Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Staffordshire Photographers: Henry Bloomfield of Burton-on-Trent

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified young woman, Carte de visite portrait, c.1880-1884
by Henry Bloomfield, Waterlooo Street, Burton-on-Trent

Henry F. Bloomfield is something of an enigma. He arrived in the brewing town of Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire around 1880, and described himself as an "artist in photography." Although he remained in Burton until his death in 1900, and was listed as a photographer in trade directories from 1888 onwards, few examples of his work appear to have survived. The carte de visite shown above must date from fairly early during his stay in Burton.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
H. Bloomfield, artist, photographer, engraver & writer

As well as photography, he advertised his services as artist, engraver and writer, and it is possible he was emplyed by one of the Burton newspapers. Both he and his wife Jane (or Jenny) were born in London around 1830, but nothing further is known about his life prior to his arrival in Burton.

Please do get in touch if you have any further images or information about this photographer.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Sepia Saturday 82: Now Playing on Platform Number Two

The photographic prompt for this week's Sepia Saturday theme is an atmospheric shot from the Library of Congress collection of the interior of Chicago's Union Station, taken in 1943 by Jack Delano. My own contribution is from my personal collection, and the subjects might well have been spotted busking at Nottingham Railway Station half a century or so earlier.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Blind musicians, by H.L. Morel, Nottingham
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Unfortunately there is no caption or inscription on this mounted paper print, so the identity of the subjects is at present unknown. From what I can remember of the eBay listing, it was purported to depict two well known blind musicians from Nottingham, but there was nothing more specific (and that could have been deduced from the photograph alone). Nor have I been able to discover anything further about this elderly couple, their dog and accordion. It is possible that the portrait was taken on behalf of and as a fundraising exercise for the Midland Institution of the Blind, set up in Nottingham in the mid-1840s, but that is really just conjecture on my part. I also note that it is very similar in character to a portrait of an old blind beggar taken by eminent Derby photographer W.W. Winter in the late 1890s or early 1900s, and still on display in the Winter's studio today.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The print is roughly similar in size to that of a cabinet card (102.5 x 150 mm), but pasted onto a printed and patterned brown card mount measuring 201 x 253 mm. The photographer's name and location, "H.L. Morel Nottingham" is blind stamped - no pun intended - beneath the lower right corner of the printed frame. This style of mount was in popular use in Edwardian times, and judging from the style of clothing and studio props, I estimate this portrait was taken between 1900 and 1910.

Carte de visite portrait of unidentified child, c.1892-1893
by H.L. Morel, Newcastle Chambers, Market Place, Nottingham

Henri Louis Morel (1858-1917) arrived in Nottingham in the early 1880s, having trained as a photographer with the prestigious London firm of Elliot & Fry. Initially he was employed at the studio of A.W. Cox, then being run by Cox's wife Ellen Elizabeth Cox. Morel married Sarah Elizabeth Munson at Nottingham in May 1883, and around 1885 he started to operate his own business from their home at 31 Bentinck Road, Hyson Green.

As the business became more successful, and perhaps attracted more influential patronage, he moved successively into new premises at 36 Goldsmith Street (1887), Newcastle Chambers, Angel Row (1892) and 126 Mansfield Road (1898).

Image © North East Midland Photographic Record & courtesy of Picture the Past
Emptying and loading trams, Clifton Colliery, 1895
by H.L. Morel, Nottingham (Image ref. NTGM009567)
Image © North East Midland Photographic Record & courtesy of Picture the Past

Morel took commissions for work outside the studio too, as did many portrait photographers of the time. In April 1887, in conjunction with Henry Levy, he produced some group portraits as mementos of the visit of Lord and Lady Randolph Churchill to Nottingham.

Image © North East Midland Photographic Record & courtesy of Picture the Past
Hard coal face spragged and timbered ready for holeing, Clifton Colliery
by H.L. Morel, Nottingham (Image ref. NTGM009559)
Image © North East Midland Photographic Record & courtesy of Picture the Past

In the early 1890s, he accompanied several sporting teams to events and successfully produced a number of popular group portraits. In 1895 he produced an important series of views showing underground working conditions at Clifton Colliery Nos. 1 and 2 Pits.

Henri Morel continued operating from Mansfield Road until at least 1910, and died at Nottingham in 1917.


