Carte de visite depicting a house in Cambridge

This interesting carte de visite by Mr Stearn of 72 Bridge Street Cambridge depicts a splendid Victorian town house, identified as what is now No 1 Chesterton Road Cambridge.


This house was purchased by Magdalene College in the 20th century and now forms part of their Cripps Court complex. The appearance of the house has altered somewhat and it currently sports not one, but two, large bay windows at the front and the balcony above the front door has been removed.  From the dress of the figures in this image and the reverse of the mount, this appears to be a fairly early photograph by Thomas Stearn, perhaps from the 1870s.


It is of similar age to cartes de visite with views of Cambridge colleges featured on this site, and is on a similar mount. It was initially thought to be another souvenir offering for students and visitors. It was therefore anticipated that this house may have had a famous occupant or some other reason to attract purchasers of the carte. Research so far has failed to find any such connection and it now seems more likely that the photograph was commissioned by the occupant of the house for his or her own personal use, perhaps to give to friends and relations for inclusion in their family albums. The occupant of this splendid property may have been particularly proud of his residence as evidence of his upward mobility if he had come from more humble beginnings.

It is impossible from local directories or the 1871 census to be sure who were the first occupants of this particular house. However, assuming that the one male and five females in the photograph are residents, it seems likely that they may be Cambridge solicitor William Henry Lawrence (1832-1895), his wife Ellen and four of their six daughters. Lawrence and his family were living at 28 Green Street Cambridge in 1871, but by 1881 they were living in this house, which was then called “Highclere” or “High Clare”. The family was still there in 1891, but by 1901, after her husband’s death, Ellen Lawrence had moved to Clarendon Street Cambridge.

Lawrence, born in Cambridge, son of a college porter and a college seamstress, started his legal career as a clerk to solicitor Edmond Foster. Later when he had qualified the firm became Foster and Lawrence and their office was, until 1876, at 28 Green Street  which was Lawrence’s address. The firm’s office moved to 10 Trinity Street in 1876 and this may therefore be the date that Lawrence moved his family from Green Street to Chesterton Road.

Lawrence may well be the gentleman in the top hat in the photograph. In 1876 Lawrence and his wife were both 44 and their daughters: Martha Annie, Ellen Kate, Emma Susan, Maria Louise, Rosa Alexander and Flora Amelia, ranged in age from 21 to 11 years.

Although this photograph already tells quite a story, we would welcome any further information on this house and its occupants.

Who was the cartoonist Dod?

Recently purchased, an old album page with eight albumen prints of Cambridge related cartoons. One cartoon is dated 1875, another 1877. These appear to be photographic prints of cartoons which would have sold as souvenirs of Cambridge for students or visitors, in much the same was as postcards were to be sold in later years. But who was the photographer producing these albumen prints, and who was Dod, the cartoonist whose name appears on four of these? The name J.P.Soule (or similar) is on another and three have no artist’s name.


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?