Victorian Studio Photos

Victorian Studio Photos
Victorian Studio Photos

Introduction


Bourne Hall Museum has a sequence of photos copied from glass plates taken by Cuthbert Hopkins of Epsom. They are studio portraits and it can be seen from the ages of the sitters that they were taken over a period of about thirty years in the 1860s to 1880s. The sitters, who were well-to-do members of local society, are identified by surname only.

Cuthbert John Hopkins' Logo
Cuthbert John Hopkins' Logo

Dates and Provenance of the Photos


It appears from the writing on the wrappers that these negatives were passed down to the Andrews family, and this is borne out by the use made of some images by James Andrews in his Reminiscences of Epsom (1903). In 1975 the set was put up for auction, most of it divided (more or less alternately by families) into two lots. One lot, after subsequent sales, came in 1993 to Surrey History Centre, where it was catalogued under the number 4123. The other was bought by someone based in the Isle of Man, who in 2016 sold it to the Surrey History Centre.

The glass plates came in wrappers with numbers (running in alphabetical order of sitter, with some deviations) but these numbers are not original; they, and the identifications, may have been given by James Andrews when he was using the photos for local history talks and Reminiscences of Epsom. An original negative number survives on the plate copying the portrait of John Trotter, and presumably these original negative numbers would have been given in chronological series as people sat for the photos. They appear to have been taken in a short space of time, since the same background curtains, chairs and props appear repeatedly. The most closely dated photos are those for Amy Dorling who appears aged 3 or 4 and was therefore taken in 1862 or 3; the reproduction of a portrait of Dr. Graham, which was wrapped in an 1865 advertisement for Good Words; and the photos of the Crowe family wedding in October 1871. The photo of Katherine Brooks must postdate her marriage in December 1862. The portrait of Elizabeth Collyer-Bristow with a two-year-old, must be of or earlier than 1869 when her last child would have been 2. Those of Susanna Graham must be earlier than her death in 1870. That of Martha Collingwood must be earlier than 1871, by which time, as we know from the census, she had left Epsom. Mary Jerrom died in August 1873, and Rebecca Eisdell in April 1875. Thus the photos seem to span the years between 1862 and 1871. The photographer can be identified as Cuthbert Hopkins, since the photo of Edward Scott has also been found as a cabinet print with attribution to Hopkins' studio on the back.

Glass Plate Types


The development of the photograpic process in Victorian times is complex so we have briefly described the main processes in our Early Photography article. Most of the glass plates taken in the Hopkins studios were of the wet collodion type, a process used c.1851-1885; the remaining negatives are gelatine dry plates, a process which was introduced in c.1880.

The location of one of Cuthbert's two studios
The location of one of Cuthbert's two studios
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Our Research and Articles


Jeremy Harte, Bourne Hall Museum curator, asked if we could help research the people shown in these studio photos. This is a massive task so it will take some time before we finish. However when we have completed research on an individual or group of individuals we will add a page to the website and provide links from this page.

Articles


Sitters


Peter Reed 2018