Old photos and their history

Man and His Dog, William Daynes, Rugby

In this carte de visite we have a proud Victorian gentleman with a cane and chin curtain beard. He sits by a table with his ever dutiful dog at his feet. Lack of motion blur suggests to me the dog is no longer with the owner, though it could be a very well behaved dog. Either way, this photo is a celebration of the life the two shared.

William Daynes

The front and back tell us that William Daynes of Rugby took the photo. The back gives the address of his studio as Warwick Street. I cannot make out the street number.

William Daynes began life in Norwich, Norfolk. He was born there in 1822 and died in Rugby, Warwickshire in 1912.


The earliest reference I can find to William as a photographer is from 1868. Kelley’s Directory lists him under “Photographic Artists”. He’s however not at Warwick Street but 41 Dunchurch Street. Dunchurch was his home in the 1861 and 1871 censuses.

In 1890, he had moved out of Dunchurch Street. Hopewell’s Rugby Almanack gives his work address as 97 Railway Terrace. The 1891 census describes him as both a photographer and picture frame maker living at this address.

His last move was from Railway Terrace to 31 Arnold Street. In 1901 he’s still a photographer working from home. In 1911 he still lives on Arnold Street but now retired.

The Wonders of the Sciopticon

As a photographer, William embraced other optical technologies. One of these optical technologies he used was a device called a sciopticon.

Sciopticon is just another name for a magic lantern, which had existed in one form or another for centuries. A light source such as a candle or oil lamp was used to project images onto a wall or screen. In the 19th Century they had become a common entertainment.

The Northampton Mercury (1877: 7) covered his well-planned presentation of the sciopticon at a school in Rothwell.

“On Friday evening last, an entertainment, consisting of dissolving views and music, was given in this building, by Mr. William Daynes, of Rugby. The views, which were all of a high-class character, were shown by means of the patent sciopticon, and illustrated some of the principal scenes in the “Pilgrim’s Progress,” the Falls of Niagara, the Adventures of the Brothers Brass, Johnny Sands and his wife, and several microscopic marvels. Mr. Daynes showed himself to be a most successful exhibitor, and his entertainment fully justified the favourable opinions that have been passed upon it. We are sorry to add there was only a scanty audience.”

The use of dissolving views had been around since the 1820s. We’ve all seen dissolves in films and TV. It is when one scene slowly dissolves into another instead of there being a sharp cut.

It must’ve been such a shame to William that his audience had only been “scanty”.

Other Jobs

William had not always been a photographer. In 1851, while still in Norwich, he worked as a factory hand. By 1861 in Rugby he had become a watch and clock maker. I wonder if there’s a natural link between clock maker and photographer.

Between 1861 and 1869 he had become a photographer and tea dealer. The Worcestershire Chronicle of 1869 recorded these as his occupations when reporting on his bankruptcy.


William married Susannah Ashley (b1826) in 1847. Together they had ten children in quick succession. These were William A (b1849), Susanna (b1851), Joseph (b1853), Eliza (b1855), Alfred (b1857), Hannah (b1859), Albert (b1860), Thomas (b1863), George (b1865), and Arthur (b1866).

His daughter, Eliza, assisted him with his photography business. In 1871 she is a photograph printer and then a photographer in 1891. In the 1911 census, with William now retired and a widow, it looks like Eliza is the only child living with him (along with a boarder called John Jones, a railway clerk).

“Crushed to death”

William and Susannah’s eldest sons, William and Joseph, were both employed on the railway. In the 1871 census, both are engine cleaners.

Two companies managed the local station, the Midland Railway and the London and Northwest Railway. The station had replaced Rugby’s first station that had existed for only two years. The second station lasted until 1885. Railway Terrace, where William’s family lived near the end of the 19th Century, was built to connect Rugby to the second station.