Heathcote, Bernard V. & Heathcote, Pauline F. (2001) Pioneers of Photography in Nottinghamshire 1841-1910, Nottinghamshire County Council, 62p, ISBN 0902751387.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Staffordshire Photographers: Charles Moscrop of Mayfield

Image © and courtesy of John Bradley
Unidentified young man, Silver gelatin print mounted on cabinet card
by C. Moscrop, Mayfield nr. Ashbourne, c. 1900-1910
Image © and courtesy of John Bradley

Charles Moscrop (1872-1939) spent pretty much all of his 67 years in the town of Mayfield in North Staffordshire, close to Ashbourne and the border with Derbyshire. Born in 1871, he was the eldest of three children of a cotton warper (from Bolton, Lancashire) Henry Moscrop (1850-1913) and his wife Sarah Allsopp (1850-1925). In his twenties Charles also worked in the cotton manufacturing industry as a warper. However, it is clear from the existence of a cabinet card portrait, tentatively dated as from between 1900 and 1910, that he must have operated for at least a short period as a photographer.

Image © and courtesy of John Bradley
Generic art nouveau card mount, c.1900-1910
Image © and courtesy of John Bradley

Gillian Jones, in her Professional Photographers in North Staffordshire 1850-1940 (The PhotoHistorian, No 103, Winter 1994, publ. RPS Historical Group) lists Moscrop at Holmbank, Mayfield in 1918. The decorative art nouveau design on the reverse of the card mount is a generic one, with no photographer's name or location shown.

He married Emily Fletcher (1871-1964) at Ashbourne in 1907, but it is not known whether they had any children.

Any further images or information about this photographer would be appreciated. Many thanks to John Bradley for the images.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

In Death They Were Divided

Diana Burns sent me scans of three photos from her own collection asking if I had an "Oddities and Curiosities" folder containing some further examples of a similar ilk.

Image © and courtesy of Diana Burns

Diana writes: "The mounting is of the type I associate with daguerreotypes but it appears to be a carte de visite cut in two, with the remains of the sitter's female companion's dress still clearly visible. The motive for editing rather than destruction is not clear, although it may have been the cost of photos that caused the sitter to retain his own image."

I note the manner in which the photograph has been cut, leaving all extremities of the bearded man intact, rather than stright down the middle, retaining as much as possible of both people in the two halves. This suggests to me that the purpose was not make two portraits out of one, but to remove the left hand subject - who, judging from the clothing, must be a woman - from the portrait while keeping the right-hand subject whole.

This type of leatherette-covered wooden case, complete with brass "finisher," cover glass and pinchbeck surround, was indeed used for daguerreotype and ambrotype portraits, and often hinged with a velvet lined cover. However, this particular one is probably of a slightly later date - at least the late 1850s or 1860s, but possibly later - and the hanging ring just visible at the top shows that it never had a cover. Travelling photographers often used these cheap cases to house ambrotypes and tintypes, even as late as the 1890s - see this example from the 1890s which has come adrift from its case but still retains the pinchbeck surround. The small size of carte de visite portraits didn't render them ideal for framing, but I have occasionally come across them displayed in that manner. In this case, I believe someone has rather crudely inserted the remains of the cdv into a frame which originally contained some other portrait.

Image © and courtesy of Diana Burns

In the same genre, I have a photo of my husband's aunt, cut off for all eternity from (presumably) her spouse by a series of razor blade strokes (my late father-in-law is the prime suspect).

Image © and courtesy of Diana Burns

In the third example, which is a contact print made from a glass negative, someone (perhaps a child or an early animal rights activist) has crudely scratched out the face of the fur-loving woman from the negative. Nowadays, photos of detested acquaintances are likely to be simply deleted before ever seeing the light of day, but I was intrigued by the censorship methods employed by earlier generations.

I have seen many such photographs, although not from my own family collection, thank goodness. The more recent ones are often accompanied by interesting oral traditions; sadly the relevance of the excision in the older ones is usually lost.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

Nigel Aspdin has an early carte de visite portrait of a large family group (click image for a larger version) by Derby photographer J. Burton & Sons, which has a similar mutilation of the face of a central seated gentleman. Since the group itself is as yet unidentified, the reason for the clearly purposeful excision of said gentleman can only be guessed at.

This particular paper print by a street photographer in Lowestoft appears to have survived unscathed, although it, too, was unwanted. As recounted in a previous Photo-Sleuth post, the former owner devised a different, but equally effective, and possibly more satisfying, innovative solution for getting rid of photographs of detested relatives. He sells them on eBay, creating, I suppose, the potential for a new genre for which someone will eventually - if they haven't already - create a Flickr group: Unadoptable Orphan Photos.

