Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Mr Beeson’s Academy and Studio

This is a slightly unusual carte de visite for several reasons. The intricately decorated surround which frames the cameo portrait is of a style that I’ve not seen used on English mounts, the top corners are rounded while the lower corners are not (and I don’t think the bottom edge has been trimmed), and the motif on the reverse was probably a “one off” - it could have been designed by the photographer himself.

Portrait of unidentified child, c.1873-1876
Carte de visite by J.W. Beeson of Wirksworth
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The portrait is of a young unidentified child partly covered by what looks to be a very light coloured, possibly white, crocheted shawl or something similar. It may even be a christening dress. The central oval cameo has an artificial "shadow" to the lower right, which makes it seem more prominent, and is surrounded by a fancy scrollwork design that renders it rather grander than an ordinary carte de visite might appear.

J.W. Beeson’s “bee-sun” motif
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The motif on the reverse contains a bee in the centre of a stylised sun, obviously derived from the photographer’s own surname (Beeson = Bee-Sun). Although I have seen such personalised designs before, they are fairly uncommon.

Wirksworth is a town and parish in central Derbyshire. Its people and history are dealt with in some considerable detail by John Palmer on his Wirksworth web site, an admirable study which incidentally inspired my own South Derbyshire genealogy pages a decade ago.

The Derby Mercury, 10 July 1850

James William Beeson (1827-1879) arrived in Wirksworth in mid- to late 1861, where he established the Excelsior boarding and day-school in Coldwell Street. He was 34 years old, and had already been operating a "classical, mathematical and commercial academy" in Derby for over a decade. He was born in 1827, the son of a Derby publican Thomas Beeson and his wife Hannah née Buxton, and had married Anna Henchley at Ashbourne in 1850, before settling at No 7 Wilmot Street in Derby.

The Derby Mercury, 17 August 1853

Besides the academy, for which regular advertisements appeared in The Derby Mercury, he was also a money lender, somehow connected with life assurance, and occasionally offered his services "in office work of any kind" to architects, builders, engineers, surveyors, solicitors, etc.

The Derby Mercury, 16 January 1861

In early 1861 James Beeson announced in the local press that he had "given up school-teaching, and commenced business as a law stationer, writer, and accountant, house, estate and general agent and collector, architectural, mechanical, engineering, and artistical draughtsman, private teacher, &c." References can be found in the newspapers to "illuminated" documents which Beeson had prepared for special presentations around the county, but by December that year he had moved to Wirksworth.

Bookplate from Walter Meller’s Cashbook, 1861
© and courtesy of John Palmer & Wirksworth.org.uk

He opened a new academy in Coldwell Street, Wirksworth not long after his arrival, and was soon offering a variety of educational services. A double-entry book-keeping ledger probably used for exercises by Walter Meller, a student at Beeson’s Academy, contains entries dated January 1st to May 17th, 1861, and was most likely created later that year.

John Dean’s Chart of the Solar System, 1866
© Nigel Aspdin and courtesy of Wirksworth.org.uk

Fellow photo-sleuth Nigel Aspdin has in his family collection a "Chart of the Solar System" created in 1866 by a distant relative John Dean, aged 13, under the tutelage of Mr J.W. Beeson at the Excelsior Boarding & Day School. This private educational institution clearly did not restrict itself to accounting, scientific pursuits and drawing; in a 19 July 1871 report in The Derby Mercury a Mr Field states, “I have been a teacher of music for three years at Mr. James Beeson's, Wirksworth."

James Beeson appears to have been a late comer to the art of photography, and possibly left little in the way of a photographic legacy. Until my purchase of this carte de visite portrait recently, there was no mention of him in my index of Derbyshire photographers, and Wirksworth expert John Palmer was unaware that Beeson had done any photographic work. Such is often the case with those practitioners who dabble in the profession for relatively brief periods, and are unfortunate enough to be missed by both the decadal census enumerator and intermittent trade directory compilers.

