Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Robert Sands - Military Portrait Painter to the Tower of London

This interesting carte de visite of a man wearing a tam-o-shanter was taken by "Sands," who claimed at the time to have been appointed "Military Portrait Painter to the Tower of London."

Image © & collection of Brett PayneImage © & collection of Brett Payne

The subject is not identified, and not much can be seen of his clothes apart from the tam-o-shanter. However, the style of the portrait, the design on the reverse of the card mount, the thin card used, and its square corners, all point to a date of around 1869-1874.

Robert Sands was born at Atherstone, near Coventry in Warwickshire, around 1812-1814. Nothing is known of his early life, until the birth of his first child, a daughter Sarah Ellen, by Elizabeth Lyne at Soho Square, London on 11 January 1845. A son Edward was born to them at St Martin's Lane just over a year later, and both children were baptised at St Martin in the Fields, Westminster on 5 April 1846. Robert was shown living at 276 Kent Road, Newington, Surrey at the time of the 1851 Census, with a "wife" Eliza, twelve years younger than him, but the two children were not with them. He described himself as a comb-maker and agent. However, it appears that he only married Elizabeth (or Eliza) Lyne at the Old Church, St Pancras, London on 14 January 1855. (Elizabeth was born at Bath, Somerset, son of John & Mary Lyne, or Lines, and baptised there on 19 January 1823.)

The reverse of the carte de visite shown above claims that the firm had been operating since 1851. David Webb's photoLondon database shows Robert Sands to have started working at 3 Postern Row in 1854, and nearby at 79 Minories in 1856. It seems likely that they moved from Kent Road, Newington, Surrey, where another son William was born in late 1852, to Postern Row, Tower Hill, London, prior to or soon after their marriage in early 1855. A fourth child Sophia was born in late 1856 or early 1857 - her birth was registered in Hackney. A report in The Morning Chronicle (London, England, 16 May 1857) refers to "a photographic artist in Postern-row, Tower-hill," which is probably Sands.

By April 1861 the whole family, including all four children, were living at Postern Row, and Robert Sands was shown as a "Dealer in Photographic Goods employing 4 Men in Photography." Their eldest child, Sarah Ellen, died a few months later, and towards the end of the year Robert was declared bankrupt, spending some time in Whitecross Street Prison before the bankruptcy was discharged. The newspaper reports and the London Gazette describe him as "of No. 3 Postern-row, Tower-hill, and of the Minories, photographic artist and dealer in pictures and curiosities." (Daily News, 9 November 1861; The Morning Chronicle, 29 January 1862; London Gazette No. 22563, 8 November 1861, p. 38; London Gazette No. 22576, 13 Dec 1861, p. 43) The photoLondon database states that Robert was succeeded from 1860 to 1862, at both 3 Postern Row and 79 Minories, by an artist named Emil Folk (1830-1887), but it is possible that Folk was merely employed by Sands.

Robert and Elizabeth had a third son, Robert Edward, born at Postern Row in late 1862 or early 1863. It seems likely that their older sons took over the photographic business in the mid- to late 1860s. The photoLondon database has first Edward (1866-1868) and then Edward & William Sands (1868-1869) working as photographers from 3 Postern Row. This was suceeded by the Co-Operative Photographic Society, managed by Edward Sands, from 1870 until 1873. The 1871 Census shows Edward & daughter Sophia both working from home as photographic artists, and their father Robert is shown as a commission agent. Edward Sands registered a photograph of the George Tavern, Trinity Square (at the end of Postern Street), City of London, in December 1869.

Sophia Sands married a tailor from Germany, Fredrick Kopieski, the following year. They had four children before Sophia died in 1882, at the age of 28.

From 1874 until 1882, the photographic business was operated at 3 Postern Rown under the name, Robert Sands & Son. The photoLondon database has this son as Robert Edward, but he would have been too young for at least some of this period, so it is likely that one his older brothers William and Edward were working with Robert Sands senior. Robert Sands died in late 1882, at the age of 69, and the business was presumably taken over by William and Robert Edward, who continued from 1883 until 1885. William Sands died in 1900 (Whitechapel Registration District), aged 48, and Robert Edward Sands died at Poplar in 1903, aged 42.

The photoLondon database suggests that Edward Sands, who was also a portrait painter, was living in Melbourne, Australia from 1882 until 1900. However, I've been unable to find any independent confirmation of this.

A continental school group?