Many thanks to Diana for both the images and the idea for this article.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Sepia Saturday 81: All the Fun of the Fair

The picture prompt for this week's Sepia Saturday theme shows five glum Irish ladies rather determined not to have a good time while selling their bric-a-brac at an early 20th Century stall. Perhaps the thought of carrying around all that hat for the rest of the day was just a little too much. Whatever the cause, it doesn't convey the feeling of festivity that I associate with show week and the Luna Park of my youth.

Fair Day in Morledge, Derby, 1882, by C.T. Moore

In an article about Derbyshire fairground photographer Charles Warwick posted three years ago, I used this image of a painting by C.T. Moore, a lively scene of an Easter fair taking place in the Morledge, Derby in 1882.

Detail: Itinerant Photographer's Tent

Closer examination of the painting reveals, parked amongst numerous hawkers, swings, an "Aetherscope" and several other attractions, an itinerant photographer's tent offering "Carte de Visite" on the far right, adjacent to a caravan. After further investigation, I identified several photographers accompanying a large group of travellers who toured the Midlands in the 1870s to 1890s, and who regularly attended the Easter Fair in Derby. These included Samuel Whiting (later a swing boat proprietor), Charles Warwick, Charles Antill and Charles Tyler. Although I'd come across all of these photographers previously, and had compiled profiles for three of them, I had no examples of the work of Antill or Tyler. Since then I've received several contributions of images, purchased a photo by Charles Tyler, and learnt a lot more about the life and careers of both him and his son Albert Charles Tyler.

Image © and courtesy of Judith Brennan
William & Sarah Hall with their daughter Eliza, Swanwick, c.1867-68
Image © and courtesy of Judith Brennan

Charles Tyler (1837-1908) started working as a confectioner with the family business in the small village of Wymeswold, near Loughborough in Leicestershire. The 1861 Census (7 April) shows Charles and his father living in a caravan parked at the Morledge, Derby. They were presumably winding down after a busy time the previous Easter weekend holiday hawking sweets (Easter Sunday was 31 March). In late 1864 he married Alice Suett, the daughter of a fellow traveller, and not long after appears to have taken up the photographic trade. By the late 1860s, when the above carte de visite portrait was taken in Swanwick, Derbyshire, he and Alice were living in a van and travelling to various fair around the Midlands.

Image © and courtesy of Judith Brennan
Generic card mount design overprinted "MR. C. TYLER Market Place WHITWIGK" [sic]
Image © and courtesy of Judith Brennan

The card mount is a generic one, overprinted with his name and "home" address, complete with spelling mistake - it would not have been produced by a high end printer! The Market Place in Whitwick was also not far from Loughborough, and was possibly where he set up shop when there were no country fairs to attend. I do have some doubts whether Tyler was, in fact, capable of reproducing copies of any previously taken portrait from the original negative as claimed, since glass plate negatives were bulky and heavy, and space would have been at a premium in his van.

Image © and courtesy of Google StreetView
Market Place, Grantham
Image © and courtesy of Google StreetView

Birth locations for Charles' and Alice's children over first two decades of their marriage show a wide distribution, indicating that they ferried their growing brood from village to town throughout the Midlands, following the country fair circuit through the 1870s and 1880s. Census night on Sunday 2 April 1871 found Charles, Alice, three young children and a servant in "booths and caravans" in The Yard of the Blue Lion in the Grantham Market Place, Lincolnshire. It seems likely that they were already packing up in preparation for a move to Derby to attend the Easter Fair on the following weekend. Further locations visited included Hinckley, Long Eaton, Nottingham and Burslem. They were back in Grantham on census night 3 April 1881, this time with two weeks to spare before the Easter fair in Derby, which they presumably attended.

Image © and courtesy of Frances Quinn
Four young men (and a dog) of Bollington, Cheshire, c.1885-1890
Image © and courtesy of Frances Quinn

This remnant of a carte de visite portrait depicting four young men and a well behaved dog, sent to me by Frances Quinn, was probably taken in the late 1880s at Bollington, north of Macclesfield in Cheshire. It was perhaps close to the northern limit of the Tyler's range, but appears to have been a regular haunt, because his fifth son Edwin was born there in the summer/autumn of 1873.

Image © and courtesy of Frances Quinn
Carte de visite by Charles Tyler, "here and at Wymeswold," c.1885-1890

The card mount used is by now far more elaborate, with classical design elements common to many being published in the late 1880s. He advertises that he is able to take portraits of fidgety children "by the instantaneous process" which essentially means that he is taking advantage of the faster emulsions commercially available by that time to employ quicker exposure times. Most interesting to me, however, is the tell-tale mark of an itinerant tradesman, unable to specify a permanent studio location: "Here and at Wymeswold, ..." Unfortunately, any other locations that might have been listed must await the appearance of a more complete version of this particular carte de visite design.

