Saturday, 16 April 2011

Sepia Saturday 70: A boy and his toy

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This boy's parents may have scrimped a little on Christmas presents by putting off buying him a new suit, but they spared nothing in acceding to his demands for the latest in locomotory accessories. I exaggerate a little, of course, since most of the several hundred Google images of "antique horse tricycles" are full-bodied models, close cousins to the fancy rocking horse featured in a previous Photo-Sleuth article, and far more elaborate than this pared down version. Judging by the number of horse tricycles that seem to have survived, they were not that uncommon. Sadly, the identity of the proud young lad, caught in the moment before he escapes down the driveway to show it off to his friends, is unknown.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The photographer's name, on the other hand, is clearly displayed on both the front and reverse of the card mount. By the time he took this photograph, perhaps in the mid- to late 1880s, Frederick William Broadhead (c1846-1925) was a well established Leicester photographer, although the bulk of his commissions were conventional studio-based portraits, rather than outdoors shots. This example was clearly taken outdoors, but whether outside the studio premises or in the boy's own garden is unknown. It is perhaps a useful reminder that we should always examine the background to such outdoors photographs in our family collections for clues as to their location.

Image © and courtesy of Christies
"View of Castle Cornet St Peters Port Guernsey Taken from the Hights" by F.D. Broadhead, oil on panel, c.1870
Image © and courtesy of Christies

Broadhead's father Frederick Dodson Broadhead (c1812-1878) was a portrait and landscape artist, and the son also occasionally advertised as an artist. Although he was born in Kennington in London, Frederick William's family moved frequently, so that by the time he started work aged 14 as a lithographer in Litchurch, Derby, they had already lived in London, Bath and Nottingham, where his father presumably found commissions.

The Broadhead family moved again in the late 1860s to Leicester. Frederick junior was working as a photographer by November 1869, when he announced his removal to "more convenient premises [at] 14 Welford road." Cartes de visite were advertised from 6s per dozen, and portraits in oil from one guinea upwards. It is not clear whether the portraits were photographs finished in oils or miniature oil paintings, although I suspect the latter, as an article in the Leicester Chronicle in 1876 reported his having painted "a pair of life-size bust portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Thornton."

According to a newspaper article in 1879, F.W. Broadhead was one of the early practitioners in the use of artificial light in studio photography.

Leicester Chronicle & Leicestershire Mercury, 11 January 1879.
Night Photography.
Mr. Broadhead, of 65 Welford road, has secured a patent luxograph, by means of which portraits can be taken at night, and by which daylight and the sun's rays are not rendered indispensable accessories to the production of a good picture. The process is apparently very simple; the principle upon which it is worked being the concentration of the rays emitted from a series of carefully arranged reflectors directly upon the sitter. The light is produced by the ignition of chemical powders, and is of pale blue colour. Although for an instant its brilliancy is rather dazzling, it softens down into a soft mellow hue, void of all garishness, and rather pleasant to the eyes than otherwise. By this artificial means a portrait can be taken in from seven to twqelve seconds, and even this period is decreased to about five seconds when it has to be taken on a ferrotype plate. At present there are only two or three machines in use throughout the kingdom, but when its properties are well known they cannot fail to be highly appreciated.

Image © University of Leicester and courtesy of Historical Directories
Barker & Co.'s Directory for Leicestershire & Rutland, 1875

Trade directories, census, Royal Photographic Society registrations, newspaper entries and advertisements provide a detailed record of his studio addresses during the thirty years he was in business:

1869: 84 Humberstone Rd
Nov 1870-1875: 74 Welford Rd
1876-1877: 72 & 74 Welford Rd
1877-1885: 65 Welford Rd
1884-1892: 55 Welford Rd
1888: 24 Gallowtree Gate
1892: 44 London Rd
1895-1896: Stanley Chambers, 30 Gallowtree Gate
1898: Stockdale Terrace, 19 London Road
1900: 55 Chestnut St & 102 Welford Rd

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Directory entries and designs on the reverse of his card mounts demonstrate that he also operated periodically in the nearby towns of Loughborough and Market Harborough, although the evidence for his presence in these places is more patchy. It appears that he may merely have visited periodically, as an 1883 trade directory entry indicates weekly attendance:

Broadhead Fdk. Wm., artist and photographer, High street (attend Tu.), Market Harborough

Image © University of Leicester and courtesy of Historical Directories
Leicester Chronicle & Leicestershire Mercury, 10 June 1882

In addition to opportunistic shots of Royal processions and general views of the town and local tourist spots, Broadhead was not averse to seeking other photographic commissions away from his studio premises:

Leicester Chronicle & Leicestershire Mercury, 16 August 1879.
The Leicestershire Volunteers in Camp ... at Willesley Park ... Mr. F.W. Broadhead, Welford-road, Leicester, camped out with the volunteers all the week, and took a great variety of views of the camp, and of the men when on parade, by an instantaneous process, and he appeared to do a "roaring" trade under his "special appointment as a photographer to the camp.

Image © University of Leicester and courtesy of Historical Directories
Wright's Directory of Leicestershire, 1887-88

Leicester Chronicle & Leicestershire Mercury, 8 July 1882.
The Australian Cricketers. Mr. F.W. Broadhead, photographer, of Welford-road, has produced a pair of excellent group portraits of the Australian and Leicestershire teams who took part in the match lately played on the Aylestone-road Ground. The work has been carefully executed in variou-sized photographs, and give a life-like representation of the players ... No doubt a large number of these photographs well be secured in commemmoration of Leicestershire having played so well against the antipodeans.

He also gave evidence regarding photographic matters to the Leicester courts on several occasions.