I like old photos of school groups, and have accumulated a few in my small collection, in addition to those which include members of my own family. One of the former group is not in wonderful condition and not particularly remarkable, but intrigues me as I purchased it on eBay from a UK seller, but I believe it may not have originated there.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne

The photograph (151 x 103.5 mm) is mounted on a cabinet card measuring 164.5 x 108.5 mm. There is unfortunately no photographer's imprint, either on the front or the reverse, although the design on the reverse is not one that I have come across before on English card mounts.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne

The dresses worn by the two women teachers (from her apparent age, the one on the right is probably a pupil teacher) are not very clear, but they appear to be simple, everyday versions of fashions common in the 1880s.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne Image © & collection of Brett Payne

In addition, the tiles on the roof and the shape of the door appear, at least to me, to be more akin to styles found on the continent.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne

I wonder if any other readers can come up with some ideas or clues as to where this school was? Please email me if you have any information which you think might help, or similar photographs.

P.S. Nigel Aspdin has come across fancy tile work like this in Derby, and sent me a recent photograph of the estate school at Kedleston Hall which shows a very similar style.

Image © & courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

He also thinks the doors could be those of a stable, and suggests that perhaps it was an estate school.

I've had an opportunity to examine the school photograph in some more detail. There are 17 boys and 17 girls, apparently ranging in age from about 5 (the youngest looking girl at the extreme left of the front row) to about 11 (such as the girl immediately to the left of the student teacher, and the tallest boys standing in the back row.) Most of the girls have white pinafores, except one at the right who has perhaps forgotten it is photo day - she has a striped pinny. Immediately behind her, a naughty boy has moved resulting in his features being blurred. To his left, at the end of the row, another boy is getting bored and is trying, unsuccessfully, to stifle a yawn. A boy in the middle row, second from the left hand end, has had enough, and is making some smart-aleck comment to the friend on his right, who is trying hard not to laugh.

The pupil teacher on the right looks very young, perhaps only 16 or 17, and probably hasn't been in the job very long - she appears rather nervous. The older woman teacher's eyes appear half-closed. She may have been distracted by the antics of her naughtier charges, and blinked. However, it may also be that the light caught her blue eyes at just the wrong angle. The wet collodion proess used at that time had a higher sensitivity to blue light, and people with blue eyes often appear to have glazed eyes or vacant stares, a curiosity akin to the red-eye caused by the flash in modern photography.

The fact that it has no photographer's imprint may or may not be relevant. Many Victorian school photos had no photographer's name. They were often taken by itinerant artists, who may have been a little less skilled. Most were taken outside, where there was good light, and lengthy exposure times would not be required. I find that they are therefore often more spontaneous in comparison to formal studio portraits, and much more character can be seen in the subjects.

RAF Volunteer Reserve at Derby, 1939

This large mounted print of a group of mostly young men in uniform was also a recent eBay find, and was purchased from the same person as the postcard described in a previous blog post, Derby School O.T.C., July 1938. Unfortunately, the vendor was unable to provide any information on the subjects or the provenance of the photograph.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne

The photograph measures 372 x 140 mm with a 3 mm margin, and is mounted on 2mm thick, plain white card with a brown reverse, measuring 451 x 230 mm. The print is annotated, probably on the original negative, "W.W. WINTER. PHOTO. DERBY." Written in pencil on the reverse is, "Derby School OTC 1935ish." However, I am not confident that the writing is contemporary with the photograph, and as will be explained in more detail below, have decided that the identification is very dubious.

Due to the size of the photograph, it has been scanned in sections. Clicking on the photo above will show a more detailed version which has the scanned areas marked out, from 1 to 8. I should point that the groups are purely arbitrary, created for scanning convenience only. lick on the images below for detailed individual scans as well.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne
Image 1 - Central seated group of six officers and NCOs

Five of these men have winged badges above their left breast pockets, suggesting that they are in the Air Force. The three in the centre with peaked caps also have medal strips. The two men on the outside of the group have three stripes on each upper sleeve.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne
Image 2 - Extreme left group of 30 men & one woman

Of the 31 people in this group, twenty are in uniform. Most of those appear to have a winged badge on their left and right upper sleeves, and several also have one, two or three stripes. In addition, there are nine young men, two older men, and a young woman, all dressed in civilian clothes.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne
Image 3 - Upper left group of 43 men

All except two of these men are in uniform; a couple appear to have stripes and wings on their sleeves, but most do not.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne
Image 4 - Lower left group of 31 men

All of these are in uniform; those seated on the chairs, in the middle row, all have wings and stripes, as do some of those seated on the ground and standing. A couple of those in the front row, suh as those on the extreme left and extreme right, look particularly young, perhaps between 16 and 18.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne
Image 5 - Upper central group of 47 men

A mixed group of men, all in uniform, showing quite a range in height, although most appear to be in their early to mid-20s.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne
Image 6 - Upper right group of 41 men

A similar group to that in the previous group, although four of them are in civvies.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne
Image 7 - Lower central group of 33 men

A similar group to that shown in Image 4, it includes mostly men with rank in the middle row, and one or two younger men seated on the ground.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne
Image 8 - Extreme right group of 19 men

The last group includes 17 uniformed young men, and two older men in civilian clothes.

