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.