Sunday, 18 September 2011

Derby Photographers: Leonard Norman

I have previously written about the photographic studio on the top floor of 36 Victoria Street, Derby, the building known to Victorian Derbeians as Clulow's bookstore. After being first used as a branch studio in the early to mid-1860s by the Leicester firm of John Burton & Sons, it was subsequently occupied by a succession of photographers: Clement Rogers from c.1870 to 1874, J.W. Price (1874-c.1880), Harry J. Watson (c.1887-c.1893) and Layton & Lamb (1898).

Image  and courtesy of Robert Silverwood
Unidentified young woman, c.1899-1900
Cabinet card by Leonard Norman, 36 Victoria Street, Derby

In late 1898 or early 1899 Leonard Norman took over the studio
and was in business there for the compilation of the 1899 edition of Kelly's trade directory. He was born in Litchurch, Derby in 1864, one of seven children of engine smith William Gilford Norman. Adamson (1997) shows Norman operating in Victoria Street as a photographer in 1900, but by April 1901 he had moved on. The census found him boarding in Ipswich, Suffolk, employed as a photographer. Details of his movements after this date are unclear, although there is a listing of a Leonard Norman, photographer at 63 Abbey Street, Nuneaton, Warwickshire in 1912.

With such a brief period of operation in Derby his output there must have been very limited, perhaps a few thousand at most. I am fortunate, therefore, to have been sent this image of a fine cabinet portrait of an unidentified young woman from Norman's studio by Robert Silverwood.

Image  and courtesy of Robert Silverwood

The reverse of the card mount has only the words Norman and Derby printed across the diagonal in a "signature style." This simplified type of design became increasingly popular towards the end of the 1890s, perhaps a reaction to the classical excesses of the 1880s and early 1890s, with their fluted columns, Grecian vases, toga clad maidens, naked cherubs and other "artistic" motifs (see Roger Vaughan's 1890s CDV backs).

Image  and courtesy of Ian Ward

Norman's card design is very similar to that used in the mid-1890s by former 36 Victoria Street occupant Harry J. Watson, shown above. It is so similar, in fact, that I wonder whether Leonard Norman was previously an assistant of Watson's prior to opening his own studio, either in Victoria Street in the late 1880s/early 1890s or in Burton Road in the mid-1890s.

Presumably Leonard Norman settled in Ipswich, because he died at Henham, Crofton Road in that town on 13 April 1937. His son John White Norman was also described as a photographer at the time.

Many thanks to Robert Silverwood for the use of these images.


  1. Whata pity she remains ‘unidentified’. I love all the frills down the front of her and the excessively ruffled collar.

  2. The picture is delightful (as always) and the description is enthralling (as always)

  3. while i find her blouse a tad complicated, but i guess such was fashion at the time... her eyes are captivating. interesting speculations on your part about him. was he indeed a former apprentice? i wouldn't have thought of that. possibly, i would have thought they had dealt with the same printer...

  4. Good point TB, and I think you may well be right, that they merely used the same printer. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it.

  5. i, "I", could be right????
    now, that'd be too strange...
    but they do say the simplest solution is often the right one...
    lucky break!!

  6. Hi,
    William Gilford Norman was an ancestor. He married Elizabeth Leonard so that is where the names came from. My line is one of the grandsons who came to Australia. Each generation became an engineer. He has his photo in the Hillend Holtermann collection

    William Gilford lived to 82 and was appointed Borough Magistrate for Derby in 1894 (The first from the working class). Leonard Norman was born 1865 with four children

    Good to find your site. My uncle Len (related to your Leonard)would have loved to see where his love of photography came from.

  7. Leonard Norman went to India as a professional photographer and was an official to the War Office 1914-1918.

    My records mention that he lived in Ipswich. My uncle Len's parents visited England in 1928? and described Leonard as a "man of great charm and culture".

    To often we forget the charm of the photographer I hope that this paints a better picture of the person.

  8. Leonard had four children, John Bessie Hilda and Maude. The photo reminds me of the Norman photos but lots of people look like this girl.

    Thanks for date of his passing as it confirms my date of the visit in 1928.

    Photos are hard to identify except by their origin. Any clues to who owned this photo?

  9. Thanks very much Bruce, for adding substantially to my knowledge of the photographer Leonard Norman and his family, as well as fleshing out my somewhat meagre portrait of him. With your permission, I would like to add this material to the profile that I have created on my other we site, devoted to Derbyshire photographers.

    Regards and best wishes, Brett

  10. I am researching and writing up my family history, and in so doing I have been trying to find information on the Norman family and came across this website- great website and great photos.

    My g grandfather’s sister married Leonard Norman’s brother, Richard Leonard Norman, who came to Australia in 1871, and I am wanting to contact this family.

    I noticed that Parkbench Bruce put information about this family on this site,and I am keen to contact him. I am not researching the Norman family but Richard’s wife’s Hardman family.