Fellow sleuther Nigel Aspdin and I have discussed this photograph at some considerable length over a period of several weeks and, after a couple of dead ends, Nigel made a breakthrough yesterday.

As the photo appeared to include mostly airmen and, since it had the W.W. Winter mark, was obviously taken within 25 miles or so of Derby, it occurred to us that the group might have something to do with the Rolls-Royce aero engine factory. A quick google search turned up several records of RAF men who were sent to Rolls Royce for training purposes. For example, "... proceeded to Rolls-Royce School Derby for Merlin Engine Course," and "... has gone to Rolls-Royce, Derby, for a two-weeks course on the handling of Griffon engines."

"There cannot be many places that housed so many airmen near Derby ... They all look like ground crew, it looks like a school photo. Look at any operational aircrew photo, formal or not - it was in front of a Nissen hut with a plane in the background ... I am going down town shortly, I will call in at the Industrial Museum, they have loads of Rolls-Royce exhibits.."

Nigel did indeed visit the Museum of Industry & History in Derby, originally at the Free Library, but now relocated to the Old Silk Mill. "I was faced with the huge static aero engine displays I remember as a child ... I had a chat with the man on the desk, then wandered in, it all looked unpromising that there would be anything about Rolls-Royce training RAF personnel. At the far end was a display about a Sergeant Pilot Alan Feary. I went to read it ... and suddenly I saw your photo!! The caption ... 'RAF VR Derby 1939.' The display had been put together by a Barry Marsden and a David Drake-Feary of Derbyshire Historical Aviation Society [some 25 years ago.] It was not exactly clear how the photo related to Sgt Pilot Alan Feary, but by implication Feary came through the Derby RAF VR ... and was in 609 Squadron when killed."

So now we know that the group is from the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, and the picture was taken some time in 1939. Presumably a botanical fundi could tell us what time of year it was from the state of the vegetation. It may also be possible to find out where it was taken. If you have any further information or ideas about the photograph, or can identify any of the 250 odd people in it, please email me.

Many thanks to Nigel for going the extra mile, literally, on this one.

See later post for update.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Hardy's 'Starbright' in Bottle, for Family Trade

This postcard photograph is from my aunt's collection, although there is a copy, of rather inferior quality, in my father's collection. It shows several people outside a shop in St. James' Road, Normanton, Derby, and I had always been told by my father that this was the Payne family grocery and off-licence, built by my great-great-grandfather Henry Payne (1842-1907) and remaining in family ownership until the 1950s.

Image © & courtesy of Barbara Ellison

According to notes made by my father in 1959, from a discussion he had with Henry Payne's second son Charles Hallam Payne (1870-1960) the year before the latter died, Henry "came up to Normanton (where shop is in St James Rd) [from Grange Street, Litchurch] and curate wanted house building. Henry built this house but curate didn't come so he turned it into a shop and eventually got licence and ran the place."

Henry Payne is shown in electoral registers (extracts from the Derby Local Studies Library, by kind courtesy of Paul Slater) living in Grange Street and Alexandra Street, Litchurch until 1875. By 20 Jun 1876, when his eldest son Charles Vincent Payne (1868-1941) was enrolled at St Andrew's Middle Class School (St Andrew’s Middle Class School Admission Register, Derbyshire County Records Office, Matlock, Courtesy of Nigel Aspdin), their address was shown as St James' Road. Then on Thursday 27 September 1877, Henry was granted "an out-door beer license to premises in St. James'-road, New Normanton." (in The Derby Mercury, dated 3 October 1877, courtesy of a trial subscription to Gale Digital Collections Library). He presumably he built the premises around 1875.

Image © & courtesy of Gale Digital Collections
Report in The Derby Mercury, dated 3 October 1877

Henry Payne left Derby with his family, by then including his wife Henrietta, sons Charles Vincent, Charles Hallam and Frank, and daughter Lucy Mary, in late 1877 and spent a few months living at Ash House, Turnditch, where it is possible that he built a new "infants classroom" at the National School. In August 1878, they returned to St James' Road, and the two older boys were re-enrolled at St Andrews Middle Class School, Litchurch. Henry had the off-license transferred back to his name on 8 October 1878 (in The Derby Mercury, dated 9 October 1878).

After a brief stint near Bladensburg in Maryland (United States), where he tried his hand at farming (described in a previous blog posting Coming to America and in a more lengthy article here), Henry and family were again living in the shop, at what was now referred to as number 38 St James' Road, by mid-November 1880. The census taken on 3 April the following year described Henry merely as a "grocer."

