British photographic history

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I'm trying to find out more information about a Victorian photographer named Lachlan Maclachlan (or M'Lachlan) who was working round about the 1870s and who was 'given to composing large groups of celebrities - notably the terrible Royal Group'. I take this to mean Maclachlan specialised in composite photographs. Another brief reference I've found states that the 'terrible' Royal Group was later the subject of litigation. Does anyone know more about this photographer, the Royal Group or can suggest the best place to search? Thanks 

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I believe he was a Manchester cabinet maker in the 1850's born in 1824 and living at 9 Cross Street. He was an amateur who by 1861 had turned professional - living at Albert Grove. He became a member of Manchester Photographic Society and the Photographic Society of London. He was also a curator in some capacity and in The Photographic Journal, February 16th. 1866 his idea of establishing local and national Museums of Photographic Portraiture is discussed in some detail.  Not come across the "terrible Royal Group".

Thanks for your reply. The Manchester connection is intriguing with regard to the line of enquiry I'm pursuing.

The British Journal Photographic Almanac 1892 records Lachlan Machlachlan's (sic) death in 1891 and therefore it might be worth checking the BJP for an obituary. There was no obituary in the Photographic News or the Journal of the Photographic Society.

He was elected a member of the RPS in 1864 remaining so until his death: His address was Cross Street, Manchester. 

Searches aren't helped by the fact that his name appears as M'lachlan, McLachlan, Maclachlan, Machlachlan...

Thanks for this further information. I'll check the BJP as suggested.


I found this on the Diamond Vs Sutton case of which seems to be involved. Something about photographs of prominent men.

Dick Sullivan

Dick, thank you so much for finding this. It really helps with my research. Mark.

Lachlan McLachlan’s photographs of the unpacking of Art Treasures at the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition appeared as wood engravings in the Illustrated London News of 2nd May 1857.

Lachlan McLachlan proposed - following an approach by the architect of the building Edward Salomons - that if he were given sole rights to photograph the 1857 Manchester Art Treasures exhibition he would do this at his own cost and supply the executive committee with both negatives and prints free of charge.[i] McLachlan clearly hoped to make a commercial killing on the sale of his photographs. He apparently started work on this basis only to be challenged. It would appear that the executive committee denied a license to McLachlan and gave the rights to Delamotte – presumably in lieu of payment for his services in organising the photographic gallery.

Anthony Hamber

[i] Manchester Central Library Local Studies Unit, John C. Deane, General Commissioner, Out-Letter Book M6/2/41/1 courtesy of Elizabeth Pergam.

Mark Jones said:

Dick, thank you so much for finding this. It really helps with my research. Mark.
The 1868 February and March Issues of the "illustrated Photographer" Has lots of references to some "Secret Process" discovered by McLachlan  that will revolutionize photography.. There is letters to the editor, back and forth between T. Sutton (Sec. of the Photographic Society of London (RPS) And McLachlan. Sutton was plaintiff in Diamond V Sutton in the previous citation.
The 1868 yearly comb. edition of the Illustrated Photographer is available through Google books, to big for here and too much to extract piece by piece. If you cannot download it I can set it up in a Dropbox acct as I have it in my database.
I have not untangled what the hubub is all about, however, just that they are in a tangle.

Anthony, thank you for your reply about the Art Treasures exhibition. Dick, I have managed to get hold of the Illustrated Photographer volume you've mentioned via Google Books so I'll have a good dig through that. I've been really heartened by the way people have made efforts to respond to my question in this forum - so time to share a bit more about what I know about McLachlan (M'Lachlan) which led to my enquiry. I'm researching the Victorian artist Frederic Shields and, in particular, the time he spent as a resident of Ordsall Hall in Salford between 1872 and 1875. In The Life and Letters of Frederic Shields from 1912, McLachlan is mentioned as someone Shields had some unfortunate dealings with - as he puts it in his own words:I was foolish enough to yield to the reiterated solicitations of my friend Lachlan M'Lachlan, the photographer and design for him a group of the Royal Family, twenty- two in all, as a basis for a picture to be produced by photography.It was a concession both against my judgment and feeling to an old friend's desire. At intervals during these years I have often .at great inconvenience been summoned to aid him in difficult passages of his undertaking, which is on a large scale; and whereas I thought to be settled in London at my own work, all my other engagements have had to give place to M'Lachlan' s venture, and I have been held in slavery to a most loathsome task, endeavoring to bring into pictorial harmony for him a huge mass of heterogeneous photographic material, at a cost to myself of daily crucifixion'. The whole undertaking was, apparently, 'to include Queen Victoria and all her descendants in one colossal photograph,  which, it was hoped, would really make the fortune of the photographer and all concerned in the production.' Elsewhere in the bookMaclachlan is described as 'a man of extraordinary pertinacity, and it is evident that he was a somewhat trying person to work for'.



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