Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Thomas Gallimore, maltster & brewer of Ashbourne

This photo, sent to me by Jo Bevan, was among a small collection of photographs possibly acquired in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, and including several early CDVs by photographers (George Edgar, Robert Bull & Louis Twells) in that town.

The carte de visite mount is clearly marked, "Copied by Winter Derby" and is similar to others by W.W. Winter taken and/or copied at the Midland Road studio in the late 1870s and early 1880s. However, the man's clothing, his pose, and the portrait style suggest that the photograph was originally taken much earlier, perhaps in the early to mid-1860s.

The inscription on the sack clearly stands for "Gallimore, Ashbourne." Thomas Gallimore (1820-1874) was a maltster, brewer and publican, proprietor of the Old Red Lion Inn in the Market Place, Ashbourne. At the time of the 1861 Census, George Edgar was lodging next door to Gallimore at the Red Lion. In fact, he was the only photographer working in Ashbourne at this time, and it seems likely that he was the original photographer who took this portrait. It also seems highly probably that the subject is Thomas Gallimore himself, holding a sack of barley (or perhaps hops), used in the brewing and malting process.

This photo is a good example where the studio name is a red herring with respect to finding out where it was taken. In this case, it is fortunate that a knowledge of the provenance of the photo, in conjunction with a detailed examination of the subject and "studio accessories," reveal enough clues to discover not only the original location, but also to provide a likely identity for the subject.

It is also a nice illustration of how accessories were often used by portrait artists, as they often styled themselves, to convey an image, in this case of an industrious, down-to-earth middle-aged man, proud of the business that he had built up over some twenty years. If it was indeed taken in the early 1860s, then it would have been quite a novelty for someone of moderate means in this small Derbyshire market town. Although photography had already been existence for over two decades, the high price of daguerreotypes and ambrotypes had largely limited their availability to the more wealthy clientele. Only with the widespread introduction of the carte de visite in 1860 had it become affordable to a wider proportion of the population.

Early pictures of working folk, or at least ordinary people in their working clothes, were fairly uncommon. There were some photographers who took a special interest in documenting the lives or workers, but these generally tended to be of domestic staff, mine and factory workers and other employees. Portraits or self-employed people in their working clothes were rather unusual in the 1860s, so this image is particular interesting from that point of view.

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