The Derby Mercury, 29 April 1874

However, a thorough search of The Derby Mercury unearthed a single 1874 advertisement for James W. Beeson’s large format panoramic photographic view of Wirksworth, from the Gilkin, and a corresponding advertorial article in the same issue.
Mr. James Beeson has recently issued a panoramic picture of the fine old town of Wirksworth, one of the oldest, most important, and certainly most interesting, of the towns in the county of Derby. The picture reflects the highest possible credit on its producer. It is 32 inches in length by 7 inches in depth, and is therefore of extraordinary size, as with its proper margin the picture is no less that 38 inches by 12 inches. We recommend this picture to our readers - See advt.
The 1874 date corresponds well with the carte de visite. The personal motif on the reverse and the decorative framing on the front, being rather unusual, and perhaps not following general design trends, are not particularly useful for dating. However another unusual feature, the combination of rounded upper corners and square lower corners may suggest that it is from the period when card designers were in the process of converting from square to rounded corners. Having rounded corners made it far easier to slide the cartes de visite into album slots, and I have previously come across combination examples like this from the mid-1870s.

Newspaper extracts from his years in Derby demonstrate that Beeson was quite capable of turning his hand to many skills, and of making the most of opportunities that presented themselves. Perhaps his interests moved on from photography to other things. I think it more likely, however, that he found the business was not as remunerative as he had hoped. The phenomenal growth the industry experienced during the 1860s was not sustained through the 1870s, and many photographers either practiced photography as a side-line, or only stayed in business for very short periods, finding the competition just too stiff for the business to be profitable or to sustain a regular income.

The last trade directory entry for the academy in Wirksworth was in 1876, and when James William Beeson died on 29 April 1879 at Duffield, he was described as a "bookkeeper, late of Wirksworth." He left a wife Anna Maria Beeson (1829-1880), son Walter James Beeson (1857-1835) and daughter Ida Marion Beeson, later Bland (1863-1927).

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Sepia Saturday 76: The trouble with animals and children

There’s a good reason photographers were often reluctant to photograph animals or children in the 19th Century, one which is ably demonstrated by blurred pet in the photo for Alan Burnett’s Sepia Saturday prompt this week.  Of course, some practitioners carved a niche for themselves by specialising in children.  The thing is, they’re difficult to control, particularly in an unfamiliar environment, won’t keep keep still for more than a few seconds at a time, and are pretty unpredictable.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

In order to avoid such errant motion on the part of babies or pets, portrait photographs were sometimes taken while they were dozing.  In this nicely balanced portrait, however, Derby photographer James Brennen has successfully managed to capture a dashing young man in a smart outfit with his very well behaved dog, the latter alert and facing directly into the camera lens. This was pretty unusual for the day – I think it was taken in the mid- to late 1870s – as gelatin dry plates with their greater speeds had yet to become commonly available.  The slightly washed out appearance of the print and the paucity of well defined shadows suggest to me that Brennen may have used reflective lighting panels, or more likely took the portrait outdoors.  The additional light would have permitted a shorter exposure time, making such a portrait possible, but would not have been easy, and it demonstrates some considerable skill on the part of the photographer.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

By the time this unidentified young lad visited some unknown studio for his postcard portrait half a century later, perhaps in the 1920s or 1930s, artificial lighting was being used for visual effect, rather than to freeze motion.  However, the photographer still found it convenient to have stuffed dog on wheels to grab the attention of his young subjects.  The promise of a play with the toy afterwards no doubt encouraged the boy to stand where and how he was told, and give a most rewarding smile when prompted.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Sepia Saturday 75: Hospital Blues

Alan Burnett’s photo prompt for this week’s edition of Sepia Saturday is a most atmospheric postcard view of the interior of a building in Oxford, taken from the collection of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library Archives. Forgive me if I reproduce a portion of it here, but it is particularly germane to my own submission.

Although the precise location is not immediately evident, it seems to be an orchestra room in the Town Hall, with a large pipe organ forming a grand backdrop. There are eighteen men seated and standing around the room, apparently watching the final play in a game of snooker or billiards. Apart from the postcard’s caption, which refers to the 3rd Southern General Hospital, the main clue to who these men are lies in their clothing. Six of the men are wearing ordinary suits, the remaining twelve are garbed in what are generally termed “hospital blues.”

An image of this postcard view is included within the Oxfordshire County Council’s Photographic Archive, the location described as St Aldate’s, Oxford, and a further view which includes the billiards table on the stage in the background demonstrates that the entire Town Hall was converted, even the stalls. The Woodrow Wilson Archive has a similar view with somewhat better definition. A post on the Great War Forum suggests that the Town Hall Section had 205 beds reserved for malaria cases amongst the Other Ranks. The single stripe on the arm of the man about to strike the ball with his cue confirms that he was a Lance Corporal, and indeed an “other rank.”