Image © & courtesy of Gale Digital Collections
1881 Census record for 38 St James' Road, Normanton, Derby, Derbyshire
PRO Ref. RG11/3388/10/11/46 Image © & courtesy of Gale Digital Collections

The 1881/1882 Ordnance Survey map of Derby (scan of a photocopy in my father's collection, originally from the Derby Local Studies Library) shows only a few houses on St James' Road, but includes number 38, situated on the south-west corner of St. James' Road and Hastings Street.

Image © Derby Local Studies Library & courtesy of Bud Payne
1881/1882 Ordnance Survey Map of St James' Road, Normanton
Image © Derby Local Studies Library & courtesy of Bud Payne

On 30 June 1885 Henry submitted a Building Notice and Plan (No. 81) to the Derby Borough Council (acting as the Urban Sanitary Authority) notifying them of his intention to build "one living room attaching premises No. 38 St. James' Rd" for himself. Then on 19 July 1887 he inserted an advertisement in The Derby Mercury to the effect that he intended to apply for a license to sell "beer, wine, spirits, liqueurs (to be drunk on the premises) at a House and Shop situate at 38, St James'-road," at the next General Annual Licensing Meeting to be held on 1 September.

Image © & courtesy of Gale Digital Collections
Advertisement in The Derby Mercury, dated 17 August 1887

The Annual Derby Borough Licensing (or Brewster) Sessions were, in due course, held on Thursday 1st September, and a report in The Derby Mercury dated 7th September described Henry's application, supported by a Mr. Briggs. It seems likely that this was William Briggs, a solicitor living at Evington House on the Stenson road (a later reference in The Derby Mercury in relation to a separate matter referes to Henry's solicitors, Messrs. Briggs, Clifford & Pinder). However, the application for a license encountered considerable opposition from several gentleman who lived or owned land in the neighbourhood, local vicars and churchwardens, and the St James' School Board, and it was refused. Henry tried again for a full license in August 1891, but it was similarly declined.

Image © & courtesy of Gale Digital Collections
1891 Census record for 38 St James' Road, Normanton, Derby, Derbyshire
PRO Ref. RG12/2739/99/18/106 Image © & courtesy of Gale Digital Collections

In late 1893 or early 1894, presumably due to the large number of houses that had been constructed there in the previous couple of decades, the whole of St James' Road was completely re-numbered. This resulted in the Payne residence at number 38 (named by Henry prior to January 1891 as "The Hollies") becoming number 83, a confusing, but concidental, reverseal of digits. In June 1894, soon after their return from Chicago, Henry's eldest son Charles Vincent Payne, his wife Amy Payne (1867-1932) and infant son Charles Leslie Lionel Payne (1892-1975) - my grandfather - moved into the house and shop on the corner of St James' Road and Hastings Street. Henry and his wife Henrietta (1843-1914) moved to a new, and larger house, which he had built in late 1893 at the western end of St James' Road, number 139, also named "The Hollies."

"Elevation next St James' Road," 139 St James' Road, Normanton, Derby, Derbyshire, from Building Notice & Plan No. 205, submitted by Henry Payne to the Borough of Derby on 10 July 1893, according to the Public Health Act, 1875.
© the Derby Local Studies Library & courtesy of Angela Hercliffe

Charles Vincent, or Charlie as he was known to his family and friends, only lasted two years in the beer-selling business (Kelly's 1895 Trade Directory shows him as a "builder and beer retailer"), before deciding that his younger brother was better suited to the trade than he was. On 11 February 1896, the license was transferred to Charles Hallam Payne (The Derby Mercury, dated 12 February 1896), and Charlie moved across the road to the house at 17 Hastings Street, previously occupied by Hallam, from where he worked as an estate agent.

Image © & courtesy of Gale Digital Collections
1901 Census record for 38 St James' Road, Normanton, Derby, Derbyshire
PRO Ref. RG13/3223/116/6/36 Image © & courtesy of Gale Digital Collections

"Uncle Hallam" and his wife Sarah (1870-1946) were to remain at number 83 for almost two decades, as indicated by electoral registers, trade directory entries and census records. A 1901 Ordnance Survey map of St James' Road shows it completely built up.

Image © Derby Local Studies Library & courtesy of Bud Payne
1901 Ordnance Survey Map of St James' Road, Normanton
Image © Derby Local Studies Library & courtesy of Bud Payne

In December 1903 Hallam made an application to build "1 New W.C." at the back of the house, as shown in the two attached plans.

Image © Derby Local Studies Library & courtesy of Angela Hercliffe
Plan showing location of "1 New W.C." built by Hallam Payne at 83 St James' Road after 9 Dec 1903

Image © Derby Local Studies Library & courtesy of Angela Hercliffe
"1 New W.C." built by Hallam Payne at 83 St James' Road after 9 Dec 1903
Images © Derby Local Studies Library & courtesy of Angela Hercliffe

It is possible that this outhouse still exists, as there appears to be a small building in the exact location in the current garden of number 83. The "stable" building marked on the full version of the plan shown above can also be seen.

