Wales (NLW Journals) Contents
Elizabeth A Darlington, High Street Photographers in Aberystwyth 1857 - c1900, National Library of Wales journal. 1988, Winter. Volume XXV/4
Extracted onto the pages of GENUKI with the kind permission of the National Library of Wales
This is a complete extract of this article (Bill Griffith-Jones, April 2003)
PHOTOGRAPHY was made public in 1839 but was at first practised only under licence and until 1851 photographs were made chiefly by the daguerreotype or Talbotype (calotype) processes, although there were others. 1 However, in 1851 Frederick Scott-Archer published the results of his experiments with what became known as the wet-plate or collodion method. At about the same time there were various legal changes, with the result that photography became much more widely available around 1854. 2 The history of photography is still a comparatively new subject but the purpose of this article is not only to discover why Aberystwyth could support, as it did, several High Street photographers in 1880 and only one in 1984, but also to find out something of the life and work of those photographers.
Until recently it had been thought that the first commercial photographer in Aberystwyth was Ebenezer Morgan (1820-1906). 3 However, as will be shown below, although he certainly became the most well-established of the earliest photographers, it was known in his own time that he was not, in fact, the first. No photographer is recorded in the 1851 census of Aberystwyth and only Ebenezer Morgan gave photography as his occupation in the 1861 census. This has led to the belief that he was the first photographer in the town. In 1861 Ebenezer Morgan was unmarried, lodging in Bridge Street and inaccurately gave his age as 37. He was living in the household of David Williams, master mariner, (Captain of the Eagle) and his wife Elizabeth. There were two unmarried daughters in their twenties and Ebenezer later married Jane, the younger daughter. 4 There is no reason to doubt the slogan 'Established in 1857' that appears amongst the embellishments on the reverse of one of Ebenezer Morgan's cartes de visite. 5
With the general release from restrictions occurring around 1854, Ebenezer Morgan was an early member of the public to take up photography. That he learned well and practised with skill is demonstrated by the quality of his extant prints. 6 Very few of his prints have faded or become blotchy and they have an excellent range of tones which have survived, showing a pleasing depth of quality in the darkest ones (a very slightly purple black). A characteristic of his way of posing the subject was to keep extraneous 'props' to a minimum and always well to one side --- leading the eye towards, and not detracting from, the subject. The wall and carpet of his studio reproduce as a light tone, leaving the hair and clothes of the person to 'read' well as dark tones, and hence the face again in counterpoint, to 'read' clearly in lighter tones.
A rich source of information, and entertainment, are the newspaper advertisements issued by the early photographers. Unfortunately there was no local newspaper in the Aberystwyth area until 1858, but in that year the Aberystwyth Observer was first issued (on 19 June, priced two-pence). In it the publisher, David Jenkins, wrote of the long-felt need for a local Journal. He did not 'undervalue the various London and Country papers' then circulating amongst them but, fortunately for research, he launched one of his own (which came out weekly, not daily). The second issue is missing from the National Library of Wales' collection, but in the third issue, that of 3 July 1858, Ebenezer Morgan had a centrally positioned display advertisement amongst those on the front page. The wording shows that he was not a newcomer that year and this is confirmed by his obituary which will be discussed below.
Baptised in Lledrod, on 9 July 1820, by M. Hughes the curate, Ebenezer was the son of William Morgan, a labourer, and his wife Mary. They lived at that time at Blackball. It is probable that they baptised two older sons, Evan, 25 January 1814, and John, 1 December 1815, while living at Pantycwmdwr; perhaps a daughter Elizabeth, 20 July 1818, having moved to Cwm'rolchfa; and almost certainly a daughter Ann, 5 December 1823, whilst they were still living at Blackball and Ebenezer was three and a half. 7 Ebenezer Morgan was over eighty when he died and was much respected in the town of Aberystwyth. It is recorded in his long obituary that he was born in the parish of Lledrod but unfortunately no dates are given, except that of his death 'on Saturday' --- i.e. 27 January 1906. 8
Both the Aberystwyth Observer and the Cambrian News printed identical copy for his obituary. This states only those facts about his life which must have been already well known in the town.
. . . [He] was first apprenticed in the joinery trade at Tregaron. 9 He subsequently worked as a joiner at Manchester and Birmingham and during his stay at the former place, was concerned in Cobden's agitation for free trade 10 of which he had interesting reminiscences. On his return to Cardiganshire he entered into partnership with the late Mr Benjamin Hughes, 11 father of Mr R S Hughes, 12 as ironmongers in the shop now occupied by Mr Robert Doughton. 13 Having given up that business, he joined partnership with Mr John Owen, 14 who was the first photographer to come to Aberystwyth. Afterwards, he opened business on his own account at 29 Pier Street, which he carried on for over forty years until his retirement seven years ago . . .