"I look pretty thin, Eh!"
Paper print, Collection of Barbara Ellison, Coloured by Andre Hallam

My grandfather Charles Leslie Lionel Payne (1892-1975) and his younger brother Harold Victor Payne (1898-1921) both spent time wearing hospital blues. My grandfather served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), having immigrated to Canada in 1912, initially with the Canadian Army Service Corps (CASC) and then with the Canadian Machine Gun Corps (CMGC). Harold joined the British Army in England towards the end of the war and served with the Tank Corps. The photograph above, accurately coloured by Andre Hallam with the expert historical assistance of various members of the Great War Forum, shows Harold (sitting at centre) and friends wearing hospital blues at an unknown location. “I look pretty thin, Eh!” is handwritten in pencil on the reverse.

"Wounded Soldiers - I've met 'em. Yes sir."
Paper print, Collection of Barbara Ellison

Unfortunately his British Army service documents did not survive the Blitz - some 60% of the British Army’s Great War service records were destroyed by German bombs in 1940, and the remainder badly damaged – so it is difficult to be sure of his movements. A postcard sent to his family in Derby in November 1919 shows that he was then "in Cologne awaiting demob[ilization]" from the British Army on the Rhine (BAOR), was “quite well” and recorded hopefully, “guess I shan’t be long now.” I suspect that he took ill shortly after, before he could be demobilised. He died on 1 May 1921 at Derby. His mother was devastated, and although she would outlive him by a decade, I get the impression that she never really recovered from the shock. I have yet to order his death certificate, which may provide clues to his illness, and state whether or not he was still in the Army at that time.

Sgt. Leslie Payne, Winter 1918/1919
Paper print, Collection of Barbara Ellison
Sgt. Leslie Payne, CMGC, Winter 1918/19, in England or Canada

My grandfather’s CEF service records, on the other hand, have survived more or less intact although, sadly, I have no photographs of him wearing hospital blues. The portrait above, in which he wears his army greatcoat adorned with sergeant’s stripes, was probably taken in the Winter of 1918/19, after his recuperation had ended. I obtained a copy of his records from the Library & Archives of Canada some years ago. From this treasure trove of shorthand scribblings, indecipherable abbreviations and obtuse acronyms, and together with transcripts of the CMG Corps history and the War Diaries for his unit, I was eventually able to piece together a detailed itinerary of his movements.

Constance May Hogg, Christmas 1913
Postcard, Collection of Barbara Ellison

By the spring of 1918, my grandfather had been in the Canadian Army for almost three and a half years, two and a half years of this on the Western Front, and two years as a machine gunner. He had fought at the Battles of St. Eloi Craters (April 1916), Mount Sorrel (June 1916), Flers-Courcelette (September 1916), Vimy Ridge (April 1917), Lens (June 1917) and Passchendaele (November 1917) and appears to have survived unscathed – at least physically - with not a single day of sickness or other misadventure recorded. During a period of rest and recuperation Leslie was granted two weeks of leave on 26th November, and he lost no time in heading home. Four days later, having been granted permission to do so by his Commanding Officer, he married his sweetheart “Con” at Chester, and was back with his unit by 14th December.

Canon de 380 m/m capturé par les Australiens près de Chuignes et destiné au bombardement d'Amiens
Postcard with 1930 postmark, Collection of Barbara Ellison

On 20th April 1918, as part of the overall reorganization of the CMGC being undertaken at that time, Leslie was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, and thus put in charge of a machine gun section, comprising two Vickers machine guns with crews. On 9 July he was sent to the Canadian Corps School on a four week long training course. He probably returned to his unit just in time to participate in the very successful Battle of Amiens, on 8th, 9th and 10th August.

Paper doily, Collection of Barbara Ellison

No. 2 Company of the 2nd Battalion CMGC was relieved and withdrawn from the line into reserve at Caix, allowing Leslie and his crew to enjoy the luxury of real food in Amiens on the evening of 11th August. After a week of rest, during which time the ranks were brought back up to strength by very welcome, but green, reinforcements, the entire Canadian Corps was moved back to the Arras Front. Leslie’s company arrived at their billets in the village of Monts-en-Ternois at noon on the 21st, and was bussed to the front lines the following day.