View Larger Map

Although the photograph included at the head of this article is undated, the age of my grandfather Leslie Payne appears to be about 16, suggesting a date of around 1908. My father wrote the following a few years ago:
[Uncle Hallam] seems to have run the off-licence until some time in 1914 - I have a beer order postcard of that year bearing his name.

Click image to see front of card

Dad worked for him as a delivery boy after leaving school and before going to Canada in 1912 ... During World War I, Hallam’s youngest brother Fred took over the business: his initial appears on a circular advertising customers that he was ‘delivering Hardy’s Famous Starbright Ales (in Bottle) again’, citing a provision of the Defence of the Realm Act which required payment before delivery, instead of ‘the Carter receiving payment on delivery, as before.’ Use of a capital for Carter makes me think that about 1914 the business employed an outsider to deliver the goods, although a few years earlier CHP had his own horse and dray. An undated photo shows this equipage standing outside the shop, driver aloft holding the reins, Uncle and Auntie standing in the open doorway, Auntie in a long apron ...

... as are the woman assistant (member of the family?) on her right and my Father on her left, with his hand on what looks like a 3-wheeled forerunner of today’s supermarket trolley (a skip?).

Dad looks to be about 16 or so, not much taller than his uncle, I put the date at c. 1908. He never told me how long he worked for CHP, but he believed that his big hands developed as a result of carrying quart bottles by the neck, so he must have been there a few years. ‘Sprout picker’s hands’ they used to call them in the Vale of Evesham. But CHP also had big hands - from handling jack planes in Chicago? Uncle was already bald, and Auntie’s paunch was becoming prominent when the picture was taken, but their sleeves were rolled up and they must have worked hard to retire at such an early age - he was about 44. Great Uncle Fred and his family: wife Rachel, sons Clarence and Harry, daughter Christine, carried on the family business until it was sold in 1956.
Image © & courtesy of Diana Burl
83 St James' Road in 1987, Image © & courtesy of Diana Burl

The premises were still used as a corner shop when my sister photographed them for my father in 1987, albeit they then sold curry powder as well as Kimberley ales. The firm named Hardy, of Kimberley in Nottinghamshire, amalgamated with Hansons Limited in 1930. Hardy & Hanson's Starbright was still being brewed as late as February 2006, and according to Wikipedia the Kimberley Brewery, then the last independent one in Nottinghamshire, was sold to the Greene King brewery in 2006.

Paul Slater in January 2000, and Nigel Aspdin in April 2008, have very kindly sent me photographs of the shop at number 83, illustrating the gradual and rather sad deterioration of the shop over the last two decades. Although the house is obviously still lived in and looked after, the shop hasn't been operated as such for many years.

Image © & courtesy of Paul Slater
83 St James' Road in January 2000, Image © & courtesy of Paul Slater

Image © & courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
83 St James' Road in April 2008, Image © & courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

Monday, 14 April 2008

Henry & Henrietta Payne of New Normanton, Derby

This cabinet portrait by Frederick J. Boyes of the Electric & Daylight Studio, 22 & 24 Osmaston Road, Derby is the only one known to survive of my great-great-grandparents Henry Payne (1842-1907) and his wife Henrietta Christina née Benfield (1843-1914) taken together, although there are some of them separately. I'd like to use some images of the portrait to show what can be done with some very simple digital manipulation to restore old photographs, and even enhance the originals. As I'm not in any way an expert in this matter, I don't intend it to be any sort of guide or detailed "how to," merely an illustration of the success that I've had with bringing old photos back to life. My own efforts have been achieved using Adobe Photoshop software, but I'm sure there are plenty of other options out there.

Image © & colection of Brett PayneImage © & colection of Brett PayneImage © & colection of Brett Payne

There are actually three known copies of this portrait, one in my own collection (at left), and two in that of my aunt (centre and right). The mount of my copy is rather dirtier and the photographic print itself a little more faded and spotted than the other two, but is the one that I've used for the first part of this article, as I've been able to more faithfully represent the original state on my computer screen, which is a 1024 x 768 True Color Acer TravelMate 250 notebook screen. I've also resized the scan so that it is as close as possible to the size of the original - the card mount measures 106.5 x 166.5 mm - again on my screen. I should point out that it may not appear quite the same on other screens.

Image © & colection of Brett Payne
Version 1 - Raw Scan

The first image (above) shows a raw scan of the photograph with no adjustment of the scanner settings. This leaves the image with a rather washed out appearance, in comparison with the original, and it is not too difficult a task to remedy this with some adjustments in Photoshop using the Levels, Curves and Color Balance tools.