This last sentence is not wholly accurate as Ebenezer Morgan began by trading from a succession of addresses in Pier Street. 15 It was fortunate that his glass studio was, as he said in his advertisement of 1858, 'portable'! 16 His studio finally settled at 29 Pier Street between 1879 and 1884: Slater's Trade Directory of 1880 gives 14 Pier Street, but he could have moved before the directory was printed, and Kelly's of 1884 gives 29 Pier Street. The 1880's were 16 His studio finally settled at 29 Pier Street between 1879 and 1884: Slater's Trade Directory of 1880 gives 14 Pier Street, but he could have moved before the directory was printed, and Kelly's of 1884 gives 29 Pier Street. The 1880's were a boom period in Aberystwyth, six photographic artists are listed in Slater's Trade Directory for 1880 in contrast to the one who had a studio in Aberystwyth in 1857 and again the single one, over a hundred years later, in 1984.
Ebenezer Morgan's apprenticeship at Tregaron, alluded to in his obituary, is confirmed by the 1841 census 17 which shows him to have been an apprentice aged about twenty. 18 He lived in the house of Owen Owens a carpenter, and his wife Margaret, both in their late thirties. The Owens had four children: John aged ten; twin boys, William and Henry, aged five; and Margaret aged one. As well as their apprentice Ebenezer, they also housed two journeymen carpenters, Ebenezer James and David James, both in their early twenties. There was no servant. With such an house-full Margaret Owens deserves more than a passing mention because without her the history of photography in Aberystwyth, as well as that of carpentry in Tregaron, would have been the poorer.
In his book Aberystwyth Yesterday, 19 Howard C. Jones writes of Ebenezer Morgan: 'He must have brought his camera to the town either by sea, by coach or on horseback' (because there was, as yet, no railway). However, as a fully trained joiner, it is equally possible that he made his own camera. Those used by Fox Talbot (the inventor, with Sir John Herschel, of the first useable negative/positive process) were made at Lacock by the estate carpenter. 20
Ebenezer Morgan's obituary records that he 'joined partnership with Mr John Owen, the first photographer to come to Aberystwyth'. The tone of this suggests that John Owen was well enough known not to need further explanation. In the census of 1851 21 a family by the name of Owen are shown as living in High Street, Aberystwyth. The head of the household, Thomas, was fifty-two, a carpenter and joiner, born in Towyn, Merionethshire. His wife, Elizabeth, was fifty-four and born in Llanychaiarn, Montgomeryshire. Their son John was unmarried, twenty-one, born in Newport, Mon., and his occupation is given as a joiner. Clearly, they 'came to' Aberystwyth and it is not impossible that John was, or became, a photographer. Up to 1851 photography was very personal and experimental 22 but when Scott-Archer published his 'wet collodion' method, this quickly superseded all others and led to a rapid expansion in the number of people involved in photography. On the other hand, from the 1860's to the 1890's there are trade directory references to a John Owen, photographer, in 'Newtown, North Wales' 23 and in Album 6 of the National Library of Wales' collection there is a carte de visite showing a medallion of the 1865 Eisteddfod in Aberystwyth at which this same John Owen was the photographer. The census returns for Broad Street Newtown, Montgomeryshire, of 1871 show that both John Owen (aged forty-one and born in carte de visite showing a medallion of the 1865 Eisteddfod in Aberystwyth at which this same John Owen was the photographer. The census returns for Broad Street Newtown, Montgomeryshire, of 1871 show that both John Owen (aged forty-one and born in Manafon, Montgomeryshire) and his wife Mary Ann (aged forty-three and born in Llanychaiarn, Montgomeryshire) were photographers. 24 Whether either of these men is the correct John Owen remains to be seen. However, what is certain is that Ebenezer Morgan subsequently set up on his own as a photographer, and in 1858 placed an advertisement in the local newspaper:
BEGS most respectfully to Inform his Numerous
Friends in the town and neighbourhood, of
Aberystwith, as well as Visitors, that he has just
opened his Establishment for the Season,
At 14, Pier Street, Aberystwith,
for the purpose of taking Superior
by a new process, on Glass, Paper, or Leather, at
unusually Low Charges.