According to the corps history, the massive task of the Canadian Corps was to drive in south of the Scarpe towards Cambrai, to break the Quéant-Drocourt Line and, once the Canal du Nord was reached, to swing southward behind the Hindenburg Line.  No. 2 Company was, as usual, to be in support of the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade on the right front, the attack scheduled for the 26th.

The machine gun crews were assigned positions on high ground near Telegraph Hill, from where they would form part of a series of 16 batteries putting up a creeping barrage of indirect fire to cover the infantry’s advance.  One machine gun was all0tted to every 35 yards of front. Zero hour was at 3 a.m., when the barrage commenced. By 6 a.m. reports of casualties and guns put out of action - by the German counter-barrage - were coming in from crews hampered by thick mist and smoke from the artillery barrage.

Testing a Vickers machinegun, September 1916
Image © and courtesy of Library & Archives of Canada

Some time during the day Leslie was hit in the left shoulder, probably by a machine gun bullet, although it could have been a piece of shrapnel. He was not the only one, the 2nd Battalion CMGC suffering its greatest number of casualties of any single attack in the war up to that point, with a total of 27 men killed and 183 wounded between 26th and 28th August. The CO’s report stated:
Lack of stretchers was very pronounced. In some cases our wounded lay out for over 12 hours and in all cases it was most difficult to evacuate our casualties or to attend to them in the absence of stretchers or bearers.

Hospital Ship Princess Elizabeth
Image © and courtesy of Ian Boyle/Simplon Postcards

He was stretchered first to the nearest first aid post or dressing station, then to No 42 Casualty Clearing Station, where it was ascertained that the "foreign body" was still lodged in his shoulder. Later that day he was evacuated to No 4 General Hospital in Camiers, on the coast. As soon as space could be found in the transports, he was shipped across the Channel aboard the Hospital Ship Princess Elizabeth, a converted Isle of Wight paddle steamer, arriving at the County of Middlesex War Hospital, Napsbury St Albans on 30th August.

An examination at Napsbury the following day is reported on his Medical Case Sheet, in the usual almost indecipherable handwriting:

Entry 2" internal to point of acromion. F.B. (Foreign Body] palpable mid way between this + axilliary fold on post surface. Clean.
An X-ray examination report described a "Bullet present subcutaneous," and a notation makes it clear that he was a "walking," rather than "stretcher" or "chair," patient. Although no X-ray image appears to have survived in his records, the image of a skiagraphic above, extracted from a fellow soldier’s service record, shows a similar lodged bullet. On 6th September an operation was conducted and the doctors successfully removed the offending piece of lead.

Patients and nurses at Napsbury St Albans, 1917
Image © Rohan Price and courtesy of Hertfordshire Genealogy

The subsequent entries on his medical records indicate that he "returned from auxilliary, healed" on 4th October, and was discharged to the Canadian Military Convalescent Hospital at Woodcote Park, Epsom three days later. He was given a final medical examination on 8th October which pronounced him fit “Di” and, after recuperating for another week, he was discharged on Monday 14th and sent on furlough for ten days.

154 Almond Street, Normanton, Derby
Image © & courtesy of Google Maps Street View

Of course Leslie headed straight home to Derby but when he arrived he found Con very ill. She succumbed to influenza at 154 Almond Street, Normanton, Derby on Sunday 20th October. It was the second major wave of the “Spanish” flu epidemic in the United Kingdom, with hundreds of thousands dying, and Leslie’s distress during the journey back to the Canadian Machine Gun Depot at Seaford, Sussex on the 24th must have been acute. The regulation requirement to report to the Paymaster that his wife was deceased, and therefore he was no longer entitled to separation pay, would no doubt have added insult to injury, the loss of $25 a month being the least of his concerns.

At 11 a.m. on 11th November 1918, the day that Leslie received his final TAB inoculation, the armistice between the German and Allied Forces came into effect, and the war was suddenly over. Without Con, Les must have looked at peace time with mixed emotions. Who knows what their plans had been? Would they have gone back to Winnipeg together, where Leslie had a decent clerk’s job at Eaton’s department store waiting for him? It seems likely. He was eventually demobilised in Canada in February 1919, after a prolonged stay at Kinmel Park in Wales and a trip across the Atlantic on the S.S. Olympic, but that’s a story for another time.