Image © & colection of Brett Payne
Version 2 - Approximate Current State

The second image gives a relatively faithful impression of what my copy of the photograph looks like now. It will be seen that not only has the mount become rather grubby and has slightly bumped corners, while the photographic print has suffered some degradation over time in the form of spotting, but the photo also has some fingerprint marks, some dark smudges or dirt marks of unknown origin, rubbing at the edges, and numerous fine scratches on the surface.

Image © & colection of Brett Payne
Version 3 - Enhanced image

The third image has been slightly enhanced, and is perhaps a little closer to what it originally looked like, apart from the spotting and scratches. In spite of all these blemishes, it is still a very fine portrait, showing Henry and Henrietta dressed in their finest. Henry was by that time a builder and vaccination officer for the Borough of Derby - not bad for someone who was in the workhouse from the age of eight to fifteen. Both of my aunt's copies have the negative number 12948, which my copy lacks, and one of them has the pencilled inscription "Helen About Apr. 1898," which is probably more or less contemporary with the photograph. Helen Payne (1883-1993) was Henry and Henrietta's youngest daughter, who died unmarried, and was probably the author of the inscription.

Image © & colection of Brett Payne
Version 4 - Colorised image

It is also possible to digitally enhance images in a manner which simulates some of the "colouring" methods used by photographers' artists in Victorian and Edwardian photo studios. Andre Hallam has very kindly done an excellent job of colourising the photograph of Henry and Henrietta, for which I am very grateful. He has also cleaned up the image very nicely, so the scratches and spots are gone! I am very impressed with the textures of the fabrics - the colours bring them out very well indeeed. Andre tells me that he is "still learning," but might be prepared to do some of this work on contract in the near future. Please contact him directly if you are interested.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Looking for clues in a Derby building destroyed by fire

A good eye for detail and local knowledge are often vital to the unearthing of clues which will reveal the story behind a photograph. On the face of it this image offers few clues as to its location and the circumstances surrounding the catastrophe which it evidently records.

Image © & courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

The photograph is a 4" x 3" (99 x 74.5 mm) print mounted in an album which belonged to Nigel Aspdin's relative, and keen amateur photographer, Charles Sydney Smith (1890-1918) of 8 Highfield Road, Derby. There is no caption to the photo, and little in the way of context, although many of the photographs in this album appear to have been assembled around 1914-1915.

The photograph is of a severely fire-damaged building, or series of adjacent buildings, with some piles of timber in the foreground, some sort of gantry in the right middle ground, and a large warehouse, perhaps three or four stories high, in the background. But where was the building, when was it burnt down, and was there some sort of connection with Charlie Smith? Charlie Smith lived in Derby, but this could theoretically be anywhere. However, Nigel spotted that the top of the warehouse, which looked very familiar to him, appeared to have a long sign on the top of the roof.

Image © & courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

Enlargement of a digital image didn't help a great deal with deciphering the writing (see below), but with the aid of a jeweller's loupe and some local knowledge, Nigel was able to make out, "GREAT NORTHERN RAILWAY GOODS WHARF." The building is just around the corner from where Charlie Smith was a regular visitor to the Slater family at 19 Vernon Street, the house where Nigel now lives, so he is very familiar with its shape. The photo shown below of the original Great Northern Railway Goods Wharf building, now a derelict Grade II listed awaiting renovation and development of the site, was taken by Nigel from approximately the same position, in what is now a temporary car park.

Image © & courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

The location is shown in this satellite image from GoogleMaps.

View Larger Map

Nigel then found an entry in Hobson's Derby & District Directory for 1910-1911 which appeared to fit with the original photograph.

Image © & courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

He also managed to locate the buildings on a contemporary Ordnance Survey Map (1913).

Image © & courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

A search at the Derby Local Studies Library of material relating to Stafford Street and the firm of Smart & Elsom uncovered an interesting article in Derby Ram (Vol. 5, No. 11, p.8, Feb. 1997) entitled, "History on your Doorstep: Stafford Street" which included the following report from the Derby Daily Telegraph:


... the two partners in the firm Mr. A.H. Smart and Mr. W.W. Elsom, returned to the office in the evening, and with their cashier Mr. Morgan, were busy with their books when, at exactly a quarter to eight, a postman who was delivering letters told them their yard was on fire. On looking through the window the awful fact was at once manifest, for flames were already shooting high into the air. The mischief must have originated some time previously; in fact, many of the public declare that the fire was visible at half-past seven and the only explanation of the Fire Brigade not being sent for earlier is that people thought they had already been communicated with. Mr Smart and Mr Elson, on learning the news, rushed into the yard to see what could be done, Mr Morgan instantly telephoning the fire office. The brigade arrived with commendable promptitude and were soon at work, their efforts were however terribly handicapped by the encroachment of the vast crowd of sightseers. People swarmed into the yard from every direction, and it was more than the police could do to keep them back ... The extent of the damage is difficult to gauge, but the firm themselves estimate at roughly £8,000.
Nigel found the following very sad explanation of the fire in a subsequent issue of the Derby Telegraph (9 April 1906):