E. M. is happy to inform Parents, that his In-
strument is such as will enable him to take most
perfect Portraits of Children of all ages, in a mo-
ment of time. Landscapes, Animals, Houses, or
any other objects, can be taken by this process.
CHARGES - In Frames complete, from - 1s. 6d.
Portraits reproduced on Paper for persons who
Frames, Cases, best Gold-plated Lockets, &c., of
every description, always In Stock. Specimens of
the various Styles and Sizes for Inspection at his
Portraits taken in all weathers, in a Portable Glass
House attached to the premises.
Country Gentlemen visited at their own residence,
with a slight extra charge.
He continued to use the same wording weekly, up to and including 2 October. Then, on 9 October he changed the wording slightly to say that after the 'expiration of this month' he would be happy to visit families 'at their own residences'. He also announced that he had become Agent for the United Kingdom Temperance and General Provident Institution, 1 Adelaide Place, London Bridge, London. 25 In the same issue it was interesting to see that a Henry Culliford was advertising as Agent for the Cambrian Steam Packet Company. Culliford is a name that became well known in Aberystwyth after 1899, as that of a later generation of High 25 In the same issue it was interesting to see that a Henry Culliford was advertising as Agent for the Cambrian Steam Packet Company. Culliford is a name that became well known in Aberystwyth after 1899, as that of a later generation of High Street photographers, but which disappeared from local records and census returns in between times.
Ebenezer Morgan repeated his second advertisement (offering to visit families) on 16 October, but on 23 October splashed out on a new display with an exuberant 'Playbill' typeface for the word PHOTOGRAPHY, followed by his name in large Roman, the words 'Photographic Artist' in a large Gothic, his address in medium Roman capitals, and ABERYSTWYTH in a small sans serif. This mixture of type faces seems extraordinary to our eyes but was very popular with Victorians. In this advertisement, Ebenezer Morgan 'Photographic Artist' in a large Gothic, his address in medium Roman capitals, and ABERYSTWYTH in a small sans serif. This mixture of type faces seems extraordinary to our eyes but was very popular with Victorians. In this advertisement, Ebenezer Morgan thanked the Visitors and Inhabitants for their 'very liberal support' and advised that his ROOMS would shortly be closed for the winter. However it must have been a fine autumn as he continued to advertise up to and including 13 November.
In the following year Ebenezer Morgan did not advertise until 25 June; but in the issue of 18 June 1859 there was an advertisement proclaiming that 'Mr Pugh's Portrait Rooms' were open at Pier House, on the corner of Pier Street. That Mr Pugh was offering some kind of photographic portraiture may be deduced from the low price and from the words 'taken from 9am till dusk'. His price undercut Ebenezer Morgan by 6d as he offered portraits 'from One Shilling upwards'. The date makes it seem too early for Pugh to be offering tintypes 26 so perhaps they were ambrotypes in an inexpensive frame. 27 Ambrotypes could vary in quality, both intrinsically and in the amount of trouble taken in posing the customer and in arranging a background. In a later advertisement that year Ebenezer Morgan specifically mentions Ambrotypes in addition to making and keeping negatives for prints (since he also offered 'duplicates on paper'). However, he was obviously somewhat perturbed by Mr Pugh's arrival as he advertised on 25 June that he intended opening his Establishment 'in a few days' when he would take ng and keeping negatives for prints (since he also offered 'duplicates on paper'). However, he was obviously somewhat perturbed by Mr Pugh's arrival as he advertised on 25 June that he intended opening his Establishment 'in a few days' when he would take 'First-Class Portraits' by an 'entirely new process'. As before, he always began any advertisement with the word PHOTOGRAPHY. He repeated the 25 June advertisement on 9 July but meanwhile Mr Pugh had been advertising weekly that his rooms were open.
