British photographic history

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Researching early photographers in Ealing

Having lived in Ealing for nearly 20 years I thought it was about time I did some research on Ealing's early photographers.

I have written up an account of what I have found from some very superficial online searching, just to get the ball rolling.  That said, it draws on some great resources, most notably the site.

It can be found at

There is still a lot to work on and many gaps to fill.  So far I have concentrated on early studios and have managed to locate a fair number of carte de visite and cabinet cards from the area, though far less than I might have expected, suggesting to me that it was not a well established location.  I have not yet sourced any detailed information about dates of operation ( should be able to help there) but from the examples I have seen there is little if anything dating from before c. 1880.

I have also discovered that the autotype works was based very close to where I live, and there was a printing works for Woodburytypes.  And I have just been informed by a local historian that Horace Nicholls lived in Ealing, so I wonder if any other known names from photography lived here?

I was just wondering if anyone here may have any further information or leads that I can follow up?

Many thanks, James

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You’ll doubtless be swamped with suggested sources, but here are a few thoughts.


As well as checking John Robert Mather Sawyer on PhotoLondon – which you’ve already done – it’s worth looking up:

  • Walter Strickland Bird, his partner, (who lived outside Ealing but who was director and day-to-day manager of the Autotype Works), and …
  • Charles Sawyer, his son, who also became a director of the company.

PhotoLondon will open up a few possibilities about them.


It’s also worth feeding the above names – and Autotype – into the search facility of The London Gazette at


Some information about Sawyer’s early career can be found in A Faithful Likeness: the first photographic portrait studios in the British Isles, 1841-1855 by Bernard & Pauline Heathcote (Heathcote, 2002), and a few details of Sawyer & Bird’s pre-Ealing work are in the Norfolk section of (Incidentally, Foxlee, whom you have also discovered in Ealing, was briefly a partner of Sawyer & Bird in Regent Street.)


Visits to both the Autotype Works and the Woodbury Permanent Printing Company are described in The Photographic Studios of Europe by Henry Baden Pritchard (Piper & Carter, 182). The original may be hard to find, but a print-on-demand version by Kessinger Publishing is available.


Good luck with the ongoing search.



The Paget Prize Plate Company started in Ealing before moving to Watford. 

Many thanks Robert - I don't mind being swamped!  And thanks for the tips, which I will be sure to follow up.

Michael, the Paget collection was something I picked up on very late in my research (which amounted to about five hurried hours on Friday, including writing it up as I went along).  It gets a mention under George Carpe Whitfield, in what became the dumping ground for 'other names' that I found along the way.  This needs to be sorted out and the more notable names, including the ones that Roger has mentioned, will get their own listing, hopefully with example images.  George C Whitfield is the name I have for Lock & Whitfield but there is also a George Sydney Whitfield, and it appears to be his name that is against the Paget patents. That they are not one and the same person (do we know if they were brothers, or perhaps father and son?) is confirmed by the listing that has them both as directors of the Woodbury Permanent Photographic Printing Co. with Walter Thomas Fell when it was dissolved in 1891.  I have a particular affinity towards Paget's having discovered a small number in a large mixed batch of mainly wet and dry plate negatives that I bought at auction for very little money (see

Regards, James

Just as an aside, I thought I would put 'Ealing' into a search on the new National Trust Collections site.  It turned up a few Porter cartes de visite, some items from the Autotype Co., but also this nice box of "KRISTAL PLATES for Lantern Slides and Transparencies by Contact Printing" from Edwards' Castle Bar Works.  See

Would be interested to see what you find - my grandfather was born in Ealing (Greystoke Hall), and my photo collection is from only a few miles away - though the only ealing in it is a Mr Ealing!

Hi James, George CORPE Whitfield (c.1832-1917) the partner of Samuel Lock in Lock and Whitfield was the father of George Stephen Whitfield (1860-1937). I am rather fond of L&W cartes de visite and have several columes of "Men of Mark" for the wonderful woodburytypes they contain based on L&W photos. Cheers! Marcel

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