    Thais Hardman

    1. Thais,
      Only just looked at the replies. I have the Norman-Hardman wedding photo (1902?). Her family was in biscuits. Richard Leonard Norman was my g grandfather. He set up a foundry R L Norman and Sons and was friends with the Premier of NSW.
      Please contact me at

  11. I believe the "Leonard Norman" reportedly at Nuneaton in 1912 was in fact James Leonard Dewberry (1887-1917), who was born at Colwick, near Nottingham, and commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres, Belgium. In 1911, aged 24, photographer Leonard Dewberry was living at 63 Abbey Road, Nuneaton, with his wife Ada [Ada Florence, née Wightman, m. 1907; or Florence Ada, d. 1938] and their son Leonard Norman Dewberry (1907-1971), who became a tailor. The father's signature on the census form looks like "Leonard N Dewberry" but the "N" is so close to the "D" that it may have been deliberately overwritten.

    Leonard Norman of Ipswich (1864-1937) was at 26 Tacket Street in 1911. His Scottish wife Elspeth Jean (aged 43; m. c.1889 [née McCulloch?]) and daughter Elizabeth Leonard Norman (19) were then assisting in the photography business, Elizabeth being described as an apprentice. There was also a 4-year-old son, John White Norman (see below).

    Leonard (or "Louis", who appears to be a clerical error) was listed in Ipswich directories as a photographer at 26 Tacket Street from 1908 ( until 1933 or later, with a private address at 58 Murray Road from 1918 if not earlier.

    As Brett has noted, the 1937 probate index shows that Leonard Norman of 5 Westgate Street, Ipswich, died at Crofton Road. This ("Henham", number 43) was the home of his son, John White Norman, the photographer to whom probate was granted. Number 5 Westgate Street had been the site of Adolphus Tear's County Studio since the 1890s. Although Edward Adolphus Tear (1862-1925) probably spent most of his time in London, where he had another studio in Notting Hill, his name survived him by more than two decades in Ipswich. I don't know whether the Tear family owned the property in the 1930s or whether its long-established name was retained by the Normans for commercial reasons.

    I have been informed that Leonard's son John White Norman (1906-1970) was at the Adolphus Tear studio in Westgate Street up to 1941, when he joined the RAF. The studio was then relocated to 2 The Walk, Ipswich, and operated during the war by Arthur Leslie White (1876-1963), whose former premises at 10 Marina Arcade, Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex, were presumably among those requisitioned by the military. As the son of the Ipswich photographer John White (1847-1909), Arthur had previously assumed responsibility for his family's studios in Suffolk, perhaps until 1915 in Ipswich ( and about 1921 in Felixstowe. Following demobilization, John White Norman took over from Arthur Leslie White at 2 The Walk but he soon ran into financial trouble and a photographer called Donovan was listed at that address by 1952 (Kelly's Ipswich directory).

    Descendants of John White Norman always understood that he was named after a friend his father had met in India [where at least two of John's siblings were born in the 1890s]. They are equally certain that Leonard Norman was working with John White at Ipswich in the early 1900s, before opening his own studio in Tacket Street. I suppose it may be merely coincidental that both John White and Edward Adolphus Tear were in India until the 1870s.

    I'd be glad to hear from anyone who has more information about the White family. Examples of John White's portraiture can be shared at

    1. Thank you, David, for your extensive details of the life and work of the Ipswich Norman family and their photographic studios. Obviosuly the Derby photographer was a different person, and I will have to look elsewhere for his activities after 1899.

  12. You're welcome, Brett. I don't think you'll have to look further than Ipswich. Perhaps I should have mentioned that Leonard Norman of Tacket Street gave his place of birth as Derby in 1911, as he did in 1901, when he was boarding at 14 Ringham Road, Ipswich, while his wife Elspeth J[ean] (aged 34, b. Scotland) remained at 37 Macklin Street, Derby, with four children: Agnes M[aud] (10, b. India), Elizabeth L[eonard] Norman (9, b. Scotland), Frederick W[illiam] G[ilford] (6, b. India) and Hilda (2, b. Scotland). confirms that Frederick William Gilford Norman, son of Leonard and "Ettie", was born on 17 July 1894 and baptized in Darjeeling, Bengal, India, on 2 Sept. 1894. In 1911, William Gilford Norman (16, b. Darjeeling, India) was a miller's apprentice near Brantham, Suffolk, a few miles south of Ipswich. The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme includes 22-year-old Second Lieutenant "Gilford William" Norman among the officers who died in 1916. On the website of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (,%20GILFORD%20WILLIAM) his parents are named as Leonard and Ettie Norman of 58 Murray Rd, Ipswich, which I now see is given as Leonard's residential address in Kelly's directory of Suffolk for 1916, a couple of years earlier than I had noted.

    Derby and Ipswich are also linked by the 1909 probate index: Leonard's father, William Gilford Norman of Rose Hill Street, Derby, died at "Tacker" [Tacket] Street, Ipswich, on 27 May 1909.

    1. Hello David, I am actually researching James Leonard
      Dewberry (1887-1917) and have quite a bit of information on him ... regiment, where he lived in London and registered for WW1. Would like more information on him if you have any... Thanks Susan


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