On 23 July Ebenezer Morgan at last advertised that his rooms had opened, but no special attention was drawn to the fact that he had moved his studio from 14 Pier Street to 27 Pier Street 'opposite the National Provincial Bank'. Mr Pugh also advertised
On 23 July Ebenezer Morgan at last advertised that his rooms had opened, but no special attention was drawn to the fact that he had moved his studio from 14 Pier Street to 27 Pier Street 'opposite the National Provincial Bank'. Mr Pugh also advertised on 23 July but changed the wording slightly to say that his portraits 'for clearness and brilliancy' were 'equal to the first names in London'. He also offered portraits on paper, 'coloured in oils' from 10/-. On 30 July Mr Pugh repeated that advertisement, but Ebenezer Morgan now had a huge new advertisement in which he begged to inform 'his Friends and Visiting Gentry', (aiming at a higher market than Mr Pugh?) that his Rooms were Open Daily from 9am till Dusk. He repeated the words 'an entirely new process', going on to say that they were taken on 'Niello Paper from Ambrotypes, also on Glass, Paper or Leather'. This reference to Niello Paper merits further research as Niello work means a type of engraved and decorated metal-work, and Ambrotypes were normally made from weak negatives on glass which were backed with black velvet to throw the image into a positive appearance. The American-patented version using black painted metal instead of glass (tintypes) did not reach Britain until the late 1860's so rmally made from weak negatives on glass which were backed with black velvet to throw the image into a positive appearance. The American-patented version using black painted metal instead of glass (tintypes) did not reach Britain until the late 1860's so this reference to Niello Paper is of interest.
Throughout the Summer, both Mr Pugh and Ebenezer Morgan continued to advertise. Ebenezer Morgan had, in addition to his Provident Institution agency, become an agent for 'Davies's Vermifuge or Worm Lozenges, in Boxes, at 9½d and 1/1½ each'. It seems that 1859 was not such a good autumn as 1858 because Mr Pugh's last advertisement appeared on 8 October. On 5 November Ebenezer Morgan advertised that he would close the next week, and appears to have done so.
He did not advertise again until 28 July 1860, and he had by then returned his studio to 14 Pier Street. Mr Pugh did not come to Aberystwyth again but a Mr Anderson had been advertising since 16 June 28. He too began with his own name:
A correct life-like
in a neat GILT FRAME, from ONE SHILLING upwards
taken by Mr. J. ANDERSON
He went on to say that he would be in Aberystwyth 'for a Short time only!' and that all those who wished to furnish themselves with Portraits in a 'very superior style' would do well to lose no time. He claimed that his portraits could be 'taken in all weather (no sunshine required)', were 'warranted not to fade, and to keep in any climate'.
On 21 July, before Ebenezer Morgan began at all, Anderson changed his advertisement to:
The Face That Never Fades!
Portraits are now being taken
in all weathers - no sunshine
required - by ANDERSON'S new
and unrivalled Process
He went on to say that from the many years' experience 29 that he had had as a photographer he was able to take portraits at lower prices and to greater perfection than any who had hitherto visited Aberystwyth. He repeated his warranty that they would not fade and would keep in any climate.
From 28 July onwards Ebenezer Morgan advertised that his 'Rooms' were 'now Opened' while Mr Anderson continued with 'The Face That Never Fades!'. However on 1 September neither advertised. This, as well as Mr Anderson's 'in all weathers', suggests a very bad summer in 1860, corroborated by an editorial in the 11 August issue of the Aberystwyth Observer in which the writer referred to the long, cold, wet Spring and the poor Summer. Perhaps bad weather had prevented Ebenezer Morgan erecting his glass studio any earlier.
The newspaper editorial discussed the loss of 'thousands of lambs' and the increasing expense of food. (Conversely, in an 1858 issue, there had been editorial comment on the cheapness of food.)
Ebenezer Morgan did advertise on 8 September, but not Mr Anderson. However, on 15 September Anderson began to advertise again with 'Secure the Shadow ere the Substance fades'. On the same date, Ebenezer Morgan had two advertisements; in addition to his usual 'portraits and landscapes' advertisement, he had a completely different one:
of the TOMBSTONE of the late Rev.
WILLIAM WILLIAMS of Pantycelyn,
and of the RESIDENCE of VICAR PRITCHARD
of Llandovery. Also, PHOTOGRAPHIC VIEWS
of the TOWN and NEIGHBOURHOOD.
At E. MORGAN'S, Photographic Artist,
14, Pier Street, ABERYSTWYTH
This is almost certainly a reflection of the increasing taste for souvenir views and the rise in popularity of the stereoscope. In the issue of 1 September, when neither Mr Anderson nor Ebenezer Morgan had advertised, the publisher of the Aberystwyth Observer had offered:
of the Town and Neighbourhood
to be had at D. Jenkins 'Observer' office
No. 8, Pier Street, Aberystwyth
No doubt, these were intended to while away the dreary wet days that Aberystwyth had been experiencing.
From 15 September onwards, Ebenezer Morgan printed both his advertisements and Mr Anderson his 'Secure the Shadow'. Then, on 27 October Mr Anderson announced that 'his engagements' would prevent his remaining in Aberystwyth after 3 November. On that date, however, he advertised that he had made arrangements to stay for yet another week. Ebenezer Morgan continued his two advertisements, and also printed them on 10 and 17 November. But Mr Anderson's tenancy appears to have finally run out; on 17 November there appeared for the first time an advertisement reading:
For a short time only.