Leicester Chronicle & Leicestershire Mercury, 12 April 1884.
Charge against a photographer ... according to the evidence of Mr. Broadhead, photographer, it was impossible for Daniels to have taken the photo from the condition of the camera and under the circumstances detailed by Mrs. Glover and the groom who attended prisoner. Mr Broadhead, however, admitted that the camera would take a negative, but it would not be passable .... Frederick William Broadhead, photographer, said that he had tested the lenses in question, and found that the lens produced perfectly fitted Professor Colton's apparatus.

Records of the Copyright Office, Stationers' Company:
Photograph of the Mayor & Council of Leicester, consisting of 50 persons including the Mayor". Copyright owner and author of work: Frederick William Broadhead, 35 Welford Road, Leicester. Form completed 12 November 1892. Registration stamp: 14 November 1892.

Image © University of Leicester and courtesy of Historical Directories
Wright's Directory of Leicestershire, 1889-90

In 1889 he celebrated his twentieth year in business. He appears to have retired not long after moving to Coalville a decade later. Frederick W. Broadhead died in 1925 at Farnham, Surrey, aged 78. He was married twice, and had two sons and two daughters with his first wife Sarah Ann Fisher, who died in 1898. His second wife Leah Reeves died in 1935.

This is my contribution to this week's Sepia Saturday. For more in a similar vein, head off there for a browse - I won't say quick, because you're likely to be there for a while!


Heathcote, B.V. & P.F. (1982) Leicester Photographic Studios in Victorian & Edwardian Times, Royal Photographic Society, The Photohistorian supplement.


  1. Fascinating and well researched. A lovely photo too!

  2. Like all your posts, I was drawn into it with almost magnetic force. Starting with such a simple image, being taken on such a fascinating journey.

  3. Wow. You found a fantastic photo of that boy and really went for it. Thank you for all of your hard work, I enjoyed your post.

    Have a great week,

    Kathy Matthews

  4. That was beyond fantastic. I have never before seen a horse trike! Maybe it was unique to England? The Guernsey reference brought to mind a book I enjoyed much which may have mentioned that same photographer. I will take my copy of the "New Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" off the shelf and browse. Lots of great information there.

  5. Fascinating research and such resources you have! @Pat I dearly loved that book! I'll have to read it again now just to find that reference too. :-)

  6. quite the research you've done here. nice to see there was some sort of family tradition there.

    i remember my first tricycle, all red and white, but no picture to show for...
    oh well!!

  7. Great research on a fantastic photo. Just how long does it take you to come up with a post like this?

  8. I like the photo and the back also. I don't have enough patience to do all that research.

  9. Wonderful history of the camera's transforming technology. I imagine that father and son had many spirited discussions on the "art" of photography. Capturing a landscape or a portrait in an instant, must have seemed less like a marvel of science and more like trick to cheapen art. The marketing of the photographer must have been a challenge to create a fashionable business model with the growing competition.

  10. It's nice to know that you've all enjoyed the fruits of the research, even though I'll admit that finding the material is enough reward in itself.

    Ticklebear - I remember not only the look, but also the feel, of my first tricycle, a mid-blue painted metal Triang with a black leather seat and solid rubber tyres. Boy did it go down those hills, but it was never very good at cornering ;-)

    Bob - That's a very difficult question to answer. This one was a little unusual in that it took, I suppose, a few hours of intermittent work from conception through research to the actual writing. However most of my topics have a substantially longer period of gestation. Typically I have a dozen or more research topics on the go at any one time, but they can take days, weeks or even months to complete. Some are waiting for the time or inspiration, others for vital clues needed to progress. The stimulus of regular Sepia Saturday themes have been good for me in that it forces me to either find a current topic on my "list" which I can mould to fit, and finish, or find an image from my collection and weave an appropriate discussion around it. Otherwise, I tend not to ever finish things - there's always that extra tidbit of information awaiting discovery around the corner.

    Postcardy - Yes, patience is an art well learnt. I found a quote which seems particularly appropriate to myself: "Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it's cowardice," although I would replace the last word with "procrastination."

    Mike - I agree. I've seen plenty of evidence in my photohistorical research of that struggle between the artist and the "preserver of nature," the difficulties inherent in changing from one to the other, as well as the use of one to aid the other. Fred sr. could not afford to be too superior towards his son, though - he himself was listed as a "photographic artist" in the Post Office Directory of Leicestershire & Rutland for 1876.

  11. What an interesting post, Brett. It makes me wish I had an ancestor who was a photographer so he/she could be found and written about by you! Is your interest in old photographs and photographers a hobby or is it part of your profession? You do a great job!

  12. Thank you Nancy. You never know what you might find. I was unaware of any photographers in my own family, but over the years I've discovered links, albeit fairly distant connections, to a couple of photographers in the English Midlands.

    What you see on this blog is largely a result of my hobby, but I do offer professional research services and the results of some of that work are occasionally posted on Photo-Sleuth - with the client's permission, of course.

  13. Wow, you really are a sleuth, incredible and detailed information here. I just love that photo and the trike is amazing, I'd never seen one before, its really terrific!

  14. Charlotte Broadhead30 June 2011 at 14:54

    Thank you so much for this information. I am currently tracking down my family history and they are full blood relatives of mine. If you have any more details or images etc. I would love to hear from you.

  15. Hi Charlotte. I do have other CDV and cabinet card portraits by this photographer, but they are not of family members. Regards, Brett

  16. Charlotte Broadhead29 July 2011 at 10:19

    Really, Wow- would you be able to email them to me please? I'd love to see them! My email address is

  17. F W Broadhead was the cousin of my great grandmother and I have a portarit of her taken by him in the early 1880s - brilliant to discover more about him.

  18. Hi Rosie, How nice to have a portrait taken by a family member. Thanks for leaving a note. regards, Brett


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