Samuel Smith: Wisbech, UK

Waxed paper negative, 1855c/1855c, unmounted. #13236.Born in 1802, Samuel Smith was a successful timber merchant who moved to Wisbech in Cambridgeshire in about 1847 when he retired from business. He took up photography about 1852 and used his camera and the paper negative process to systematically record Wisbech during a period of dramatic growth and change. An amateur rather than a studio professional, he enjoyed some repute as an architectural photographer, still using the calotype process as late as 1864. A selection of his work is held by the National Media Museum at Bradford and the Wisbech & Fenland Museum. See: Victorian Townscape, The Work of Samuel Smith, by Michael Millward and Brian Coe, Ward Lock Mimited, London, 1974, for information on his work.Wisbech served as a port in medieval times but when the estuary of the River Ouse, became silted up, it was diverted into the sea at Lynn and the present artificial course of the River Nene was constructed from Peterborough to the Wash. The drained marshes provided rich productive farmland and Wisbech became the center of a thriving agricultural region and an important trading center.It was the drainage of the Fens that brought prosperity to Wisbech--both as a market town and a port. Throughout its history Wisbech has served as the focus of a vigorous local trade, in agricultural produce. It grew as an important trading center, with shipments of corn and oil seed rape along the coast and to the continent, and imports, particularly coal from the North and timber from the Baltic. All this prosperity led to the magnificent Georgian architecture of the buildings along the Brinks.
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