Correctly taken in a superior style
at 3d and above. Large size
13½in x 10½in at 4s 6d
Parties waited upon
at their own Residences if preferred
By E. W. Slater
Pier House was the address from which Mr Anderson had been working all Summer and Autumn. However research has shown that by April 1861 30 a Miss Littlepage was the occupier, together with visitors and a servant so that E. W. Slater's use of the house appears to have been fairly brief. Ebenezer Morgan advertised for the last time on 24 November 1860. It seems from these late 30 a Miss Littlepage was the occupier, together with visitors and a servant so that E. W. Slater's use of the house appears to have been fairly brief. Ebenezer Morgan advertised for the last time on 24 November 1860. It seems from these late dates that a very poor Spring and indifferent Summer were followed by an exceptionally pleasant November.
The issue of the Aberystwyth Observer for 23 March 1861 31 contains a rather different advertisement above the, by now, familiar address of 14 Pier Street.
GAS FOR THE MILLION!
THE NEW LIGHT
C. Astons Liquid Gas Lamps.
It is interesting to speculate whether any of the photographers made use of this new invention. The last extant issue of the newspaper for 1861 is that of 25 May and it contains no advance publicity by any photographer. During 1864 32 D. Jenkins was still offering stereoscopic views but it appears that there were no photographers advertising. Ebenezer Morgan was probably sufficiently well established not to need to advertise. That his business continued we know from the Trade Directories and from his obituary.
The next relevant issue of the same newspaper is that of 23 June 1866 in which there is a very large, two column, display advertisement for a photographic studio 'in the garden of Mr. Poole's house'. Henry and Sarah Poole ran the Aberystwyth Bakery at
The next relevant issue of the same newspaper is that of 23 June 1866 in which there is a very large, two column, display advertisement for a photographic studio 'in the garden of Mr. Poole's house'. Henry and Sarah Poole ran the Aberystwyth Bakery at 26 Pier Street. This later became the studio, home and showroom of their son-in-law H. H. Davies, a photographer still well remembered in Aberystwyth. But in 1866 it was Hopwood & Company that had a studio in the Pooles' garden. Unlike Mr Pugh and Mr 26 Pier Street. This later became the studio, home and showroom of their son-in-law H. H. Davies, a photographer still well remembered in Aberystwyth. But in 1866 it was Hopwood & Company that had a studio in the Pooles' garden. Unlike Mr Pugh and Mr Anderson, Hopwood's Company appears to have returned to Aberystwyth as it is listed in Slater's Trade Directory for 1868. Hopwood does not appear personally in the Aberystwyth census returns, but the address given in the Directory was that of a lodging house in the 1871 census. As will be seen from the advertisement, his company was based in Cheltenham.
P. HOPWOOD AND COMPANY,
BEG to announce that their new
Photographic and Art Studio
is now open at 26, PIER STREET, where Portraits of the highest class only will be pro-
See Advertisement below.
P. HOPWOOD & COMPANY, PHOTOGRAPHERS,
86, PIER STREET, ABERYSTWITH.
(Branch Establishments in the Midland Counties.)
Portrait Studio, 26, Pier Street, opposite
the National Provincial Bank,
Show & Sale Rooms on the Promenade Pier.
A LARGE SELECTION OF
Works of Art, Albums, Views, Bronzes, Stereoscopes, Field
Glass, Carte de Visite Stands, Fancy Frames, &c.
Terms and Arrangements for Cartes de Visite, and other Portraits, may be
obtained at either of the above Addresses.
Sole Agents for the new " PEARLA CHROMOTYPES. "
Sole Agents for the METROPOLITAN & HOME COUNTIES ART UNION.
Soon after 1860 the fashion for cartes de visite spread from London to the provinces and the enormous popularity of these little photographs may also explain why neither Hopwood nor Ebenezer Morgan advertised again despite the fact that they both appeared in the trade directory for 1868. However, another photographer listed in the same directory had advertised the previous year, probably because he had only recently arrived in Aberystwyth. On 27 April 1867 there is a double column announcement in the Aberystwyth Observer which gives 25 Pier Street as the address of the studio of Carl Holt, photographer. This drew attention to the even newer fashion of 'Cabinet Pictures' - a large format which became popular as the craze for cartes de visite began to wane.
