Monday, 16 June 2008

Photographer R.B. Berry of Mosesgate

Kathryn Nauta kindly sent me a whole series of fourteen family portraits taken at the studio of R.B. Berry, of Mosesgate, featured in a recent Photo-Sleuth article. I have decided to post a selection of them, because they may assist others in dating other portraits by this studio.

Richard Brown Berry (1845-1897) was born at Chorley, Lancashire, son of a cotton spinner Luke Berry and his wife Margaret Brown. He married Mary Ann Ball in 1867, and settled in Chorley. They were living at 17 Chapel Street in 1871 with their two sons, and he was described as an "artist & photographer." When their third son was born, in late 1874, they were living in Bolton, but moved again by late 1876, when a fourth and last son was born in Liverpool. The 1881 Census shows yet another move, this time to Farnworth, where they were living at 41 Bridgman Street. It seems likely that the studio near the railway station at Mosesgate was opened around this time.

By the time of the next census in 1891, they were living at numbers 11 & 13 Bolton Road, Farnsworth, which appears to be the location of the studio. The oldest son, Luke Berry, was a "teacher of music," but second son Herbert Berry, then aged twenty, was working as a photographer. Richard Berry died in 1897, and Luke and Herbert continued to operate the studio, at least until 1901.

Image © & courtesy of Kathryn Nauta

Kathryn's sequence of family portraits illustrate much of the Berry studio's time in Mosesgate. The earliest of these is a carte de visite of a young man on a card mount left over from the stay in Blackpool, but it is very unlikely to have been taken there. I suspect that it was taken some time between 1878 and 1883, soon after the move to Farnsworth.

Image © & courtesy of Kathryn Nauta Image © & courtesy of Kathryn Nauta

These two cabinet cards are probably from the early to mid-1880s, say between 1880 and 1884, by which time R.B. Perry was obviously working from premises at Mosesgate. They show a head-and-shoulders portrait of a middle-aged woman (above left) and a three-quarter length seated portrait of a bearded young man (above right), perhaps in his mid-twenties, possibly mother and son.

Image © & courtesy of Kathryn Nauta Image © & courtesy of Kathryn Nauta

This carte de visite of a young boy (above left) and cabinet card of an elderly man (above right), possibly his grandfather, were probably taken between 1884 and 1888.

Image © & courtesy of Kathryn Nauta Image © & courtesy of Kathryn Nauta

These two images are from a series of five cartes de visite of two boys, two girls and a baby of unknown sex, aged between one and nine years old, probably siblings. I estimate that they were taken between 1887 and 1890.

Image © & courtesy of Kathryn Nauta Image © & courtesy of Kathryn Nauta

A further two cabinet cards, probably taken shortly after the previous sequence, say between 1888 and 1891, show the whole family excluding the oldest son (above left) and the young mother (above right), who appears to be in her late twenties or early thirties.

Although, from a comparison of the clothes that she is wearing and her hair style, it can be deduced that these two portraits were taken on the same day, it is worthy of note that the card mounts are slightly different. Both have the studio name printed in gold ink at the base of the front of the card mount, but one states, "R.B. Berry & Co., Mosesgate," while the other has been amended to read, "R.B. Berry & Sons, Mosesgate." It seems that the family visited the studio at a time soon after Richard Berry had brought his sons into the business.

Image © & courtesy of Kathryn Nauta

The last cabinet card shows a young child, possibly a girl (although it's often difficult to tell with photos of very young children) aged about three or four. It was probably taken in the early to mid-1890s, between 1891 and 1894, and is possibly of the youngest child featured in the family group photo above. The mount also has the name, "R.B. Berry & Sons."

Many thanks to Kathryn for these images.

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