Leslie Payne, Summer 1915 (left) and Winter 1918/19 (right)
Paper prints, Collection of Barbara Ellison

I find it telling how much he changed in that short space of time. He was a fresh-faced 22 year-old when he enlisted in the CEF in November 1914, and a haggard 26 on discharge. He looks at least a decade older in the later photo, not just three or four years, and I’m sure it was not just his appearance that was different. I've been told that Grandpa hardly ever talked about the war, at least not to anyone who ever felt comfortable to share such confidences with others, and from what I can tell this was not uncommon amongst Great War veterans.

How should he communicate and explain such a kaleidoscope mish-mash of contradictory emotions and experiences in which they had been suddenly immersed on the Western Front, in Leslie’s case, for 2 years, 11 months and 14 days? Their subjection, after rudimentary initial training, to a totally unfamiliar environment, the exhausting slog of marching and carrying supplies to the front, the tedium and discomfort of life in the trenches, the camaraderie eventually engendered between members of a machine gun crew who lived every moment of every day together, often within inches of each other, for months on end, and the anticipation of death at any moment, from any quarter, in the trenches, eventually replaced with mind-numbing resignation – all these would have been incomprehensible to their families and friends back home.

I hope that he was eventually able to dispel at least some of the dark thoughts, but I am sure there were many others that he could never forget. And nor should we.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Sepia Saturday 74: The Age of Contraptions

The early 20th Century was, it seems, the age of contraptions, due in no small part to the genius of people like W. Heath Robinson, whose imagination knew no bounds.  In the household of my formative years the term “gold-plated Heath Robinson” – somewhere in that vague area between noun and adjective - came to signify not just any old complicated what-you-ma-call-it, generally constructed from recycled bits and pieces that happened to be lying around, but a device put together with some flair and panache.  If it actually did the job intended this was, of course, handy, but incidental.  One of his more famous cartoons was the potato peeler, shown above, no doubt designed to the free hundreds – nay, thousands - of bored staff from their tedious tasks in field kitchens behind the lines all along the Western Front, for the far more stimulating duties which awaited them in the trenches.

A great many of these contraptions, unsurprisingly, never amounted to much, and only n0w see the light of day due to the penchant for people like yours truly for pointless dwelling on the past, and an unexplainable desire to unearth such curiosities from dusty archives.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This rather unusually shaped bicycle may not have been designed, or even owned, by my great-grandfather Frans Smit (1865-1955), but there are no obvious scuff marks or gaping tears in the elbows or knees of his suit, so presumably he had mastered the required technique.  The otherwise friendly Friesian cow seems to be showing a little alarm, and may be concerned that it’s some new-fangled milking machine, rather than a human plaything.  According to a note on the reverse, the photo was taken at Sneek on “Pinksteren 24,” which my mother interprets for me as Pentecost or Whitsunday, 1924, and my trusty Calisto calendar utility tells me was on 20 May.

By this time Frans Smit and his wife Akke de Jager (1863-1951) were living in Amsterdam, but he was born in nearby Leeuwarden, and they returned frequently to south-west Friesland on holiday, often with children and grandchildren in tow.  Judging by the frequency of its appearance in family albums, and in spite of the apparently rather featureless landscape, Sneek was a favourite destination.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Apart from a frame of roughly conventional, if low slung, shape and vertically-extended handlebar, the apparatus appears to have the usual wire-spoked wheels with pneumatic tyres, mud guards, cable-or rod-operated rim brakes and forks.  When examined in detail, however, the absence of the normal rotary pedals becomes evident, replaced by two sets of what appear to be lever-style pedals.  I think they might operate in a similar manner to those of children’s pedal cars – drive rods and crank axle - but the method of linkage to the back wheel/hub is hidden, so I can’t be sure.  The thought briefly occurred, both to my wife and to myself, that it might have been designed without any propelling mechanism – in other words, a push bike in the true sense of the word – but I think that even in Holland where a rise of a couple of metres might be regarded as significant topography, that might be a little pointless.

However the contraption worked, I hope he carried a supply of Elliman's Universal Embrocation (or whatever the local equivalent was at that time), and didn't venture too far afield.  It doesn’t look a very easy bike to push for miles, in the event of a puncture or some other misadventure.

