I suspect this one is too.

Ancestors of Reuben Holmes (1855-1929) & Ellen Alton (1856-1937)
Click image for a readable version
David has written about his Holmes family from Derby on his web page, from which – together with a little research of my own – I was able to extract sufficent details to draw up a chart showing the first two generations of ancestors of Reuben Holmes (1855-1929) and his wife Ellen Alton (1856-1937). I should point out that my deductions differ slightly from David’s, in that I have a different set of maternal grandparents for Reuben.

There are seven different couples who could conceivably be the subjects of the portrait, as follows:

(A) John HOLMES (1826-1895) + Elizabeth HAWORTH (1829-1890)
(B) William ALTON (1826-1897) + Grace SHAW (1816-1897)
(C) Grace SHAW (1816-1897) + George GREAVES (d.1849)
(D) William HOLMES (c1807-1885) + Sarah TWIGG (1803-1856)
(E) James HAWORTH (d. bef 1841) + Mary SLATER (c1788-1841)
(F) Thomas ALTON (1790-1872) + Hannah TIMPERLEY (c1791-1875)
(G) John SHAW (1773-c1850s) + Sarah (c1771-c1850s)

The couple look to me to be in their late 30s or early to mid-40s. If one assumes the broadest possible date for the daguerreotype, i.e. that it was taken some time in the 1840s or 1850s, then the parents of both Reuben and Ellen (A & B) can be ruled out as being too young. Ellen’s mother and her first husband (C) could have visited a studio prior to 1849, but she would have been in her late 20s or early 30s, again too young. Both of Reuben’s maternal grandparents (E) died before the photographic studios were first established. Ellen’s paternal grandparents (F), although still alive till the 1870s, would already have been in their 50s by the time daguerreotypes were available. Her maternal grandparents (G), who died in the 1850s, would have been even older.

The only candidates remaining are Reuben’s paternal grandparents William HOLMES and Sarah TWIGG. Born in 1803, she was slightly older than her husband, and would have been in her early 40s when John Johnson and Thomas Roberts operated Derby’s first photographic studio in Victoria Street. William Holmes was a coachman for much of his life, settling in Derby in the late 1830s. The fact that he is also described as a gardener in some census records suggests to me that he may have worked for a member of the landed gentry, rather than on a coach which ferried paying passengers between towns. It is quite conceivable that his employer paid for this portrait, as even a 1/6th-plate daguerreotype in the 1840s was an expensive item. Thomas Roberts advertises his “small size, two sitters on same plate” with “case, glass and mat inclusive” for £1 6s. in 1844. Using average earnings, the following estimator gives an equivalent value of over £1000 today. Looking at it from slightly different point of view, a coachman might expect to earn between 1 and 2 pounds a week in the 1840s.

However, as I’ve pointed out previously, they could alternatively have visited a studio further afield, perhaps in Nottingham. It is also woth reiterating that David has not completely ruled out the portrait being from another branch of his family, just suggested that it is unlikely. The possibilities are of course endless, the probabilities much less so.

Alan Burnett’s prompt for this week’s Sepia Saturday, for which this article is a submission, features an aged couple holding hands, photographed in Sweden in 1932. I hunted through my own collection for a similar shot that I felt would be appropriate, but the only image I could find was an ambrotype that I presented in a previous article (here). Searching further afield yielded similarly few early images of couples holding hands, which I suppose is understandable considering it was not generally considered an appropriate pose amongst most Victorian photographers. Would Mr and Mrs Samuelsson, of Stigåsa, Småland, Sweden have been bold enough to hold hands (and what enormous hands they are!) when they visited the photographer’s studio at the time of their presumed wedding around 1890-ish, or did old age bring with it a good deal more daring?

Head off to Sepia Saturday now for a browse, and see how many more daring couples you can find.


Coe, Brian (1976) The Birth of Photography: The story of the formative years, 1800-1900, London: Spring Books, 144p, ISBN 0600562964.

Heathcote, Bernard V. & Heathcote, Pauline F. (2001) Pioneers of Photography in Nottinghamshire 1841-1910, Nottinghamshire County Council, 62p, ISBN 0902751387.

Payne, Brett (2008) Thomas Roberts (1804-1885), one of Derby’s first photographers, Photo-Sleuth, 18 May 2008.

Simkin, David (2004) The First Derby Daguerreotypists, 1842-1844, on Derbyshire Photographers & Photographic Studios.

Victorian Society, from Census Helper: Victorian Life.

>Derbyshire Photographers: George S. Bristow of London Road, Derby

•Tuesday, May 3, 2011 • Leave a Comment

>George Smart Bristow (1819-1870) was a portrait painter who moved to Derby in late 1857 or early 1858 with his wife Lois and four young children from Lewes in Sussex, arriving shortly before the birth of their fifth child.

Although he described himself in the 1861 census simply as a portrait painter, it is clear from an advertisement appearing weekly in The Derby Mercury from 4th July until 6th October 1858 that besides “portraits in oil, water colours, and crayon; miniatures painted on ivory,” he also offered “photographic portraits, in light and shade, oil or watercolours.” At the time he would probably have been using either mounted albumen prints or collodion positives, but in the early 1860s no doubt soon added cartes de visites to his repertoire.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
This full length carte de visite portrait of an unidentified young woman in a crinoline dress holding a hat was probably taken some years later in the mid- to late 1860s, judging by the fact that a good proprtion of her ears are revealed by her tightly drawn back hair. The studio furnishings are simple, and the what-not is one that appears in both of the other two examples that I have from Bristow’s studio.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Bristow worked from “portrait rooms” at his home in 5 Regent Terrace, on the east side of London Road, close to the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, and conveniently located on the main route into town from the railway station. Judging by the number of surviving photographs that I’ve come across attributable to Bristow, his business was not particularly successful.

Derby could not have been a happy place for the Bristow family. Although Lois bore another two sons and two daughters there, three children died between 1861 and 1867. On 3 November 1870 George himself died, and a mere six days later Lois too. Although their eldest son George Smart Bristow (junr) was shown working as a photographer at 57 London Road in April 1871, within five months he had died at Peterborough, and his elder sister was gone six months after that. At least two children survived: Angelo Ernest Bristow (1857-1922) was working as a tailor in Derby in 1881, and Lavinia Bristow was an art student in Peterborough in 1891.


1841-1901 UK Census from Ancestry
UK City & County Directories from Ancestry
White, F. & Co. (1857) History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Derby. Transcribed by Neil Wilson.
GRO Index from FreeBMD
IGI from FamilySearch
Historical Directories from the University of Leicester
The Derby Mercury, 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning