Wednesday, 20 May 2009

A Scottish family in Staffordshire

Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What's That Picture
Robert William Melbourne, September 1896
Cabinet card portrait by George Renwick of Burton-on-Trent, Negative #16601
Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What's That Picture

James Morley recently sent me scans of a group of cabinet cards by Burton-on-Trent photographers George Renwick and Richard Keene Junior which he purchased at an auction. Quite apart from my interest in Burton studios, this group includes some fine identified and dated portraits, which enabled me to do some background research on the subjects. The first four in the series were clearly taken at the same sitting - the negative numbers appear to have been 16599-16602, although one of them is not legible.

Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What's That Picture
Negative #16602

The birth of Robert William Melbourne was registered in the September quarter of 1892 at the Burton register office. He was born in Burton-on-Trent, the only child of Charles James Melbourne (1858-1935) and Elizabeth Janet Smith (1860-1925), who were married in 1891. At the time of these portraits he would have been about four years old, plus or minus a couple of months. It's even possible that the visit to the photographer was a celebration of his fourth birthday.

Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What's That Picture
Negative #16599

Robert's father was a commercial clerk who, by the time of the 1901 Census, had become manager of a brewery. I have been unable to discover which of the nineteen Burton breweries mentioned by Kelly's 1900 trade directory for which he worked. The largest, controlled by the firm of Bass, Ratcliff & Gretton, covered an area of 160 acres, but there were many smaller ones, and the area had become famous for the quality of its ales.

Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What's That Picture
Negative # not legible

Robert William Melbourne continued to live in Burton until at least 1940 - I found an entry for him in a directory of that date at 128 Station street - but I'm not sure whether he married and/or had children.

Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What's That Picture
Possibly Charles James Melbourne, c.1895-1900
Undated cabinet card portrait by Richard Keene Junior of Burton-on-Trent
Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What's That Picture

Charles James Melbourne was born in 1858, also at Burton, one of three children of brewer's clerk Charles James Melbourne (1826-1878) and his wife Helen Beck. Charles James senior was, in turn, born in Belper, youngest son of a nail manufacturer William Melbourne (c1783-1846) and his first wife Phebe Williams (c1786-1828). He was therefore a brother to Ann Melbourne, the wife of photographer George White (c1810-1880) of Chesterfield and Blackpool.

Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What's That Picture
Probably Robert W. Melbourne and his mother Elizabeth Janet née Smith, c.1893-4
Undated cabinet card portrait by George Renwick of Burton-on-Trent, Negative #14693
Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What's That Picture

Robert William's mother Elizabeth Janet Smith was born at Tutbury in 1860, one of eight children of an engine smith James Smith and his wife Janet Mackie, both of Scottish origin. Although they lived first in Tutbury and later in Hatton, William Smith worked as a brewer's engineer, presumably in Burton. He had emigrated from Renfrewshire, Scotland to Staffordshire around 1852.

Although the Melbourne family had lived in Belper for several generations, the other three of Robert's grandparents were born in Scotland. This strong Scottish heritage obviously influenced his parents' choice of the "Bonnie Prince Charlie" style of clothing worn for the two portraits by George Renwick.

Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What's That PictureImage © and courtesy of James Morley & What's That Picture
Card mount designs from George Renwick's Burton-on-Trent artisitic & photographic studio, c.1876-c.1916

George Renwick (1849-1919) operated a studio in the Staffordshire town of Burton-on-Trent from around 1876 until at least 1916. Initially, he appears to have operated form his parents' home at 105 Station Street, but by 1880 he had moved into premises at 20 Station Street and remained there until 1905. Between 1905 and 1912 he moved to Bank Square.

Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What's That Picture

One of the cabinet cards has a rather crumpled tissue protector depicting a rural scene with pond, tree and windmill. These tissue protectors, although very commonly used at the time, have often not survived. Many, like this one, were generic although some had the photographer's name printed on them.

Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What's That Picture

Another of the photographs in James' collection was enclosed in a translucent envelope with the studio's name and address printed in brown ink, as shown above. In my experience, even less of thes envelopes appear to have survived.

Many thanks to James Morley for the opportunity to feature this collection of portraits.

4 comments:

  1. Brett, the pleasure is all mine, and I'm very impressed by and grateful for your extensive sleuthing on these photographs.

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  2. I've placed a link to this on my Scottish Genealogy News and Events blog to see if anybody else might be related to the family shown. They are great images - I have an image of my infant Scottish grandfather photographed about 1907 in Belgium in a very similar outfit!

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  3. Thanks Chris, much obliged. It would be interesting to see how these Scottish outfits changed over time. Regards and best wishes, Brett

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  4. http://www.1911census.co.uk/search/results2.aspx?x=882826652

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