Sepia Saturday this week has a photograph of an early aerial contraption which looks as though it might have benefited from having the pedal design from Frans Smit’s velocipede. I’m keen to head off and see what delights other contributors have unearthed.  I’m also hopeful that visitors brought here by said meme, presumably also folk with a keen interest in the esoteric and irrelevant, might have come across something similar in their wanderings, and can enlighten us further.

Derby Photographers: Diana Studios, 1928-1952

Since I am currently updating the profile of Derby photographic firm, the Diana Studio, I'm taking the opportunity to share three new portraits here.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This cheeky looking girl, perhaps five years old, has no difficulty playing the part of a gypsy girl in this early portrait from Diana Studios. The studio setting is simple with a shaggy rectangular rug on the floor, and a dark backdrop painted with a rural scene which was used by the studio in their early years. The girl with her striking pose and costume are clearly the centre of attraction. I estimate it was taken between 1929 and 1932.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The Diana Studios' first postcard portraits were pre-printed with a "divided back" design on the reverse, so that they could be sent through the post. Even though they continued producing postcard sized portraits, they soon changed the design in favour of a simple studio stamp which was applied directly to the back of the printed photo, as shown above. The firm operated from at least early 1928, at centrally situated premises in St Peter's Street, Derby. An early portrait describes the studio at 45 St Peter's Street, situated "over the Carlton Shoe Shop," but later designs are from 48 St Peter's Street, which appears to be on the opposite (east) side of the street.

Image © and courtesy of Patricia Hurworth

Patricia Hurworth sent me these two portraits of herself by Diana Studios which are clearly a cut above the standard postcard style. Not only has the portrait been enlarged - to a size of 117.5 x 164.5 mm - but it has been quite elaborately hand coloured.

Image © and courtesy of Patricia Hurworth

They were taken in 1945 or 1946, and the second which is roughly trimmed and remains uncoloured, may have been a studio discard. Both feature the painted backdrop showing a column and painted panelling which used in the Diana studio in the late 1930s and early to mid-1940s. The studio apparently continued operating until 1952.

Many thanks to Pat and others for their contributions.

Cromford Bridge Chapel

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Charles Leslie Lionel Payne, Cromford Bridge Chapel
17 August 1959

This was my father's favourite picture of his Dad, Charles Leslie Lionel Payne (1892-1975), and he kept a framed, slightly trimmed enlargement on the top of the bookcase next to his chair in the lounge. My Dad took the photo himself during a visit back home to England in the summer of 1959, and it is pretty much how I remember my grandfather even though my memories mainly date from fifteen years later, the year before he died.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Ethel & Leslie Payne, Glenwood Road, Chellaston, August 1959

My father has pencilled the location and date on the back so I know that they visited Cromford Bridge Chapel, south-east of the village of Cromford, on Monday 17 August. It is possible they took the bus there from his parents home in Glenwood Road, Chellaston, but I rather suspect they went for a drive in my father’s new Ford Consul (XGC 913), recently purchased from Kenning Motors to be shipped back to Southern Rhodesia.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Cromford Bridge Chapel, 26 April 2009
Photo © and courtsey of Nigel Aspdin

The stone building in the background, with its Gothic arched doorway, is the last substantial surviving remnant of the Cromford Bridge Chapel, a scheduled ancient monument and apparently one of only six still such chapels remaining in England, another example being St Mary’s Bridge Chapel in Derby.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Cromford Bridge and Arkwright's Fishing Lodge, 26 April 2009
Photo © and courtsey of Nigel Aspdin

Although situated immediately adjacent to the 15th Century Cromford Bridge, between the southern end of the bridge and a square fishing lodge - constructed in the late 18th Century by Sir Richard Arkwright - if you aren’t already aware of its existence you’re likely to miss it, as it is neither signposted nor easily visible from the road.

Image © Canon Derek Buckley and courtesy of Picture the Past
Photograph of Cromford Bridge Chapel, undated
by Canon Derek Buckley

The land on which the chapel and the adjacent fishing lodge stand belonged to my grandfather, together with the fishing rights along the adjacent stretch of the River Derwent, and Bow Wood Farm a little further downstream and on the left bank. He inherited the properties from his father Charles Vincent Payne (1868-1941) and donated the freehold of the chapel and land immediately surrounding it to the Derbyshire Archaeological Society in November 1943. The farm, lodge and fishing rights were later auctioned in July 1947.

