Britannia’s Electric Portraits Ltd

Despite the fact that this company operated for some 30+ years across around thirteen different English towns (including Peterborough), very little is known about them. We have pulled together several strands, but despite this, their full story has yet to be told. What we know is here: and we would be delighted to hear from anyone who can add to this.

Just one photograph

Finding just one old photograph can mean discovering another photographic studio which had never made it into the local trade directories. So this week, the discovery of the carte de visite below suggests that the firm, which is now Gillman and Soame, Oxford, once had a presence in Cambridge.  But there is still more to be discovered about this. For example who was the sitter – named on the reverse as “Henry Shelding”?


Stickybacks and other small format portraits

New pages have now been posted on stickybacks and other small portraits and related subjects. We are attempting a comprehensive listing of stickyback practitioners across the UK and would appreciate information on others you think should be included :


3 images from Stickybacks, 18 King Street – but which town? Was it Hereford?



Two unidentified Stickyback photographers in Peterborough have prompted further research into this genre of Edwardian portraiture. A search through the British Newspaper Archive has thrown up references to a number of Stickyback practitioners in the UK. and so we have now started some new pages in an attempt, ultimately, to provide a comprehensive UK listing. In the process we have also discovered a few new facts about Spiridione Grossi. The new Stickyback pages will be posted in the next few days. We would very much appreciate scans of images to illustrate many of the firms listed and to add to the list if you have found other Stickyback studios.

A moment of drama

Sometimes photos are discovered of forgotten events, as well as forgottten people. This tiny photograph, 3.8 x 1.9 inches, captures a moment of drama – a fireman’s rescue ladder leaning against a rather grand three storey building, something is lying in the road, with ladies and a little girl looking on. A 50p find from Bury St Edmunds, but where was it taken and what was that moment of drama?



The tiny portrait below is proving remarkably difficult to attribute. It dates from around 1907 and has some similarities to the stickyback photos of the period, but the photographer has given the product the name “Morrotype”. This suggests that the photographer’s name was possibly Morro, or Morrot, but every effort with the usual sources has failed to turn up any photographers by that name. One other Morrotype has been spotted on google images, but attempts to contact the owner for more information have failed. Any ideas would be much appreciated.


Updates, after visits to the Norris Museum

22 files on the site updated today with the results of two days visits to the library at the Norris Museum, St Ives and a search through their illustrations catalogue. Finds range from a couple of old Hunts calotypists of the 1850s to photographers of the 1990s.

Staff and volunteers at the Norris Museum are incredibly helpful and supporting.

Ladies in Uniform? Cambridge 1936

The image below was a recent Ebay purchase. It depicts two young women walking in what appears to be St Andrew’s Street Cambridge, (opposite Christ’s College). The print is 2 1/2 x 2 1/8 inches. On the rear is printed “Photo by Topical Pictures” and handwritten “Cambridge 5 October 1936”. The image raises a number of questions. The young women appear to be dressed in similar fashion with what looks like belted dark leather jackets, mid length dark skirts, black shoes and with relatively short-cut hairstyles.  Was this some sort of uniform, or just a passing fashion of the day? The date could put this into the period of Mosley’s Black Shirts (The Battle of Cable Street occured on 4 Oct 1936) but could this be the sort of uniform worn by Mosley’s followers? And what about the photographer? The format, the framing of the subjects and soft focus all point to an amateur, rather than a professional photographer. But does the “Photo by Topical Pictures” on the reverse suggest a professional shot, perhaps by a street photographer of the type normally taking “walking pictures” of holidaymakers at seaside towns? We have not yet come across a local firm of this name. Alternatively, could this refer to a processing lab or photographic paper supplier, rather than a particular photographer? Any suggestions would be gratefully received.


UPDATE – Was “Topical Pictures” connected with Peterborough Photographer Auguste Dumont ? – We explain more here: