Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Derbyshire Photographers: George S. Bristow of London Road, Derby

George Smart Bristow (1819-1870) was a portrait painter who moved to Derby in late 1857 or early 1858 with his wife Lois and four young children from Lewes in Sussex, arriving shortly before the birth of their fifth child.

Although he described himself in the 1861 census simply as a portrait painter, it is clear from an advertisement appearing weekly in The Derby Mercury from 4th July until 6th October 1858 that besides "portraits in oil, water colours, and crayon; miniatures painted on ivory," he also offered "photographic portraits, in light and shade, oil or watercolours." At the time he would probably have been using either mounted albumen prints or collodion positives, but in the early 1860s no doubt soon added cartes de visites to his repertoire.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This full length carte de visite portrait of an unidentified young woman in a crinoline dress holding a hat was probably taken some years later in the mid- to late 1860s, judging by the fact that a good proportion of her ears are revealed by her tightly drawn back hair. The studio furnishings are simple, and the what-not is one that appears in both of the other two examples that I have from Bristow's studio.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Bristow worked from "portrait rooms" at his home in 5 Regent Terrace, on the east side of London Road, close to the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, and conveniently located on the main route into town from the railway station. Judging by the number of surviving photographs that I've come across attributable to Bristow, his business was not particularly successful.

Derby could not have been a happy place for the Bristow family. Although Lois bore another two sons and two daughters there, three children died between 1861 and 1867. On 3 November 1870 George himself died, and a mere six days later Lois too. Although their eldest son George Smart Bristow (junr) was shown working as a photographer at 57 London Road in April 1871, within five months he had died at Peterborough, and his elder sister was gone six months after that. At least two children survived: Angelo Ernest Bristow (1857-1922) was working as a tailor in Derby in 1881, and Lavinia Bristow was an art student in Peterborough in 1891.


1841-1901 UK Census from Ancestry
UK City & County Directories from Ancestry
White, F. & Co. (1857) History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Derby. Transcribed by Neil Wilson.
GRO Index from FreeBMD
IGI from FamilySearch
Historical Directories from the University of Leicester
The Derby Mercury, 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning

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