Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Derby Photographers: Pollard Graham

Barker Pollard Graham, like many photographers of his day, went through several "boom and bust" cycles during his lengthy career. Some of these phases of activity were in the form of partnerships, often with local businessmen who would have provided financial backing to his various schemes. It's difficult, perhaps impossible, to assess now how much his failures were due to poor business sense, and how much to unfortunate turns of events - most likely a bit of both.

Image © and courtesy of Ron CosensImage © and courtesy of Ron Cosens
Carte de visite portrait of John Hunter, junior, September 1880
by Pollard Graham of New Road, Belper & North End, Wirksworth
Images © and courtesy of Ron Cosens

His first venture appears to have been started around 1878 - I don't yet have a firm date - working as a photographer and gelatine dry plate manufacturer at New Road in Belper, but also operating in Wirksworth. Reports of financial difficulties in mid-1881 assert that he traded as "Pollard Graham & Co." Although I have yet to see any other evidence for use of this name at this early stage, I suspect that the "& Co." referred to his brother-in-law Michael Charnock, also a photographer, who was living him on census night in April 1881. In February 1886 there is another report of court proceedings between the "Derby Photographic Dry Plate Company" and "Pollard Graham & Co." but no details of location or are given. To my knowledge the suffix "& Co." never appeared on any of his card mounts or trade directory entries during this period.

Image © and courtesy of Ron CosensImage © and courtesy of Ron Cosens
Carte de visite portrait of unidentified woman, c.1886-7
by Pollard Graham of New Road, Belper & The Zoological Gardens, Southport
Images © and courtesy of Ron Cosens

Around 1886-1887 Graham replaced his Wirksworth sideline with one at The Zoological Gardens, Southport, as shown only by the addresses on several carte de visites. It seems probable that his visits to Southport were merely seasonal, catering to the zoo's summer visitors, and he is unlikely to have occupied permanent premises there.

In early 1887, together with several Derby businessmen, he registered "Pollard Graham and Company, Limited" in the business of gelatine bromide photographic dry plate manufacturers. In that year he was operating from premises in Agard Street, Derby. Again it appears that the business did not thrive, and three years later, in March 1890, the "stock in trade and working plant" of Pollard Graham & Co., Ltd., Agard Street, Derby was offered for sale. A liquidation notice for Pollard Graham & Co., Ltd., Derwent Dry Plate Works, Agard Street, which had been operating since 1886, appeared in June 1890. As I've not seen any card mounts with the Agard Street address, I'm not sure whether he ever operated a studio from there.

Image © and courtesy of Lies Ligthard
Carte de visite portrait of unidentified woman, c.1891-3
by Pollard Graham of Rodney Chambers, Corn Market, Derby
Image © and courtesy of Lies Ligthard

The portrait business, however, continued, and it is clear from mentions in the local newspaper that he was taking portraits from premises at Rodney Chambers, Corn Market in August 1890. By March 1891 it is likely that his son James Charnock Graham was working for him. This studio appears to have then remained open, possibly continuously, until his death in 1932. I have no clear, unequivocal evidence for it, but I suspect that the portrait studio operated outside the framework of both of these early "Pollard Graham & Co" businesses, which appear to have been formed specifically for the commercial manufacture of dry plates, presumably for supply to local studios.

Image © and collection of Brett PayneImage © and collection of Brett Payne
Carte de visite portrait of unidentified woman, c.1895-7
by Pollard Graham of Derby & Burton on Trent
Images © and collection of Brett Payne

Pollard Graham's next venture was to open a branch studio in the nearby brewing town of Burton-upon-Trent, probably some time between 1893 and 1895. The entries in trade directories for 1896 and 1900 show him with the addresses 12 and 113a Station Street respectively. I believe this branch remained open until around 1900, but again I don't have a firm date for its closure. It is complicated by the firm possibly using card mounts with both "Burton & Derby" and "Derby" addresses simultaneously during this period.

Image © and collection of Brett PayneImage © and collection of Brett Payne
Carte de visite portrait of unidentified woman, c.1905-7
by Pollard Graham of Burnley, Leigh, Peterboro' & Derby
Images © and collection of Brett Payne

From 1903 until 1910, Pollard Graham also operated several other branches, of varying duration, in other Midland towns. According to my research, these were in Peterborough, Burnley, Leigh and Wigan, and all examples that I have seen from these branches were styled "Pollard Graham," with no suffix.

Image © and courtesy of Diane Lilley
Large format mounted portrait of Lily May Campbell, c.1910
by Pollard Graham & Co. of Burslem, Longton, Coventry & Northampton
Image © and courtesy of Diane Lilley

Some time prior to March 1915, when the partnership was dissolved, Pollard Graham went into a collaboration with Albert Hutchinson. This firm was styled, "Pollard Graham & Co." and at the time of dissolution was operating "in the trade or business of Photographers" at Friar-gate, Derby. From what I can tell, all of the card mounts with "Pollard Graham & Co." printed on them can be ascribed to this pre-war period of operation, when they had branches in Burslem, Longton, Coventry, Northampton, Rotherham, Luton and Lincoln. From an analysis of the photographs which have the "& Co." suffix - sadly, none are dated - and various trade directory entries, I believe that the partnership between Hutchinson and Graham probably corresponds to the use of the "& Co." title, and commenced around 1910. I have not seen any photograph with "Pollard Graham & Co." printed on it, or a trade directory entry for "Pollard Graham & Co." prior to 1910 or after 1915.

