Thursday, 30 October 2008

Moorhay Farm, Old Brampton & J.H. Gaunt of Chesterfield

Bill Addy recently sent me an interesting photograph of a farmyard scene, with some questions about the date it might have been taken, and who the photographer might have been.

Image © and courtesy of Bill Addy

The photo, as we have been told, is of Moorhay Farm near Old Brampton showing my paternal great-grandfather and great-grandmother, Edward and Emma (Hardwick) Addy. They leased the farm from the Sitwell family and were the last of the Addys to farm there. Edward died in 1882 and Emma in 1885, both at Moorhay Farm. Both sons, John & Edward (my grandfather), as I understood it, were considered too young to continue farming there ... My grandfather emigrated a few years later to Canada & USA. The photo then must be in or prior to 1882.

Image © and courtesy of Bill Addy

I am attaching the matted photo and reverse side (the writing I believe to be my father's notation).

Image © and courtesy of Bill Addy

Also as the name JH Gaunt, Chesterfield is almost invisible on the photo I did a rubbing of the name and have also added that to the attachments. I have an interest in the photo but also in the Gaunt name as that was my grandmother Addy's maiden name (Mary Louisa Gaunt). But the only JH Gaunt is a John Henry Gaunt born 1857-8 , a 1st cousin of my grandmother. I can not find him in any directory I have. He was listed in the census as a musician, organist and owned a music store, and was married to Mennette Ball.

My original thinking was that this was a photographer, but having looked around, including your list of Derbyshire photographers, now am of the opinion he probably was in the picture framing business. Might you have any knowledge of this JH Gaunt. Was he the photographer or simply a framer? Also can you give me an approximate date for the photo?
I tried to digitally enhance the blindstamp from the original scanned image, but couldn't get a much better result than Bill's pencil rubbing. However, it's enough to show that it must have been a professionally produced embossing stamp.

Image © and courtesy of Bill Addy

My take is that it would be very unusual for a person merely mounting the photograph on the card to have "signed" their name using a blind stamp on the front of the card mount in this manner. If anything, the framer or picture mounter would use a label on the reverse. However, it was very common for photographers to use this method, particularly if they had a small output, were just starting out, or perhaps took photographs as a sideline. It meant that the photographer could put his mark on a photo in a fairly professional manner, without going to the significant expense and committment of ordering several hundred mounts printed with his or her name.

The photograph itself is a rather difficult one to date. The working clothes worn by the elderly man and woman would have changed little over the decades, and I suppose it is conveivable that from this alone, it could have been taken any time from the 1880s through to the early 1900s. The mount looks to me somewhat later, and I wonder if J.H. Gaunt has mounted an old print at a later date, or perhaps copied the print and mounted it later. If you had not mentioned anything about the date, I would probably have estimated that it was taken in the 1890s or early 1900s.

Then there is the matter of exposure times - the fact that most of the chickens, ducks and perhaps the odd goose are fairly sharp makes me think that a relatively short exposure time was used. This would have been possible by around 1880, provided that there was plenty of sunlight, such as in this outdoor setting. However, I think it's unlikely to have been much earlier. According to Brian Coe's The Birth of Photography (Spring Books, London, 1989, IBSN 0 600 56296 4), the invention of dry-plate photography by Charles Bennett in London in 1878, and the resulting swift introduction of "faster" emulsions, meant that much shorter exposure times were achievable - up to a tenth of what had been the norm.

John Henry Gaunt was born c. 1858 at Brampton, the only son of Henry Gaunt (1830-1908) and Esther Doe (1830-1878), and as a young man he followed his father into the butcher's trade. Both are listed as butchers in the 1881 Census and in the 1887 edition of Kelly's trade directory. By 1891, however, JHG was describing himself as a teacher of music, living at 64/66 Chatsworth Road, New Brampton. He was married in 1892 to Mennette Ellen Ball, and by 1895 (Kelly) he was a "teacher of music & musical instrument dealer" at 77 Chatsworth road, Chesterfield. The 1899 edition of Kelly's shows him as a "musical instrument dealer" of West bars, Chesterfield, and the 1901 census as a "Musical Inst. Dealer & Teacher of Music" working from home on his own account at 2 Clarence Rd, Chesterfield. Kelly (1912) shows him again as a "musical instrument dlr." at 39 West bars, Chesterfield. I found not a single reference to him working as a photographer.

Extract from Letter by Mr S.E. Hudson of Matlock Road, Chesterfield in an unidentified newspaper article, dated ...uary 18, 1975 (courtesy of Bill Addy)
Mr J.H. Gaunt was for many years organist at the Soresby Street Congregational Church, until the early '30s. He had a musical instruments shop at the foot of Clarence Road, and was a teacher of music. He was a very gallant man inasmuch as being virtually crippled by arthritis he could only get about with great difficulty, nut none-the-less pursued his organist position ... The shop that Mr. Gaunt had was subsequently used by the late Dr. Reginald Cooper, the organist, as a music teaching studio, and at the present time is the antiques shop belonging to Mr. John Madin.
I suspect that he was either an amateur who had an embossing stamp made with which to "sign" his work, or more likely that he tried his hand at commercial photography, perhaps starting off by canvassing his extended family for potential clients. This excursion or sideline from his main profession as a music teacher and musical instrument dealer would not have been particularly unusual.

However, I am not at all certain about the date of the photograph, and would welcome opinions from readers, please.


  1. It’s a hard photo to date but my guess would be 1900-1915. But don’t ask me why I think that. Did you notice the tiny round window in the ivy? (unless it is a sundial?)

    There are 3 photos of the area near Moorhay farm at

    The Google Earth image is at coordinates 53.247161, -1.535425

    The one thing that struck me about the photo was the particularly fine stone roof. Although this is typical in the area on old buildings, this grading of the stones is beautifully done on this roof. Then I noticed that all the field walls were also made of this sandstone that splits easily along a horizontal plane, the pieces are almost uniformly thin. Given that stones for walling would always have been sourced from the immediate vicinity, it suggests that a source of stone suitable for roofing was nearby, and it was equally suitable for walling, if not preferable, if the price and transport was good.

    It turns out that Moorhay Farm sits on a valued source of this stone and in 2004 there was a planning application by Moorhay Stone and Slate Quarry Limited for extraction, on a small scale, of sandstone for roofing slates and flagstones (paving and walling).


    This resource is needed for restoration work in Derbyshire, although the cost of it would be prohibitive now on all but the most sensitive or extravagant new build.

  2. I can't think why I wouldn't have commented on this at the time but, rather belatedly, thanks for your input to this photograph Nigel.

    I will keep this in mind for a "then and now" photograph some time in the future.

    Regards, Brett


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