Rugby Station was often busy and congested. This frustrated passengers. One famous frustrated passenger was none other than the famous writer Charles Dickens, though his frustration had more to do with Rugby’s refreshment room than the mismanagement of trains. He satirised his experiences in a collection of short stories by the name of Mugby Junction (1866); Mugby being a thinly veiled reference to Rugby.

One of the most famous of the short stories is The Signal Man. In this story, a ghost haunts a signalman. The spectre visits the signalman just before a tragedy. The first tragedy is a collision between two trains, the second a young woman’s death, and finally, the third is the death of the signalman himself.

Rugby Station led to tragedy for the Daynes family.

“FATAL RAILWAY ACCIDENT AT RUGBY. – On Tuesday morning, at Rugby station, and accident, which instantly proved fatal, occurred to a fireman in the employ of the London and North-Western Railway Company, named William Dayne. It appears that the poor fellow, who had resided in Rugby, was a single man, aged twenty-four years, and on Tuesday morning he was engaged as fireman on a goods train arriving at Rugdy at three minutes before two o’clock. Dayne had left the footplate of the engine and was engaged with the couplings, when, from some cause or other as yet unexplained, the train moved, and in coming from between the trucks he was caught by the buffers and literally crushed to death, for he died immediately after he was removed.”

(The Leighton Buzzard Observer, 1873: 3)

Albert Daynes

An unexplained and horrific accident took their eldest son in 1873, but William had not been the first son they’d lost. Albert Daynes, their forth son, only lived between 1860 and 1862. I cannot find the cause of such a brief life.


Hopewell’s Rugby Almanack, 1890, p.21

Kelly’s Directory, 1868, p.1214

The Leighton Buzzard Observer, 11 Mar 1873, p.3

The Northampton Mercury, 17 Mar 1877, p.7

The Worcestershire Chronicle, 13 Jan 1869, p.4




F.E. Levy, Photographer, Derby

F.E. Levy

This carte de visite of a late Victorian woman with a jade-green border was produced by Florence Elizabeth Levy.

Florence (b1879) lived at 200 Uttoxeter New Road in Derby during the 1901 census. She’s described as a photographic artist.


In 1903, Florence married Luke Bradley (b1875) and moved to Leicester. They had one son, Frederick Luke Bradley (b1906).

Florence died in 1961. I can find no evidence that she continued her photography after 1903.

Father’s court appearances

Florence’s father, Thomas William Levy (b1852), appeared in court at least twice.

Garden argument

In 1893, an argument over turf and a garden gate instigated the first assault. Thomas owned a garden on Ashbourne Road that sat next to the garden of Lewis Meakin. Thomas removed some turf belonging to Lewis as it obstructed his gate.

Lewis does not appear to have liked Thomas touching his turf. The Derby Mercury (1893) described the attack:

“…Meakin came out of his garden and laid hold of his nose, at the same time threatening to screw it off. He afterwards struck him in the mouth, knocking the pipe which he was smoking a distance of ten yards.”

The main witness for the assault on Thomas was his daughter, Florence. The defendant’s witnesses – Frank Meakin and Alfred Handley – both denied any crime had taken place.

Lewis Meakin (b1850) worked as a coach-builder. In 1891 he lived at 124 Wind Mill Lane in Derby with his wife, son, six daughters, and stepson. Wind Mill Lane adjoins Ashbourne Road.

Frank Meakin (b1858), Lewis’s brother, also lived on Windmill Hill Lane. In the 1891 census he is at number 125. He worked as a postal telegraph clerk.

The other witness may possibly be Alfred Handley (b1843). In 1901 he also lived on Wind Mill Hill Lane, at number 6. He was a rivetter.

The newspapers mention that Thomas Levy lived at 24 Manchester Street. This street runs parallel to Ashbourne Road, and Windmill Hill Lane is close by. Both sides involved would have likely known each other.

Lewis Meakin was fined 10 shillings and costs by Derby Borough Police Court.


In 1896, Thomas appeared in court again, though now as defendant rather than the victim. He’d been accused of assaulting his sister-in-law, Mary Ann Levy.

