Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Child with a doll, by Laurence Studios

This mounted print is a recent addition to my collection, purchased not merely for the charming subject matter, but also because it is from Laurence Studios, which had a branch in Derby, but is not yet included in my list of Derbyshire Photographers.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The print measures 5¼" x 6¾" (134 x 171 mm) and is mounted on thick buff-coloured card with bevelled edges. It shows an unidentified young child, aged about two years old, standing on a chair and holding a doll. I don't have much experience in dating portraits from this era, but I estimate it was taken between the wars, in the 1920s or 1930s.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

On the reverse of the mount is provided the name of the photographer (Laurence Studios), as well as the addresses of the Head Office and works (158-164 Mount Road, Leicester) and fourteen branches in Leicester, Leeds, Bradford, Liverpool, Bristol, Burslem, Nottingham, Kettering, Norwich, Birmingham, Derby and Coventry.


Roger Vaughan, in his list of Bristol Photographers 1852-1972, shows the firm at 25 Bridge Street in Bristol from 1926 until 1939, with additional premises at 126 Gloucester Road in 1937 and 1938, and has a nice example (also shown above) of a postcard view of a young female university graduate from the 1930s. Another web site by Paul Townsend, devoted to the changing face of Bristol over the years, shows the position of the premises occupied by Laurence Studios in Bridge Street before they were destroyed during the blitz.

The company Laurence (Portraits) Ltd. (registration number 219950) was registered in 1927 [Source: entry in The National Archives Catalogue]. A 1930 listing for Laurence (Portraits) Ltd at 158 Mount road, Leicester has been found in the British Phone Directories on Ancestry.

Brian David Williams, in his transcribed diaries "All the days of my life," includes a photograph of his father, taken by Laurence Studios in 1927, presumably taken at one of the two Birmingham studios.

Post Script

By kind courtesy of Michael Pritchard, who sent me details from Gillian Jones's Lancashire Professional Photographers 1840-1940, and Sandy Barrie, who sent details from a collection of trade directory entries, I now have a much better idea of dates of operation of some of these branches, as follows:

203 Corporation St., Birmingham: 1928-35
483 Coventry Road, Small Heath, Birmingham: 1928-35
25 Bridge Street, Bristol: 1926-1938
121 Friargate, Derby: 1928
Piccadilly Buildings, Kettering: 1928-1932
Granby Studio, 118 Granby Street, Leicester: 1932
(Head Office and Works) 158-164 Mount Road, Leicester: 1928
103 Byrom Street, Liverpool: 1927-1932
4 Redwell Street, Norwich: 1929
Exchange Walk, Nottingham: 1928

Sandy also provided the information that there was a branch in Wolverhampton in 1932. Since, this branch is not listed on the reverse of the mount, he estimated the date of the photograph to be between 1929 and 1931.

Thank you, also, to Birte Koch of Album 1900 for suggesting an approximate date and pointing out that the furniture and backdrop in my portrait of the child appear identical to those in Roger Vaughan's portrait of the scholar. She adds:
This was not an expensive doll. It looks somewhat unshaped. The legs were probably done in felt, stuffed with wood shavings.

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