Image © and courtesy of Frances Quinn
Possibly Catherine (Kate) Quinn of Billington, c.1876
Fragment of ambrotype by unidentified photographer
Image © and courtesy of Frances Quinn

Frances also sent me these images of a fragment of an ambrotype or collodion positive portrait, believing it might be of her father-in-law's great aunt Catherine Quinn (1873-1959) of Bollington, Cheshire. What little I can see of the studio setting is typical for the the early to mid-1860s, with a diamond patterned carpet, and a wood panelling backdrop (although I think this backdrop is actually painted canvas, rather than real wood panelling). The seated pose of the man, probably facing directly forwards towards the camera, and with his legs apart, was common in the 1850s and 1860s.

Collodion positives were introduced in the 1850s, but their popularity started to decline in the 1860s, during the heyday of the carte de visite. However, due to their convenience and low cost, they were still favoured by some itinerant photographers, even as late as the 1890s. I found a picture of a very similar girl's outfit, with woven checked or tartan dress and jacket, dated 1874 in Jo Ann Olian's Children's Fashions 1860-1912: 1,065 Costume Designs from "LaMode Illustree," (publ. 1994, Dover Publications, New York). The portrait could therefore easily have been taken in the late 1870s, as Frances suggests. Whether the portrait was taken by Charles Tyler or some other photographer may well remain a mystery. We know that he was visiting Bollington in the mid-1870s, but I'm not sure how many other photographers in the general area.

View Charles Tyler (1837-1908), itinerant photographer in a larger map

On Sunday 5 April 1891, the weekend after Easter, Charles and Alice were back at the Morledge, Derby, two of their sons Arthur and Edwin and now working as photographic assistants. Their eldest son Albert Charles Tyler, aged 25, by now was operating separately from his own caravan, then parked at Mantle Lane, Whitwick. Over the previous two and a half decades they had covered an impressive area, illustrated by the location map of the English Midlands above.

Image © and courtesy of Gillian Jones
Unidentified woman, unknown location, c.1894-1896
Image © and courtesy of Gillian Jones

When this portrait of a young woman was taken in the mid-1890s, Charles Tyler had retired from an active role in the photography business and had become a publican. He owned and ran the Engineers' Arms in Coalville while Albert, now married to Swadlincote girl Lucy Smedley, operated the nominal "father and son" portrait venture from the van. The backdrop used is a rudimentary one, consisting of an unornamented, light coloured sheet, and Albert has taken little care to disguise its appearance. In additon the bright sunlight, probably coming from a skylight in the caravan roof directly above the subject, has heightened the contrast between the woman's dark clothing and the light backdrop, thus revealing little detail on her fine dress.

Image © and courtesy of Gillian Jones
C. Tyler & Son, here and at Swadlincote & Coalville

Printed by publishers Adams & Co. of London the card mount demonstrates by the caption "here and at Swadlincote & Coalville," that they used Lucy's and Charles's parents' abodes respectively as home bases.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Three, unidentified women, c.1895-1900
Carte de visite portrait by A.C. Tyler of Coalville
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The final portrait was taken, judging by the fashion of the dresses worn by the three women pictured, some time in the late 1890s. They are clearly dressed for an outing, with lavishly decorated hats, and umbrellas in case of the occasional light shower. Albert, now working on his own as "A.C. Tyler," has by now acquired a painted backdrop which lends something to the atmosphere with a little perspective, but it is probably still taken within the cramped confines of a photographer's caravan or tent.

There are several tell-tale signs to look for which might indicate a photographic portrait has been taken by an itinerant.
- There may be several locations listed, without a qualifier indicating that they were permanent branches.
- The words "Here and at ..." with no definite statement where "here might be, is presumably indicative of a traveller.
- Alternatively, there might not be a location listed at all.
- Rudimentary or out-of-date backdrops, carpets and other accessories used, edges poorly disguised and often with grass or bare earth showing.
- Portraits often taken outdoors.
- In the United Kingdom, collodion positives were predominantly used by travelling photographers after the mid- to late 1860s, but rarely by studio photographers.
- Tin types were generally the preserve of itinerants after the end of the 1870s.

Many thanks to Judith Brennan, Frances Quinn and Gillian Rhodes for permission to use their images.
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