“…the defendant thrashed her boy, and when she went to his studio on the Ashbourne Road he struck her in the eye, blacking it, and also bruised her face. – The defendant said he only scuffed the boy for misbehaving himself, and Mrs. Levy came to his place like “a wild woman.” She struck him twice, and he forcibly ejected her.” (The Derby Mercury, 1896: 5)

This was the same road as the previous incident. And again, the other person lived nearby. Mary Ann Levy lived at 4 Radbourne Street. This street runs parallel to Ashbourne Road.

Mary Ann Levy (b1855) had married Thomas’s brother Benjamin Levy (b1856) in 1883. Benjamin worked as a postman. Mary Ann is described as a laundress in the 1901 census.

They had three sons and one daughter: Benjamin George Levy (b1886), Francis Harold Levy (b1888), Mabel Annie Levy (b1890), and Ernest Cecil Levy (b1892). The boy who Thomas Levy hit may have been either Benjamin or Francis as Ernest would have been too young.

Thomas was fined 2 shillings and 6 pence, and an additional 18 shillings and 6 pence for costs. Mary Ann received a caution not to annoy Thomas any more.

Thomas Levy’s Job

The 1881, 1891, and 1901 censuses give Thomas Levy’s occupation as Postman and Inspector of Postmen. Yet, the newspaper articles of 1893 and 1896 all describe him as a photographer who had a studio on Ashbourne Road. The photography studio may have been a family business to earn extra income. It may have been this business that his daughter Florence became briefly involved in.


(1893) Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal, 03 November, p.5.

(1893) The Derby Mercury, 01 November, p.6.

(1896) The Derby Mercury, 02 September, p.5.

Post Card Photo of Royal Artillery, Posted to Clarborough, Nottinghamshire

A group photo of nine Edwardian-era soldiers in front of a line of tents. The back of the photo is a postcard, sent by George to his mother.

George Swindin

George Swindin was born in the village of Clarborough, Nottinghamshire, in 1888. He enlisted into the Royal Regiment of Artillery in 1908. The hat badges in the photo are faint but clearly those of the Royal Artillery. He served as a gunner and at some point was stationed in India.

The Swindin family

George came from a large family. He had four sisters and two brothers. Ellen Mary Lee (b1874), Walter Charles Lee Smith (b1878), Margaret Ann Swindin (b1887), Mary Phyllis Swindin (b1890), Thomas Swindin (b1892), and Edith Sarah Swindin (b1895).

His mother and father were Sarah Ann Swindin (b1852) and Frederick John Swindin (b1848). His father worked from home as a self-employed market gardener.

In the 1891 and 1901 censuses, their home was 46 Village Street in Clarborough.

There appears to have been a connection to Sheffield as many of George’s siblings moved there in later years. In 1911, his eldest sister Ellen, now married to Police Constable George Arthur Cobb, lived at 56 Dykes Hall Road. Round the corner was their sister Margaret, married to Brewers Drayman Herbert Staite, living at 53 Kendal Road. Their eldest brother, Walter, lived at 1 Kendal Place in 1917 (as far as I can find, Kendal Place is Kendal Road).

George’s father, Frederick, died in 1917. His mother, who he wrote this postcard to, died ten years later in 1927. And then his eldest sister Ellen another ten years later in 1937.

Military service

George’s brothers followed him into the military. A record from 1914 lists Thomas serving in the Royal Field Artillery. In 1917, Walter served in the Labour Corps and Durham Light Infantry.

Sarah Ann Swindin, further information

George’s mother was born in Walkeringham, Nottinghamshire, in 1852. Her original name was Sarah Ann Lee.

And so, her first daughter, Ellen Mary Lee, was born outside marriage.

Ellen’s first child, William John Lee, was also born outside marriage. In the 1901 census, both William and Ellen lived with Sarah and Frederick Swindin at 46 Village Street. William, like his uncles George and Thomas, served in the Royal Artillery (joining in 1914).