Image © and collection of Brett PayneImage © and collection of Brett Payne
Postcard portrait of unidentified man, c.1914
by Pollard Graham of 108A Friargate, Derby
Images © and collection of Brett Payne

The Great War seems to have had a significant impact on Pollard Graham's business. Apparently all of the branch studios were closed around 1914-1915, with only the "Head Office and Works" remaining open until around 1920. It is not clear what happened to the studio at Rodney Chambers, Corn Market during the War, because it the address is not shown on extant postcard backs from 1915-1920. It may have been closed temporarily until business picked up again in peace time.

Image © and courtesy of Caroline DeanImage © and courtesy of Caroline Dean
Postcard portrait of Caroline Sadler, c.1921-5
by Pollard Graham of Derby & Northampton
Images © and courtesy of Caroline Dean

In about 1920, perhaps sensing business was indeed rejuvenating, he opened a new branch in Northampton.

Image © and courtesy of Rob JenningsImage © and courtesy of Rob Jennings
Postcard portrait of unidentified man, c.1925-6
by Pollard Graham of Derby, Northampton, Kettering & Wellingborough
Images © and courtesy of Rob Jennings

Around 1925, he went into a short-lived partnership with his son James, and they opened more branches, successively, in Kettering and Wellingborough. Postcards and card mounts bear the name "Pollard Graham & Son" and "Pollard Graham & Son's Studios," respectively. This would not last long, however. The partnership was dissolved in October 1926, Pollard Graham keeping the Corn Market studio, and his son retaining the others.

Image © and courtesy of Graham RobinsonImage © and courtesy of Graham Robinson
Postcard portrait of Ada Mary Oxspring, c.1928-32
by Pollard Graham of Rodney Chambers, Corn Market, Derby
Images © and courtesy of Graham Robinson

From late 1926 until his death in 1932, Pollard Graham continued to take portraits at Rodney Chambers, Corn Market.

Acknowledgements I would like to thank all of those who have kindly contributed both images and information over a period of some years for my revised profile of the Derby photographer Pollard Graham - without them, this study would be very patchy.
Nigel Aspdin, Hilary Booth, Betty Bowler, Boz, Kerrie Brailsford, Pat Cahill, Grace-Ellen Capier, John Copley, Brian Coxon, Helen Cullum, Joss Davis, Caroline Dean, Sophie Dickerson, Chris Elmore, Jack Fletcher, John Frearson, Helen Frost, Gillian Fynes, Angela Galloway, Brian Goodhead, Angus Graham, Clive Greatorex, Carole Haywood, John Hoddinott, Martin Jackson, Rob Jennings, Kim Klump, Lies Ligthart, Diane Lilley, Dorothy Livesey, Marilyn McMillan, Cynthia Maddock, Barry Muir, Sarah Nash, Margaret Page, Graham Pare, Fran Powles, Alan Radford, Kevin Rhodes, Graham Robinson, David Roughley, Robert Silverwood, Derek Smith, Valerie Stern, Lynne Tedder and Andrew Wryobek.


  1. Goodness, I wonder how you manage to find information about these old photographers. I have a beautiful photo by Whitlock of Birmingham but I wouldn't know how to start.

  2. Hi Jenny - Well, where do I start, there are so many sources that I've used. Trade directories are a good place to start, then census, BMD records, newspaper articles, and many, many more. I've been collecting this material about Derbyshire photographers for almost ten years, so it's not a quick process, and what you see is both the culmination of a lengthy study and many contributions from visitors to my web site.

  3. Fascinating article and I'm always amazed how much information you find and the fine examples.

  4. Hi there
    What a great resource. I have just come across a very old photograph with the Pollard Graham & Co trade mark and from the Wellington Street, Luton branch. By a combination of your resource and one other together with the attire and hat of the individual lady who appears to be in mourning dress we have narrowed the photograph date down to 1913. The photograph is of my great grandmother so we knew her name already. Once somebody confirmed the Luton office opened in or around 1911/12 and that she was in mourning I checked family records and found her father died in 1913 so that was the most likely date. Would that be possible from your research?
    Len Aspell

    1. Good to hear of your success story, Len. That is exactly why I write these articles. I'd probably reserve judgement until I see the photo, so if you'd like to send me a scan, please feel free, and I'll do my best to help.

  5. I have recently been sent some information about my ancestors, the Shortland family, which includes a Pollard Graham photo.

    I do not know who the man is but I wonder if he is wearing the uniform of the L and NW railway

    My branch of the Shortland family are from Northamptonshire so the location details on the photo do not match but I can see from reading this article that Graham Pollard did work in Northamptonshire.

    I would love to learn more about this photo and am willing to share this here if that were possible.

  6. I think I have a 1912 wedding photo that also backs up your theory about the use of the term & Co. - taken by Burslem studio

  7. Can nicely write on similar topics! Welcome to here you'll find out how it should look. how to make fun snaps


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