Saturday, 10 September 2011

Chesterfield Photographers: H. Brawn

This image of a cabinet card which I found on the net depicts a young man posed outdoors, dressed in uniform, perhaps of a policeman, but I think he is more likely to be a member of some volunteer yeomanry regiment. No details of the subject are provided, but it is the photographer that interests me in particular today.

The back of the card displays a cabinet-sized version of Marion & Co's "Bamboo & Fan" design which Roger Vaughan describes (CDV card designs) as having been issued in 1884 and used until 1892. This more or less equates with the fact that thick, dark purple glossy card has been used, although my estimate would perhaps tend towards the early to mid-1890s.

The only photographer named Brawn or Braun that I can find with the initial "H" is from the 1901 Census. Henry Braun, then aged 27 and born in Islington, was living at 71 Somerset Road, Tottenham with wife and child, and described himself as a photographer (own account, at home). There was, however, a Henry Brawn who was married at Chesterfield in the 4th Quarter of 1903, about whom I have been able to unearth nothing further.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone else who has come across this photographer, or might be able to shed some light on the uniform of the subject of the cabinet card portrait.

Post Script 11 September 2011

Nigel found this image of a Victorian Blue Cloth Helmet of the Sherwood Foresters on an auction site. It looks very similar indeed to the helmet shown in the Brawn portrait.

606. Sherwood Foresters at Clumber Park, 1913
Postcard by H.P. Hansen, Ashbourne

The uniform is also not too different to the dress uniform worn by the Sherwood Foresters in this pre-Great War group portrait by Ashbourne photographer H.P. Hansen which I wrote about previously on Photo-Sleuth (Sherwood Foresters at Clumber Park).


  1. I think this man COULD be a Sherwood Forester, given his Chesterfield links, but this is just a guess as the badge is too indistinct. I have seen such helmets on recent day Sherwood Forester bandsmen in recent years. I think the helmet is called a Home Service helmet, and I read this quote:

    “The [British] military adopted a helmet [late 19th century], of dark blue cloth over cork and incorporating a bronze spike, for military wear in non-tropical areas. This helmet lead to the retirement of the Shako hat. It was rarely considered a "pith helmet". Modelled on the German Pickelhaube, the British Army adopted this headgear (which they called the "Home Service Helmet") in 1878. The US adopted it in 1881. Most British line infantry, artillery (with ball rather than spike) and engineers wore the helmet until 1902, when khaki Service Dress was introduced. With the general adoption of khaki for field dress in 1903, the helmet became purely a full dress item, being worn as such until 1914.
    The Home Service Helmet is still worn by some British Army bands or Corps of Drums on ceremonial occasions today. It is closely related to the custodian helmet worn by a number of police forces in England and Wales.”

    Nigel, Derby UK

  2. Another fascinating post. I have a few Cabinet Cards and often find the designs on the back as stunning and as interesting as the image on the front. Yet again you have contributed to my overall knowledge of Victorian photography - thanks

  3. Hi Brett,

    This is very interesting ... I love the group photo. Thanks for stopping by.

    Kathy M.

  4. Nigel - Thanks for your ID, which seems spot on to me. I've added the auction site image to which you sent me a link privately, as it illustrates the helmet very well. Your quote from Wikipedia helps a great deal to fill out my understanding of uniform changes at the time.

    Alan - The backs of cabinet cards and CDVs are a study by themselves, but you can lose yourself in pure enjoyment of them. Try Sheaff's ephemera for a good range of real stunners, but I must warn you - be prepared to be distracted for a good length of time.

    Kathy - And thank you too.

  5. The following from Kevin Rhodes via Facebook:

    Agree with military angle and yes nearly everybody in my family in Chesterfield who joined up was in the Foresters. A few questions no answers - paying attention to scabbard at waist - is this for a bayonet? Certainly not a sword and given quality of outfit and nature of background and the locality I doubt he is an officer. If he was a senior NCO I would expect stripes on his arm - so how come he's holding a swagger stick? Is it a photographer's prop? Curious to think he probably drank at the same public house in nearby St Helens St ("The Neptune") as I did some of my early drinking.

  6. Thank you Kevin. I had not paid much attention to either the scabbard or the swagger stick. He doesn't look old enough to be a senior NCO, does he? I wonder if the swagger stick was "borrowed" for the occasion? I was reading about that sort of thing not being unheard of just the other day ... now where was it?

  7. if it had been a police helmet, such things would be considered nowadays as politically incorrect as they cause harm in a scuffle. but it is a magnificent piece nonetheless. i wonder, what does the white belt means? in the last pic, some have it and some don't. does it have to do with ranking?

  8. TB - Yes you're right, there is some considerable variation in uniforms in the second photo. However I think the primary differences are between the formal dress uniform, with white belts, and the brown-belted khaki uniform, which became the standard during the Great War. There is one chap in the front with very fancy epaulettes which may signify a rank. I'm afraid I'm just not au fait enough with uniforms and ranks to know.

    Seeing that the helmet was made of cork, I doubt it would cause much harm in a scuffle, by the way.

  9. A very interesting picture. Compare it to my photo British Tenor Horn Bandsman from earlier this year. The card back design is the same with the exception of the photographer's name.

    Recently someone added a comment noting the Austrian Knots on the sleeve which look very much like your man's uniform. This apparently is a useful detail for dating a British uniform. The belt is similar and musicians also wore a short sword too. But it is the stick that intrigues me. He might hold a bandmaster's baton. I can't say for sure because conductor's batons are the least preserved musical devices. Not many survive and there are very few photos of bandleaders from this period. I'll keep an eye out for a comparable photo of a baton.

  10. Mike - The card design "Bamboo and Fan" and variations of it were a very popular one in the late 1880s and 1890s. Yes, I think you're right about the Austrian Knot. The Sherwood Foresters were indeed a volunteer force. Intriguing indeed about the possibility of it being a bandmaster's baton. The thought of that hadn't occurred to me.

  11. He is a part time soldier from a volunteer battalion of an English/Welsh (and without 'Royal' title) County Regiment circa 1899-1901. This is marked by his white collar and cuffs (together known as "facings") which indicate nationality of unit and the Austrian knots, which tell us he is a "volunteer". He is dressed in Review Order (helmet and bayonet)and carrying the swagger cane or stick that he would carry when out of barracks in "walking out dress". As a volunteer he must be local to the photographic studio so he is without doubt in what was then the "Derbyshire Regiment" (changed to Notts and Derby just before WW1).

  12. Many thanks once again frogsmile, for your great depth of knowledge about uniforms and medals. Hoepfully this will help me identify a few more of these miltary photos.

    Did all ranks carry the swagger stick?

  13. I forgot to mention that he is wearing a 5-button frock rather than a 7-button full dress tunic. The frock was cut more loosely and unlined, although men could have a lining fitted if they wished. The material was also inferior to that of the tunic. It was intended as an in barracks, working uniform and as the cost of volunteers became more of an issue it was the only uniform issued.

    The swagger cane or stick was carried by all other ranks at that time and was part of attempts to improve the soldiers view of himself and perception of him by wider society.


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