PHOTOGRAPHIC & ART STUDIO,
25, PIER STREET, ABERYSTWYTH.
Whilst announcing his OPENING in a few days as above, respectfully begs to inform the Nobility,
Carl Holt and his son came to Aberystwyth between the enumeration of the 1861 census and that of 1871. At the time of the latter they were living as lodgers with the Poole family mentioned above, Carl was forty-five and his son Otto was fifteen. 33 Carl Holt gave Prussia as his place of birth, and Wolverhampton as that of his son. Oscar Rejlander, a Swede who began as a portrait painter, opened a photographic portrait studio in Wolverhampton in 1855, 34 and as there were only fifty-one people in Britain who gave photography as their occupation in the 1851 census it is quite possible that the Holts knew, or were trained by, Rejlander. Rejlander moved to London in 1860 and subsequently became famous for his 'composite photographs' which were his way of bringing photography into the world of Fine Art.
Although neither of the Holts appear in the 1861 census for Aberystwyth, Carl Holt's business is listed at Pier Street (no number given) in Slater's Trade Directory for 1868. There are four of his cartes de visite in the National Library, all in Album 40. To date the present author has not seen any of his cabinet size photographs. Carl Holt's work is, like Ebenezer Morgan's, that of a professional. 35 Extant prints are in good condition. His taste, as his advertisement shows, inclined towards more, and more ornate, furnishings than Ebenezer Morgan's; but his photographs are not too overcrowded and his studio obviously appealed to those 35 Extant prints are in good condition. His taste, as his advertisement shows, inclined towards more, and more ornate, furnishings than Ebenezer Morgan's; but his photographs are not too overcrowded and his studio obviously appealed to those clients who themselves preferred more ornate costumes and poses. It would seem correct to call the two men colleagues. By 1868 there would have been enough work to support them both. Hopwood and Company may or may not have been 'colleagues' 36 but they do not seem to have stayed long in Aberystwyth. It seems best to regard Mr Pugh and Mr Anderson only as temporary rivals.
There are two other photographers listed in Slater's Trade Directory for 1868 - E. Rowland, Pier Street (no number) and Richard Evans, Great Darkgate Street (also no number). The latter is also listed twelve years later, in the 1880 Directory. In the 1861 census there was only one E. Rowland: on p. 116 of the Benjamin transcript at the National Library, Elizabeth Rowland, an unmarried woman of 38. It is perfectly possible that a woman of her age, at that date, did take photographs, but no conclusion can be drawn either way. There was no E. Rowland at all in the 1871 census.
With regard to the name Richard Evans on the other hand, there were seven in 1861 and twelve in 1871. However, by elimination and deduction it is possible to make some comment. At the address given for the photographer in the 1880 directory (18 Great Darkgate Street) there were two men named Richard Evans in 1861 and one in 1871. In 1861 the men were a master tailor of 43 and his nephew aged 14, also a tailor. In 1871 the man was a draper's assistant born in Llanrhystud, aged 18. The tailor and his family had moved to 26 Great Darkgate Street and the nephew, now 23, was still working as a tailor. It seems more likely that, by 1868, it was the young man from Llanrhystud who had learned to take photographs whilst working as a draper's assistant, than that it was either of the other two, both of whom remained tailors.
By 1871, Carl Holt had arrived in Aberystwyth and Ebenezer Morgan was well established. In that year too, Dr R. L. Maddox published a revolutionary new method of coating the glass plates that were used to make photographic negatives. 37 This, known as dry-plate photography, led to a great increase in the numbers of practising photographers and the availability of photographs. The dry-plate method consisted of a gelatine emulsion, such as we use today, being coated onto glass. Ready prepared dry plates were not widely available in commercial quantities until the 1880's so that practising photographers would have continued to make their own as they did with the wet-plate method. As many people preferred the results produced by the wet-plate method (Lewis Carroll was one) 38 its use continued for a number of years. 39 By the mid-seventies ready-made gelatine-bromide paper was available for print making, but albumen paper continued in use until the nineties when gelatine-chloride paper, which was cheaper, quicker, and more permanent that albumen, came into general use. Electric light was also beginning to be used, thus enabling photographs to be taken in any season and at any time of day.
