Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Mary Ann Parker née Lunn (1852-1885) of Midway, Derbyshire

This is one of the earliest positively identified portraits in the family collection, courtesy once again of my aunt Barbara Ellison.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison

It is a standard carte de visite with square corners and a simple square blue line frame around the photograph, which is a full length portrait of a woman seated on a chair, holding a sleeping baby. There is no photographer's name or mark on the card mount. The setting is also very simple with a plain, light coloured canvas backdrop resting directly on the bare ground, evidenced by what appear to be small stones in the foreground. There is no carpet or other floor covering, and the chair is obscured by the sitter. It may be because the portrait has been taken outdoors, in bright sunlight, that it is perhaps a little over-exposed, and the woman's clothing is not easy to make out. From what can be seen, however, and the card design, I estimate that it was probably taken by a travelling photographer in the late 1860s or early 1870s.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison

The woman, who looks to be in her twenties, or early thirties at the latest, is facing the photographer full on, and holds the baby in what appears to be a rather awkward position, slightly away from her body. She doesn't have a very happy or comfortable expression on her face. The baby is amply clothed, with a shawl which has a triple-line edge design; its head is lolling forwards, and one can just see a tiny hand poking out of the clothes, firmly grasping the mother's thumb.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison

The reverse of the card mount has two inscriptions, as shown in the enlarged image above (click on the image for a full version showing its position on the card). The upper one is handwritten in pencil or black pen, "My dear Mother." The lower one, in blue ink, capitals, and in a different hand, states, "AUNT SARAH'S MOTHER."

I recognise the latter handwriting as that of my aunt - her "Aunt Sarah" was more exactly her great-aunt (and in turn my great-great-aunt) Sarah Emma Payne née Parker (1870-1946). Many of the photographs in my aunt's collection were inherited by her father from his uncle, and Sarah's husband, Charles Hallam Payne (1870-1960) when he died in 1960, and no doubt this was among them. Even though Sarah was not a direct ancestor of mine, I have researched her family in some detail, since the relationships were rather complicated. Uncle Hallam, as he was known, had married his second cousin - in fact, Sarah was a cousin twice over, as both his father Henry Payne (1842-1907) and his mother Henrietta Christina Benfield (1843-1914) were cousins of Sarah's mother Mary Ann Parker née Lunn (1852-1885), as shown in the simplified chart below.

Image created with SmartDraw 2009

Mary Ann Lunn was born at Midway, near Swadlincote, on 24 January 1852, the seventh child of a labourer William Lunn (1814-1887) and his wife Dorothy née Benfield (1814-1895). Her father William had worked as an agricultural labourer and a waggoner, but by 1861 was a colliery labourer. Mary Ann was only seventeen when she married a coal miner, William Parker (1850-1923) from nearby Newhall, on Christmas Day 1869 at Swadlincote.

Image © National Archives & courtesy of

She was obviously pregnant, as a daughter Sarah Emma Parker was born less than six months later on 7 June 1870. The 1871 Census, enumerated on 2 April, shows James, Mary Ann and Sarah Emma (aged 9 months) living next door to her parents, William & Dorothy Lunn, at Midway. They had a second daughter, also named Mary Ann Parker, who was born on 12 August 1871 and baptised at Swadlincote a few weeks later on 1 October. Sadly, she lived only six months and was buried at Swadlincote on 15 February 1872.

Image © National Archives & courtesy of

A son William Parker was born on 21 October 1877 at Newhall, but by census night on 3 April 1881 they were back living in Midway. Mary Ann Parker died four years later, and was buried at Newhall on 10 July 1885.

If the portrait was taken in the early 1870s, as I have estimated, then the baby must be either Sarah Emma or her sister Mary Ann, who died in infancy. However, Aunt Sarah wrote on the back, "My dear Mother," not "My dear Mother and sister," so I believe the baby is mostly likely to be Sarah herself.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara EllisonImage © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison

This carte de visite shows Sarah Emma Parker when she was aged about nineteen or twenty. It was taken at the studio of George Renwick of Burton-upon-Trent, probably in 1889 or 1890, and has a negative number 10084. A portrait by this photographer with a similar card mount and a negative number 12510, dated 1892, is included in my portfolio of this photographer.

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