A tragic solution is furnished to the mysterious and disastrous fire which occurred on Friday night as the timber yard of Messrs. Smart and Elsom, Staffordshire, Derby. Two lads of tender years were the cause of the mischief, and one of them has paid the penalty with his life. It will be remembered that neither of the partners could offer our representative the slightest suggestion as to the origin of the outbreak; both were in the office, some 30 or 40 yards dostant at the time it was discovered, and both agreed that it was a mystery that completely baffled them. "We would rather not say what we think," said Mr. Elsom, and from this our representative could only deduce that although the firm did not desire to say so publicly without the best of reasons, they were inclined to suspect some of their own workpeople of carelessness. On this account it must be a source of deep satisfaction to the heads of the firm to learn the truth, painful though it be.

On the evening of the fire a Mrs. Dickenson, of 28, Talbot-street, Derby, reported to the police that her child, Reginald Dickenson, aged six, was missing and the first impression very naturally was that he had been in the crowd watching the fire, and was ignorant of the time. On Saturday morning there was still no news, and the mother's alarm increased. Meanwhile, workmen were engaged at the scene of fire removing some of the debris, and on Saturday afternoon they came across some charred remains in the smaller of the two mills that had been gutted, and in which, by the way, the fire is known to have started. The discovery was made by an employee of the firm named Arthur Walker of 56, Shaw-street, and although the remains were quite unrecognisable, they were submitted to the police surgeon (Dr. G.D. Moon). The latter thought that they were the remains of a human being, but would not say positively until after a closer investigation. A professor of anatomy, who happened to be spending the week-end in Derby, also inspected the remains, and he and Dr. Moon came definitely to the conclusion that they were those of a child from five to eight years of age. All that were left were the pelvis, part of the spinal column, and a portion of the left shoulder.

This shocking discovery, coupled with the fact that a small boy whose home was in the locality was missing, caused the p[olice to institute a closer and more minute search. Supt. Riley, the senior officer of the fire brigade then on duty, Police-constable Loydell, and the man Walker carried out this gruesome task, and after very carefully removing the rubbish, they picked up the buckle of a child's brace, the heel of a child's boot (which was studded with some special kind of boot protectors), several buttons, and a small portion of shirt material. There was no clothing visible, but it is a remarkable fact that this patch of shirt material should have survived the terrific heat to which it was subjected, and it was fortunate, too, that the pattern ahould still be easily distinguishable. It was this and the small requisites of attire already mentioned that enabled Mrs. Dickenson to identify the remains as those of her missing son.

Certain information which had come to the knowledge of the police led them to pay a visit on Sunday afternoon to House 2, Court 6, Kensington-street, which is also in the same locality, where a lad named George ..., aged nine, resides with his father who is a labourer. The lad made a statement, which the police took down in writing. He said that he and Dickenson, after tea on Friday, went out together, and about seven o'clock proceeded up Great Northern-road and climbed over the foot of the bridge there, thus gaining access to the premises of Messrs. Smart and Elson. All the workmen had left the timber yard, and they climbed up a ladder, in this way reaching the interior of the smaller of the two principal saw mills. They collected some shavings and chips of wood together on the floor, and he ... struck a match and set them on fire. They at once blazed up and both he and Dickenson became terribly frightened, his little companion beginning to cry. The soke became very dense, and they tried to climb their way out. He ... ran to the other end, and climbed up a ladder, and gaining an aperture, jumped out onto a stack of coal. He had burned his hand and the side of his face, but made his way home at once, telling his mother he had met with the injuries by setting fire to a piece of paper in the Cattle Market. This story she had no reason then to disbelieve. The little boy Dickenson had been left alone in the burning mill, and without doubt he must have run as far as the window and then fallen down, suffocated by the fast-rising clouds of smoke. There he lay till the flames consumed him, practically reducing his body to a cinder.

The boy ..., in the course of his statement, also said that a fortnight or three weeks previously he and little Dickenson got into Messrs. Smart & Elsom's wood yard and made a bonfire of some wood but the fire died out. Of this fact the firm have some corroboration, for the following morning they found traces of the fire, and being unable in any way to elucidate the mystery, they caused a printed notice to be posted about the premises threatening to prosecute any persons who were caught trespassing.