Aberystwyth had long been a fashionable holiday place 40 and the 1880's can be described as its heyday: photographs taken by the so-called amateur photographer Emile Evans 41 show the crowded promenade and various holiday entertainments. Photographically the 1880's were a special time of their own: cartes-de-visite, cabinet photographs, and cheap tintypes were all wanted and produced. Souvenir views, illustrated brochures and stereoscopic machines all used photographs. 'Magic lantern' lectures were very popular --- these were illustrated with pictures projected onto a screen from photographs on glass plates. There was an enormous amount of photographic work demanded and produced. Many people, earning their living some other way, also produced occasional photographs of scenic areas, spectacular storms, or newsworthy episodes. On these they stamped their name and address and sold them to a newspaper, postcard maker, or in quantity as souvenirs.
There were, in the 1881 Aberystwyth census, four people who gave their occupation as photographer only. Two others, whose names are listed in Slater's 1880 directory as photographers are listed in the census as 'Artist'. However, this was common practice; many people at that time offered both photographs and paintings to their customers. Apart from these six men, it is likely that there were others who produced photographs in the area. Although it is not until a later date that they are listed as photographers, some familiar names appear as inhabitants of Aberystwyth in the 1881 census.
In Slater's Trade Directory for 1880 the following men are listed as photographers - John Edwards, 25 Pier Street; Richard Evans, 18 Great Darkgate Street; E. R. Gyde, 42 28 Pier Street; Ebenezer Morgan, 14 Pier Street; Alfred Worthington, Terrace Road; and E. van der Mees, 2 Gogerddan Cottages. All these men, except Richard Evans, are also listed in the 1881 census, and a Richard Evans did live at the given address in 1871 (the 18 year old draper's assistant). As mentioned above, there is no reason to suppose that he was not a photographer in 1880.
In 1881 John Edwards was 32 years old and was living at 25 Pier Street with his mother Elizabeth, a widow of 76, his sister Bridget, also a widow, and two of his mother's grandsons --- a sailor of 16 and a toddler of 3. Quite a household to support! Two of John Edwards' cartes de visite have a design printed on the back which is not unlike that of Ebenezer Morgan's whom, no doubt, he admired. Edwards' way of posing his clients, however, was very different, and his prints are now faded and speckled with white as if in a snow storm. In both of the prints seen there is a trace of what was probably a painted backcloth of sky and trees; in one a man leans on the end of a couch and in the other a group of students are on and around a 'rustic bench'. 43 The white spots have the appearance of the effect of inadequately dissolved chemicals, and the fading is probably due to insufficient fixing and washing. Edwards was later listed in Kelly's 1884 directory (with an address at 28 Pier Street) and 43 The white spots have the appearance of the effect of inadequately dissolved chemicals, and the fading is probably due to insufficient fixing and washing. Edwards was later listed in Kelly's 1884 directory (with an address at 28 Pier Street) and he would then have been only 35 years old. But he does not appear in Slater's 1895 directory.
Richard Evans, as mentioned above, appears to have left Aberystwyth, and Ebenezer Morgan has been discussed. The 1881 census gives us some background information on Edward Richard Gyde. He was then living at 28 Pier Street, which was the address given
Richard Evans, as mentioned above, appears to have left Aberystwyth, and Ebenezer Morgan has been discussed. The 1881 census gives us some background information on Edward Richard Gyde. He was then living at 28 Pier Street, which was the address given for John Edwards in Kelly's 1884 directory. By 1895 Gyde had moved into 24 Pier Street which he called 'Cheltenham House' and H. H. Davies' mother was next door at 26 Pier Street having taken over her parents' confectionery business. H. H. Davies had his for John Edwards in Kelly's 1884 directory. By 1895 Gyde had moved into 24 Pier Street which he called 'Cheltenham House' and H. H. Davies' mother was next door at 26 Pier Street having taken over her parents' confectionery business. H. H. Davies had his photographic studio in the next house at 28 (where Gyde and Edwards had both been) and Ebenezer Morgan had moved down to a smaller shop on the other side of the road at No 29 (now 'The Albatross' toyshop). 44
