Friday, 2 May 2008

Jane Wyatt Barnes (1817-1887) of Collycroft, Edlaston

Nigel Aspdin sent me the following image of a photograph and asked me when I thought it had been taken, because he wasn't able to marry up his estimate of the date of the portrait with what he knew about the subject, his ancestor Jane Wyatt Barnes.

It is a 107.5 x 153.5 mm (4¼" x 6") print - possibly a silver gelatin print - mounted on plain thin white card (approx. 126 x 179 mm) with an irregular bevelled and silvered edge, which itself is mounted on more thin white card (approx. 203 x 280 mm) with a slightly irregular finish, and a plain irregular edge, and then mounted into a buff coloured folder (approx. 208 x 286 mm) with a similar rough edge, and with a thinner paper "protector" page. The folder has an oval art noveau-style design (166 x 176 mm) showing a long-haired young woman holding a flower embossed into the front cover. The name of the studio, "R. + R. Bull," has been pencilled into the lower right hand margin of the topmost card mount.

This style of photographic mount first came into use, in its simplest form, in the early 1900s along with the art nouveau movement. At this time a profusion of new formats offered more exciting alternatives to the cabinet card, at the upper end of the market, and the carte de visite, at the lower end. The photographs mounted in folders remained in vogue for many years, becoming more elaborate after the end of the Great War and during the 1920s. I hope to feature other examples of photographic folders from my collection on Photo-Sleuth soon. However, I estimate that this particular example was probably produced in the late 1910s or early 1920s.

The portrait itself, however, is not at all typical of that era. My first impression was that it was from the 1850s or 1860s, but that was largely a guess. After looking at a large range of designs in Victorian Fashions & Costumes from Harper's Bazaar : 1867-1898, by Stella Blum (publ. 1974, Dover Publications, Inc., ISBN 0 486 22990 4), I am a little more knowledgeable, but no nearer an exact date. Bonnets in this broad style appear to have remained in fashion throughout the 1860s and 1870s, particularly when worn by women of more mature years. The lace shawl was an accessory less commonly used by younger women, but was equally long-lived. It may be of relevance that lace running was one of Ashbourne's principal trades in early Victorian times, although by the 1860s, numbers of lace workers had fallen dramatically. [Source: A Portrait Of Ashbourne in the Mid 19th Century, by the Ashbourne Local History Group, edited by Adrian Henstock, 1978]

Click image for reverse of cabinet card

Once I had told Nigel that the photograph was obviously a copy of a photograph taken much earlier, perhaps in the 1860s or 1870s, he had a more detailed look through his collection of family photographs, and found a cabinet card of what appears to be the same, or at least very similar, portrait. The card mount indicates that it was by Robert Bull of Ashbourne, Robert being the uncle of another Robert Bull who joined the business around 1904.

The design of the card mount, produced by Fallowfield of London, is very similar to one used by Derby photographer W.W. Winter (see Type XV) between 1883 and 1886. Roger Vaughan's article, "Dating Victorian Photograph Card Printers c.1864 - 1895," has the firm of Fallowfield operating from c.1884 until 1888. I believe, therefore, that the earlier Bull portrait was almost certainly produced in the early to mid-1880s.

A detailed examination of the earlier portrait suggests that it may also be a copy. It is theoretically possible that both prints were produced from the same original negative. However, Robert Bull probably only started working as a photographer around 1876, and then only as a sideline to the newsagent's business, so reproduction from an original negative appears unlikely. I suspect that both prints were copied from an original portrait taken in the 1860s or early 1870s, and that the later copy was subjected to some retouching. It is even conceivable that the portrait was taken as early as the late 1850s, when the subject was about forty - if this is the case, then the original would have been an ambrotype.

It is perhaps worth noting that the subject's hair completely covers her ears - after about 1867, ears began to be more noticeable in portraits!

It may help to give some background to the subject's life. Jane Wyatt Harlow was born on 30 October 1817, a daughter of Ashbourne brass founder and clockmaker Robert Harlow (1779-1828) and his wife Amelia née Wyatt (1783-1853). She married Thomas Barnes (1810-1858), an ironmonger and grocer, at St Oswald's, Ashbourne on 11 Jan 1842. With him she had two sons and five daughters, before her husband died in 1858, at the relatively young age of 58. She continued to run the grocery and ironmonger's businesses until she was about 60. She lived at Collycroft Farm, near Edlaston, from the mid-1860s, died there at the age of 69, and was buried at St. Oswald's, Ashbourne on 4 January 1887 [Source: Ashbourne St Oswald Burials, by Mike Spencer].

Other References:
IGI, FreeBMD, 1841-1901 Census from, Derbyshire Wills database 1525-1928 by Mike Spencer


  1. I was interested in this photograph thought to be of Jane Wyatt. We have the original of this painting and believe it to be of Amelia Wyatt herself rather than her daughter. Robert Harlow was my ancestor but the painting came into my possession only a few years ago from another branch of the family. Tim Harlow

  2. I am very interested in your comment. I would like to be in touch with you "off blog". As you know I have the images, the ones I shared with Brett Payne, and a lot more related images from my Ashbourne ancestors. I am still in the area, I live in Derby, surely you Googled Aspdin and found me !!Here is my email, please contact me so we can discuss matters of mutual interest. Nigel Aspdin

  3. Tim - I was very interested in reading your comment, as I had some considerable doubts about the nature of the original from which these copies were made. Is there any possibility of seeing a photograph of the original, please? Feel free to email me through the address provided in my profile (link above).

    Regards and best wishes, Brett


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