We are informed by the police that it is not proposed to take any proceedings against the lad ..., on account of his yout. "If such a course had been contemplated," Superintendent Clamp informed our representative, "we should not have taken his statement in the way we did, and we should have cautioned him as to the consequences of his answers to our questions." The remains of ...'s luckless companion, which were first of all carried to Dr. Moon's surgery, were subsequently removed to the public mortuary, and await the Coroner's inquisition.
Many thanks to Nigel for providing this interesting example.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Remains of a Celtic Cross in Matlock

William Potter was mid-Victorian Derbyshire's equivalent of a postcard publisher, postcards having been introduced in the dying years of the 19th Century and only popularised in the early 1900s. Based in Matlock Bath from the mid-1870s until his death in 1909, Potter was probably the most prolific Derbyshire-based producer of cartes de visite with scenic views of Derbyshire. Most of his work has the following simple design on the reverse, often (although not in this particular case) with a pencilled inscription relating to the subject of the photograph.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne

However, he had initially started off in a completely different trade; census records and trade directories list him as an apprentice marble worker and a "manufacturer of spar, marble and malachite ornaments." The latter was clearly aimed at the burgeoning tourist trade, and it may have been the contact with visitors to the area that persuaded him to become a photographer in the late 1860s or early 1870s. The 1871 Census shows him working as a photographic printer - presumably as an employee - in Trentham, Staffordshire. He returned to Matlock soon after, and by 1881 was described as a "draper's traveller & photographer." I'm not aware of any portraits by Potter, and I believe it likely that he confined himself to landscapes. Nor does he appear to have produced any stereoviews, which also became very popular in the late 1800s.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne
Remains of Saxon cross and Gravestone in All Saints churchyard, Bakewell
Photographed by William Potter, probably in the mid-1870s

The example of Potter's work that I have decided to reproduce here, although still aimed at the tourist market, is more of an archaeological curiosity than a memento of the picturesque landscape. I picked it up on eBay recently, not knowing anything about the subject, but thought it would make a nice addition to the other images by William Potter in my online portfolio. The photo was obviously taken in a churchyard. The tall stone decorated with spiral patterns looked to me like the remains of a Celtic/Saxon cross, but my initial investigations picked up no sign of any such relic in Matlock churchyards. I then turned to the gravestone:

Image © & collection of Brett Payne
Memory of
Mary Ann
Daughter of and Maria Leedham:
..ho died Jan: 30 1853 [or 1855?]
Aged 59 years.

A search of the 1851 Census, using's indexed images, quickly turned up the following household:

1851 Census: Matlock St, Bakewell DBY PRO Ref. HO107/2149/51/14/50:
Mary Ann LEEDHAM Head U F 54 Confectioner DBY Bakewell
Maria LEEDHAM Sis U F 52 Confectioner DBY Bakewell
Elizabeth ROBINSON Sis U F 45 DBY Bakewell
Sarah PLEASANT Serv U F 15 House Servant DBY Beeley
Leedham KIRK Cousin M 13 LAN Manchester
James KIRK Cousin M 11 LAN Manchester

Using Bakewell as the location, I very quickly found other mentions of the "cross", evidently of Saxon origins, including some great pictures by Pete Howard on Rosemary Lockie's Wishful Thinking Derbyshire Index, linked to from her meticulously maintained GENUKI pages for Bakewell.

© 2005 Pete Howard & courtesy of Rosemary Lockie's Wishful Thinking
Saxon Cross, All Saints, Bakewell
Photo © 2005 Pete Howard & courtesy of Rosemary Lockie's Wishful Thinking

Although there is some dispute about where the Saxon cross - one of several at the church - came from exactly, when it was relocated to the All Saints churchyard, there is a nice legend that accompanies it, and may have helped in selling William Potter's cdvs. The Peak Experience web site relates that the Saxon cross dates from the 8th Century A.D. and once stood at the crossroads one mile to the south of Hassop. In 1501 Arthur, Prince of Wales, son of King Henry VII was visiting Sir Henry Vernon at Haddon Hall:
Beneath the Saxon cross now in All Saints churchyard, he saw a woman in white who predicted an early marriage and early death for him. When the Prince returned to Haddon he heard that his Spanish bride-to-be was in England and he was to be married immediately. Four months later he became ill and breathed his dying words: ‘O, the vision of the cross at Haddon!’
Mary Ann Leedham was born in 1796, one of seven children of James Leedham (d. 1830) and Maria Bestall (d. 1840) of Bakewell. She and her two unmarried sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, were confectioners in Bakewell in 1841. By 1851, Elizabeth had married, leaving Mary Ann and Maria to run the business. The GRO Death Index (presented online by FreeBMD) confirms that Mary Ann died in 1855. Stuart Hill very kindly confirmed (via the DerbysGen Mailing List) that she was buried at All Saints four days later, on 3 February 1855.
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