British photographic history

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A few days ago I had a phone call from a friend in another town. “Do you still collect those stereoscopic pictures?” he asked, “because there is a bundle of them in the local auction this morning”.

With 15 minutes to go before the start of the auction, no on-line options, and only my friend’s comment - “they look pretty scruffy to me”, I faced a dilemma. I placed a blind telephone bid and yesterday received the lot – which indeed was very scruffy, for the winning price of £20. As I sorted through the pile of dirty and damaged cards, many of which turned out to be lithos, I began to feel that even at £20 this was not a great buy.

Then I came across four cards – clearly very early and strikingly more interesting than their companions. On thin white card, with left and right images printed on a single piece of albumen paper. They showed two wonderful occupational scenes – a blacksmith and a knife grinder, a view of an un-named house and a picture of a horse drawn coach. As I studied these with the scanner it became clear that they were a coherent group – one teenage boy is seen in both the occupational views and the style of the others suggest they are by the same hand. However it was when I examined the coach that things became even more interesting. This turned out to be painted with the sign ‘Wirksworth and Derby’, suggesting this was the coach that travelled between these two towns. As an enthusiastic collector of Derbyshire images this was an unexpected bonus. The un-named house was then quickly identified as Lea Hurst, Florence Nightingale’s home a few miles from Wirksworth and, subject to further research, the two occupationals look likely to be in Wirksworth as well.

So hiding away in an uninspiring bundle were four outstanding photographs from about 1857. How wonderful that they had survived all this time and have ended up, by great good fortune, with someone for whom early Derbyshire stereoviews are a particular interest! I’ve added scans of the four photographs to the ‘Photos’ section of this site.

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Comment by Barry Foster on February 10, 2010 at 14:02
I live in Wirksworth and was fascinated to see these pictures (particularly those with Wirksworth associations) and read your story, John. I'm one of the ten or so volunteers who work for the Wirksworth community paper and if we printed them we might be able to identify the houses if they were taken in the town. What do you think?
Comment by John Bradley on January 28, 2010 at 21:47
Hi Graham, Yes I plan to discuss these with a local historian with whom I work closely - I'm sure she will be able to identify the location more accurately. As to the photographer, I have an extensive Derbyshire collection but nothing that quite matches these in style.
Paula, If you let me know what size scans you'd like I will send them to you. I have a photo quality scanner so can go up to pretty high resolution.
John
Comment by Graham Wood on January 28, 2010 at 21:10
Hello John
Lovely find - do you have any information on photographer , or can you identify the house in Wirksworth , if so it may be possible to tentatively name some of the inhabitants through the 1851 and 1861 census data for the village .
Graham
Comment by Paula Fleming on January 28, 2010 at 11:44
Excellent! I love success stories. Could I get scans of the early views? I might have others that relate to them.
Paula Fleming

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