Image © and courtesy of the Derbyshire Archaeological Society
Survey of Cromford Bridge Chapel after Excavation, October 1951
Mantell & Widdows (1952)

Judging by its first mention in historical documents in 1504, when the vicar of Wirksworth left a bequest in his will for the repair of the roof (Cox, 1877), it was probably built in the late 14th or early 15th Century (Mantell & Widdows, 1952). A watercolour dated 1786 shows the west gable of the chapel still extant, but was converted into cottages, which were then partly demolished by Richard Arkwright in 1796.

Image © Canon Derek Buckley and courtesy of Picture the Past
Photograph of Cromford Bridge Chapel, undated, by Canon Derek Buckley

Excavations carried out in 1951 by the DAS demonstrate, as suggested a century and a half earlier by William Woolley, that the chapel was originally a good deal more substantial, extending some distance towards the east. A large Gothic window in the east wall facing Cromford Meadow, which during the mid-18th century was reported to have contained the quartered coat of arms of Lord Talbot, had presumably been installed some 150 odd years earlier.

Image © Copyright Rob Bradford
Cromford Bridge, 29 April 2005, courtesy of Geograph.co.uk
Image © Copyright Rob Bradford and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Tudor & Currey (1939), writing in support of an enquiry before the Second World War, describe the adjacent bridge and chapel remnants:
Cromford Bridge is a particularly graceful structure, in an equally beautiful situation, of three arches spanning the River Derwent ... the chapel by the bridge was not only a bridge chapel with the usual functions in relation to wayfarers, but also a parochial chapelry for this outlying portion of the extensive parish of Wirksworth ... An interesting feature ... is a lookout aperture in the north wall from which a view of the river is obtained. This detail is unusual in bridge chapels, and seems to indicate a watch over the river-crossing, probably a ford, before the building of the bridge.

Cromford Bridge Chapel before renovation, 1951

By the time the necessary funds had been procured and the renovation work started in ugust 1951, the walls of the bridge chapel were in even more of a "deplorable condition" than they had been in 1939. Trees were growing in the tops of the walls and ivy was disturbing even the foundations, so these were removed and the masonry repaired. At the same time, the DAS took the opportunity to excavate with a view to investiating the early history of the chapel. A complex series of foundations of various ages was unearthed, difficult to interpret, but which include a possible substantial stone abutment to a timber bridge across the Derwent which emay have existed prior to the current one.

Image © Harry Gill and courtesy of Michael Fay
Cromford Bridge Chapel during renovation, 1951-1952

The chapel does not appear to have deteriorated much since the 1905s renovation work, but little further has been done to protect it, and it remains largely unnoticed.


Anon (1947) Sale Notice: Cromford (with vacant possession), 22 July 1947, Lot 1: The Capital Dairy Farm known as Bow Wood Farm, Lot 2: Fishing Rights on River Derwent & Fishing Lodge adjoining Cromford Bridge, Marchant Brooks & Co., Collection of Brett Payne.

Anon (1991) The Derbyshire Village Book: Cromford, Derbyshire Federation of Women's Institutes & Countryside Books, ISBN 185306 1336, reproduced in part on John Palmer’s Wirksworth web pages.

Anon (2011) Cromford Bridge Chapel, Derbyshire Heritage web site.

Anon (n.d.) Cromford Village, Arkwright Society Local History Trail No. 8, Leaflet.

Bunting, Julie (2009) Cromford Bridge Chapel – Cromford, The Peak Advertiser, 15 June 2009, Reproduced by Rosemary Lockie at Wishful-Thinking.

Cox, John Charles (1877) Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire, Vol II. The Hundreds of the High Peak and Wirksworth, Chesterfield: Palmer & Edmunds, pp. 571-574, Reproduced by The Internet Archive.

Daykin, Yvonne (2011) Cromford Bridge Chapel, Cromford Village in Derbyshire, on the Cromford Village web site.

Fay, Michael (2005) The End of a Long and Winding Road, Reflections, January 2005, Vol. 14, Issue 156, pp. 37-39, reproduced in part on The Andrews Pages.

