Instead of going with the Sepia Saturday image theme this week, I'm continuing my intermittent series of posts featuring Derbyshire photographers. Since 2002 I've been compiling a historical database of studio and portrait photographers operating in the English county of Derbyshire, with much of the accumulated data, research material and images presented online: Derbyshire Photographers & Photographic Studios.
The information about photographers and studios comes largely from trade directories, census records, historical newspapers, genealogical databases and a variety of other sources. Examples of portriats by these photographers come partly from my own collection, but mostly by kind contribution from several hundred contributers around the world who have been in touch with me since the web site was launched in 2002. The database now includes over 500 separate photographers, with detailed profiles on over a third of them, but due to other projects competing for my time and interest - such as Photo-Sleuth - updates to the web site have stalled in recent years. My research, database compilation and collection of relevant images continues, however, and I still welcome further contributions.
Portrait of unidentified child, taken c.1880-1885
Carte de visite by John M. Hampson of No. 9 Birch View, Birch Vale
Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Although most of the documentary and archival sources where records of photographers might be found hve now been extensively scoured, I still come across the occasional name that is completely new to me, mostly from the discovery of portraits. This, a typical example, is a carte de visite portrait that I came across on eBay recently and purchased for my collection. Like most photos that are sold on eBay, it is not annotated, and has no documentation of provenance, so I have no idea who the subject was. It appears to be a child - possibly a girl, although the short hair makes me wonder a little - in a velvet dress with abundant ornamentation in the form of knotted braid. The chair on which she is sitting is covered with a plaid blanket, while another chair to her right has a floral cloth covering.
Reverse of card mount
by photographer John M. Hampson of Birch Vale
Image © and collection of Brett Payne
The reverse of the card mount has a design which Roger Vaughan calls the Early Large Letter design, used in the late 1870s and early 1880s. I suggest this particular example is from the early to mid-1880s.
John Mellor Hampson was born on 3 February 1846 at New Mills, Derbyshire, son of a wheelwright James Hampson and his wife Martha. By the age of 15, he had already left school and was working as a millwright in nearby Hayfield. He married Maria Bates Randle at Hayfield on 11 May 1870; she had been working as a cotton doubler in one of the local mills. The following year, John was a foreman/millwright at a print works in Hayfield, presumably associated with the cotton mill industry. The censuses of 3 April 1881 and 5 April 1891 both found him living at number 9, Birch View in the small village of Birch Vale, near Hayfield, describing himself as a millwright. By 1901 he and his wife had moved to Hayfield Road, Hayfield, and then by 1911 to Macclesfield Road, Staley Bridge (across the border in Cheshire), but he was still working as a millwright. He died at Whaley Bridge on 13 March 1913, aged 67, and was buried at Hayfield two days later.
I've found no evidence in the usual documentary records for John M. Hampson working as a photographic artist, although the Bulmer trade directory for 1895 lists him as a coal merchant. However censuses were only taken every ten years, while trade directories provide a fragmentary record at best, and it appears that he must have briefly tried his hand as a photographer during the late 1870s or early 1880s.