The 1881 census reveals that E. R. Gyde was born in Painswick, Gloucestershire. His first wife was Elizabeth Poole, sister of H. H. Davies' mother. Her age is given as 40 and her husband as 37. They had a small daughter, Mary, aged 3, who was born in Aberystwyth. Gyde is not in the 1871 census, and presumably arrived between 1871 and 1878. His portrait photographs have neither the power nor the depth of tones found in those of Ebenezer Morgan. He also had a tendency to use more, and more elaborate, 'props' so that some of his photographs have a slightly cluttered appearance. He was, however, a very busy and popular photographer and there are many of his photographs extant. He was well known for his topographical work, and produced some of this as platinotypes. 45 Platinotypes give an especially beautiful kind of print and are made by using paper coated with platinum salts. An example, of Pontarfynach (Devil's Bridge), may be seen in the National Library. In it, the appearance of the strata in the rocks of the Upper Pool is particularly impressive. The exposure for the negative was quite a long one as the waterfalls have the characteristic 'white-out' of a long exposure. Gyde was to live and work in Aberystwyth for many years. In 1898 a young man, Hubert f the Upper Pool is particularly impressive. The exposure for the negative was quite a long one as the waterfalls have the characteristic 'white-out' of a long exposure. Gyde was to live and work in Aberystwyth for many years. In 1898 a young man, Hubert Pickford, came from Gloucester to work for Gyde and later took over the business. His son Glynn Pickford, in an interview with the author, spoke of the small studio on the pier and its attendant kiosk at the pier entrance, which were run by Gyde in addition to the main shop and studio in Pier Street. By 1895 Gyde had moved from 28 Pier Street to 24 Pier Street and he is listed in Kelly's Directory for that year as a photographer and a stationer. By 1901 he had expanded into both 22 and 24 Pier Street and on to the main shop and studio in Pier Street. By 1895 Gyde had moved from 28 Pier Street to 24 Pier Street and he is listed in Kelly's Directory for that year as a photographer and a stationer. By 1901 he had expanded into both 22 and 24 Pier Street and still combined the two trades. In Kelly's Directory of 1914 he is listed as photographer only, and at both addresses.
There was, in the 1871 census, another man who put his profession as photographer or, more accurately, as 'artist painter and photographer'. This was Alfred Worthington, who came to Aberystwyth a year or so before the census. In the census he was shown to be aged 35, born in Dover and living at 5 Queens Road, Aberystwyth. His wife, Elizabeth, was 27 and born at Folkestone. They brought with them four children and a maidservant, all born in Kent, and their 'one year old' called only E. A. who was born in Aberystwyth. By the census of 1881, they had moved to Terrace Road, 'E. A.' was shown to be Edwin A. (now aged 12) and there were four other, younger, boys. There was by then no servant, but all the older children were still alive, and it may be assumed that Amy, then 15, and Alice, then 14, carried out the work that Sarah Ann, the servant, had formerly done. Alfred and Elizabeth went on to have a further nine children. The youngest of all the eighteen children was Ethel Mary. She became the mother of Jane, now Mrs Hankey, (interviewed by the author). Some of Alfred Worthington's photographic cartes-de-visite are notable for several reasons. First, the cards themselves are pink. They are not the only coloured cartes-de-visite extant, but the majority seem to have been off-white. Secondly, the imprint on the back of the cards is also a little out of the ordinary: 46 as well as his name there is a drawing of an artist's palette with brushes, and the legend 'ART photographer', with the word 'ART' superimposed on the palette. He uses part of the remaining space to offer 'portraits and landscapes painted in oil'. In an exhibition 47 of Alfred Worthington's work, there were one or two portraits that were overpainted photographs, a technique done with varying degrees of success and finesse by many more Victorians than had been realised until recently. But it was obvious from 47 of Alfred Worthington's work, there were one or two portraits that were overpainted photographs, a technique done with varying degrees of success and finesse by many more Victorians than had been realised until recently. But it was obvious from the rest of the exhibition that he was a vigorous and prolific painter who by no means always employed this method.
In the search for the sixth photographer listed for this period, E. Van der Mees, persistence was rewarded when, Gogerddan Cottages not being in the Aberystwyth Borough enumeration area, he was found in Vainor Lower. Although given the initial 'E' in Slater's 1880 Directory, he appears to have a name beginning with 'A' in the 1881 census. However, as he was born in Holland, the pronunciation of his name may have caused confusion. As the address is the same in both cases there need be no doubt that he is the same man. He was lodging with a mason and his family, his age was 27, he was unmarried and gave his occupation as 'artist'. He was, however, listed in the section headed 'photographic artists' in Slater's 1880 Directory. How and why he came to Aberystwyth is not yet known, nor have any of his photographs been seen in the course of this research.
In the boom period of the 1880's when Aberystwyth had its railway, pier, theatres, lecture halls, public baths and roller skating rink, there were, as has been shown, at least six people who made their living wholly or partially as photographers. As the century turned, more people associated with photography came to Aberystwyth. Some are still alive, and all have relatives in the town. Much of the research for this later period was conducted by interview and will be published in due course.
Elizabeth A. Darlington
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(Gareth Hicks 8 April 2003)
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