British photographic history

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John Spiller was appointed as the photographer at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich in 1861, he is credited with setting up the photographic department in the Royal Laboratories at that time.

My Great-grand father, Charles Dibblin, worked in those laboratories and amongst the papers that have come down the family to me is a list, in copper plate handwriting, of twenty seven of the Foremen , it says at the bottom;-

"The above are Foremen of the Royal Laboratory Woolwich Arsenal, photographed by Mr Spiller- chemist in front of the Chemical Department at Arsenal. This enlarged copy is believed to be the only one extant, frame made in Carpenters Shop in Labs."

Spillers obituary reads; "John Spiller, born in Holborn in 1833. Christened October 15 1833 in Holborn. Photographer living at 2 St Mary's Road, Islington 1901.  Joined the Woolwich Arsenal as an assistant chemist in 1856. In 1861 he founded the Photography Department. He left in 1868. Member of the Photographic society (later The Royal Photographic Society) from 1867. President 1874-1875."

Obviously a very influential man in those early days of photography!

Now unfortunately we have never had the photograph referred to, and as one of the Foremen named is my GGF Charles Dibblin ( "Foreman Ammunition Desks" ) we would love to see it.

So, please has anyone any idea as to whether any negatives of Spiller's photographs exist in storage somewhere or has anyone ever seen the picture of the twenty seven foremen?

Any help would be very much appreciated. 

David Barker.

   david.barker5@icloud.com

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Dear David

You may already have this... but just in case....

John Spiller photographed Garibaldi at his studio in the Royal Arsenal in April 1864. See “Photograph of Garibaldi”, Photographic News, 22 April 1864 p. 204.  The contemporary press stated Garibaldi hated being photographed... though several photographers were able to take his portrait.

Regards

Anthony

Anthony Hamber

Thank you for that info Anthony, it doesn't get me any nearer finding the original negatives but is very interesting non the less, I find it quite extraordinary that altho' Spiller was very early in his field and ended up as President of the R.P.S., that not one of his negatives appear to have been saved.

I bet they are somewhere tho'!

David

Dear David,

I've also been hunting Spiller over the last few years. His papers are much dispersed. There are some letters to William Crookes in the Wellcome Library, and a few prints in the Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A. However, I had meant to do some digging as soon as the archives open up again and will let you know if I come across any of his photographs or negatives.

Best wishes,

Kelley



Kelley Wilder said:

Dear David,

I've also been hunting Spiller over the last few years. His papers are much dispersed. There are some letters to William Crookes in the Wellcome Library, and a few prints in the Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A. However, I had meant to do some digging as soon as the archives open up again and will let you know if I come across any of his photographs or negatives.

Best wishes,

Kelley

Dear Kelley, That's wonderful!  I would be so grateful if you would let me know if you do find anything relating to Spiller particularly relating to  Woolwich Arsenal.

I had given up hoping that I would get a response, so you have really cheered me up, and boy, do we need it in the middle of this damned pandemic!

thanks again,

David

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