Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Frederick Joseph Seaman (1874-1953)

The Chesterfield firm of Seaman & Sons was started by Alfred Seaman (1844-1910) around 1876, and by the early to mid-1880s his sons were joining him in the business. Many members of the Seaman family eventually entered the photographic profession - indeed, there is a descendant still operating in Chesterfield to this day - but it is Alfred's fourth son Frederick Joseph Seaman (1874-1953) who will be the focus of this article.

Image © Anne Williams & courtesy of John Bradley
George Seaman, Albert Seaman, Dennis Seaman
& F.J. "Joe" Seaman (right at back)
Image © Anne Williams & courtesy of John Bradley

This fine portrait from the collection of Joe Seaman's grand-daughter, Anne Williams, shows the four brothers, sons of Alfred by his first wife Elizabeth Dennis (1844-1874), taken in the early 1890s, presumably taken by their father Alfred, shortly after Joe had entered the business. All four of them are shown together in the 1891 Census (see image below), living at 49 Durrant Road, Chesterfield.

Image © The National Archives and courtesy of

During the late 1880s and 1890s, the firm opened new branches in Ilkeston (by 1887), Alfreton (by 1895), Sheffield and Leeds (by 1899), and it seems likely that the sons played a major part in running these branches.

Image © and courtesy of Anne Williams

By 1897, however, F.J. Seaman was working from a new studio - not part of the Seaman & Sons chain - at 2 High Street, Hucknall Torkard, north of Nottingham. The cabinet card portrait of him shown above has the Hucknall premises printed on the mount.

Image © and courtesy of Anne Williams

In the same year (1897) he married Bertha Beatrice Thorpe at Basford, Nottinghamshire. The cabinet photo above, probably taken around 1897-1898, and possibly also by Alfred, since it is mounted on a Seaman & Sons card, shows Joe and Bertha with an older brother and sister-in-law.

Image © The National Archives and courtesy of

At the end of March 1901 (see census image above), they were living at 2 South Street, Rushcliffe, Nottinghamshire with their three month-old baby Mable [sic]. He described himself as a "photographer & picture frame maker" working from home. According to Heathcote & Heathcote the Hucknall studio remained open until 1903.

Image © and courtesy of Malcolm Dabell
Unidentified young woman,
taken c. 1897-1898 by F.J. Seaman of Hucknall Torkard & Heanor
Image © and courtesy of Malcolm Dabell

During some of this period, i.e. 1897 to 1903, he also operated a studio across the county border in nearby Heanor (Derbyshire). The above photograph of an unidentified young woman was sent to me by Malcolm Dabell. It is a standard cabinet card with rounded corners, with an art nouveau design which is typical of the late 1890s and early 1900s. Merely from the style of clothing worn by the subject, I would have suggested that it was taken some time between 1895 and 1898. The enormous "leg of mutton"-style sleeves which are partly visible in the vignetted portraited were characteristic of the mid- to late 1890s. However, as both the Hucknall and Heanor studios are shown, the possible dates can be narrowed down to c. 1897-1898.

Image © and courtesy of Lies Ligthart
Unidentified child,
taken c. 1900-1903 by F.J. Seaman of Hucknall Torkard & Heanor
Image © and courtesy of Lies Ligthart

This cabinet card portrait of an unidentified young child belongs to Lies Ligthart, to whom I am most grateful for permission to reproduce it here. The style of clothing, elaborate wicker chair and potted aspidistra used as studio props, and art nouveau-style design on the card mount all point to a date of the early 1900s for this portrait, say between 1900 and 1903.

Adamson (1997) states that F.J. Seaman had a studio in the Red Lion Square, Heanor in 1905 and 1906. His obituary stated that, "after six years at Hucknall he moved to Hull, where he started a business and within a short period had branch establishments at York, Beverley and Scarborough." Other sources state that he was operating a studio at Davygate, York between 1909 and 1912. "In 1907 he went to Blackpool, where he carried on a photographer's business for 17 years, and for a short period before he came back to Chesterfield in 1926 he was in business at Doncaster ... The business he established at Scarborough was taken over by his brother, the late Mr. Alfred Seaman, and subsequently by Mr. A. Seaman's son.." The Exhibition Study Group web site lists postcards dated c. 1908 which suggest that he was then operating primarily from Hull and York, but had branches in Beverley, Darlington, Blackpool, Scarborough and Bridlington.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This vignetted postcard portrait of a young girl, identified on the reverse only as "Rita," is from my own collection. It was taken at the Doncaster branch studio, as evidenced by the studio name blind-stamped in the lower right-hand corner. It was possibly taken shortly after the Great War or in the early 1920s. Certainly he was in Doncaster by 1922.

Image © and courtesy of Anne Williams
F.J. Seaman with his wife Hilda, daughter Evie and the twins, Austin & Stanley
Taken on 25 August 1935 to mark the twins' 21st birthday
Blind stamped, "F.J. Seaman & Sons"
Image © and courtesy of Anne Williams

Upon returning to Chesterfield in 1926, he took over the premises in Irongate, "and carried on business there up to his retirement in 1950, when his son, Mr. Stanley Seaman, took over the business."

Image © and courtesy of Anne Williams

Frederick Joseph Seaman died at St. Margaret's Hotel, Torquay on 26 March 1953, at the age of 79.

Many thanks to F.J. Seaman's grand-daughter Anne Williams for several images of the Seaman family and a wealth of information. I am grateful also to John Bradley for images and a continuing interest in my projects, and to Malcolm Dabell and Lies Ligthart for images of photographs in their collections.


Adamson, Keith I.P. (1997) Professional Photographers in Derbyshire 1843-1914, Supplement No. 118 to The PhotoHistorian, September 1997, ISSN 0957-0209.
Heathcote B. & Heathcote, P. (n.d.) Pioneers of Photography in Nottinghamshire, Nottinghamshire County Council, ISBN 0 902751 38 7.
Death of Mr F J Seaman, Unidentified newspaper cutting, dated 2 April 1953, courtesy of Anne Williams.
Index to GRO Birth, Marriage & Death Indexes from FreeBMD
International Genealogical Index (IGI) from the LDS Church's FamilySearch database
Indexed 1841-1901 UK Census Images from Ancestry
Emails from Anne Williams & John Bradley


  1. Awesome - thanks for this. My grandmother's portrait was taken at the Blackpool studio. See here:

  2. Very interesting..I am the grandaughter of Jack Seaman who ran Seaman's Studio in Scarborough later taken over by my father Laurence.My maiden name is Seaman


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