Mantell, K. & Widdows, B. (1952) Cromford Bridge Chapel, Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 72,
pp. 126-130.

Stroud, Gill (2001) Derbyshire Extensive Urban Survey Archaeological Assessment Report: Cromford, 30p.

Tudor, T.L. & Currey, P.H. (1939) Cromford Bridge and Bridge Chapel, Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 60, pp. 159-163.

Photograph of Charles Leslie Lionel Payne at Cromford Bridge Chapel, 17 August 1959, Loose paper print by Charles Bernard Payne, Collection of Brett Payne.

Photograph of Ethel & Leslie Payne and Ford Consul, Glenwood Road, August 1959, Loose paper print by Charles Bernard Payne, Collection of Brett Payne.

Photographs of Cromford Bridge Chapel by Canon Derek Buckley, Undated, Canon Derek Buckley Collection, Refs. DCHQ005014 & DCHQ005017, Picture the Past by North East Midland Photographic Record.

Photographs of Cromford Bridge Chapel by Nigel Aspdin, 26 April 2009, taken with Canon EOS 350D.

Photograph of Cromford Bridge by Rob Bradford, courtesy of Geograph.co.uk.

Photograph of Cromford Bridge Chapel, c.1951-1952, by Harry Gill, in Fay (2005).

Monday, 9 May 2011

Derby Photographers: Monsieur Emmanuel Nicolas Charles (1827-1863)

Image © and Collection of Brett Payne

This photograph of an unidentified elderly man, seated in the studio E.N. Charles at 2 Midland Road, Derby, looking slightly weary, perhaps after a strenous walk to the studio, and with his top hat on the floor beside him, may be one of the first carte de visite portraits taken in that town.  Although undated, I believe it is earlier than any of the three other examples from this photographer that I have seen.  I’ve come to this conclusion partly from the seated pose, which is much closer to that typically used by photographers in the mid- to late 1850s, the era of the collodion positive or ambrotype.  Sadly, the reverse does not display a negative number, such as the No. 774 shown on the back of what I think must be a slightly later portrait from the same studio.

Image © and Collection of Brett Payne

The design on the reverse, printed in gold ink, shows two cherubs holding flags, a seated lion, a phoenix standing atop a laurel wreath, and a book with the following text: “Album Photo. by Mons. Charles Midland Road Derby.”  I believe the use of the term “Album Photo” may be a reflection of the main use of the carte de visite at that time, in other words intended to be placed in a purpose-designed album, side-by-side with portraits of royalty and other celebrities of the day.

The Derby Mercury, 12 November 1862

A newspaper advertisement from Derby stationers E. Clulow & Sons in November 1862 offers “carte de visite albums, a large stock of new and beautiful patterns just received.”

Emmanuel Nicolas Charles arrived in Derby in 1855 and set up a studio in Station Street with a partner,  possibly chemist James Morris.  Although born in France, he had married a young woman from Leicestershire in 1850, and lived briefly in both Nottingham – where he worked as a journeyman machinist - and Leicester, before settling in Derby.  By late 1856, he was working alone, with premises at 2 Midland Road, as shown by trade directory and census entries from 1857 until 1862.  He died on 29 March 1863, at the young age of 35, leaving his widow Sarah with two young sons.

Sarah Charles reputedly then operated the studio with the help of her husband’s assistant Walter William Winter, but it must have been only briefly, because she married him in the second quarter of 1864.  W.W. Winter took over the photographic studio, and built it up into a successful business which still thrives today.

E.N. Charles could only have been offering carte de visite portraits for a very limited period, perhaps from late 1860 at the earliest until March 1863.  Sarah Charles and W.W.Winter probably continued to use card mounts printed with her late husband’s name until stocks were exhausted, or new designs could be ordered.

In fact, a portrait in the collection of the Derby Local Studies Library taken before November 1865 (shown above) is mounted on a card with Mons. Charles’ name  and a coat of arms on the reverse, but “W.W. Winter, late M. Charles, Photo. Derby” printed on the front.  It seems likely that Winter may have had the remaining stock of cards overprinted not long after taking over the business.  This also provides us with the latest date of commencement of the Winter reign.

Winter continued to use the “late E.N. Charles” on his card mounts until the late 1860s or early 1870s, when a completely new design featuring an engraving of his new studio on the opposite side of Midland Road was introduced.

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