This explains why Ellen’s surname was not Swindin, but what about Walter Charles Lee Smith?

Sarah had married before in 1878. Her first husband was Charles Smith. Their son was born the same year.

In the 1881 census, both Sarah and Charles lived together in Clarborough. Charles worked as a boatman. Their children were not at home during the census. Ellen and Walter were instead staying with their grandparents Thomas and Ann Lee at 52 Abbey Lane, Mattersey, in Nottinghamshire.


Sarah’s first marriage was brief. In 1882, local newspapers reported what had happened in great detail. She had found her husband on the floor after taking his own life. Their children were both at home at the time (The Lincolnshire Chronicle, 1882: 8).

An earlier newspaper article mentioned that Charles had visited his brother’s house in the morning (The Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 1882: 6). He was described as being anxious about going home and said that he had done something wrong.

Sarah remarried to Frederick John Swindin in 1884.


(1882) The Lincolnshire Chronicle, 07 April, p.8.

(1882) The Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 04 April, p.6.


Postcard to Miss Pollard, Coventry, from Blackpool

Three women and a young girl are sitting down on a bench. The building behind looks like a cafe or hotel. In the window, we can see the reflection of a man wearing a homburg hat – perhaps the photographer. Between the photographer and the female group are wall railings.

The postcard back gives clues as to who is in the photo. It says:

“20 lime St Blackpool Having good time Mabel Grundy”

It’s addressed to a Miss Pollard. She lived at 6 Stephen Street in Coventry.

Stephen Street

The only two occupants I can find are Sydney and Clara Pollard. Both lived at 6 Stephen Street during the 1911 census.

Sydney Pollard (b1882) worked as a mail carrier for the General Post Office. He’d been born in Coventry.

Many of his family were involved in paper and printing. His dad, Samuel Pollard (b1845) had been a painter and paper hanger. His sister folded pamphlets (previously a bookbinders assistant) and a brother was a lithograph printer.

In 1901, he lived with his widowed mother, Emma Pollard (b1846), at 21 Stephen Street. His father had died in 1894. By this time he’d already started working at the Post Office.

Clara Lillian Ward (b1883) married Sydney in 1907. She’d been born in Wolstan, Warwickshire – a village on the outskirts of Coventry. Her parents were Joseph Ward (b1836, blacksmith) and Mabel Ward (b1843).

Clara and Sydney may have met in Coventry. During 1901, Clara worked in the centre of Coventry as a domestic servant for Thomas F.D. Lloyd’s family. Thomas Lloyd was a photographer and fancy dealer, working from home. The Lloyd family lived at 26 Earl Street.

In 1911, Emma had moved closer to her son. She now resided at 7 Stephen Street. Accompanying her were Sydney’s sister, now listed as a book folder, and one of Sydney’s brothers who worked as a pork butcher.

Sydney’s mother died in 1914.

In 1936, Sydney died, leaving Clara £40. In the 1939 Census, Clara lived alone at Stephen Street. She’s listed as providing first aid as part of the ARP’s (Air Raid Precautions) emergency medical services. Clara passed on in 1951, outliving her husband by fifteen years.

Miss Pollard?

There is a bit of a mystery as to who the letter is addressed to. The word “Miss” has a definite “i”. The initials don’t seem to correspond to Clara’s. Sydney and Clara didn’t have any children. So who is Miss Pollard?

The “Miss” could have been a mistake – written in a hurry. It may have been sent to Clara before her marriage. Or perhaps it was posted to a relative of Sydney’s.

Mabel Grundy

I don’t know who Mabel Grundy was. She may have been a friend or relative from Coventry. Blackpool had boomed as a tourist destination with the arrival of the railways and electricity in the 19th Century. Mabel and those with her could have been on holiday. Whoever she was, we can assume Mabel is one of those in the photo.

Hand-coloured, Woman with Green Hat, c1920s

A portrait photo attached to a postcard backing. The back has the business address: “H.J. Seaman, 35 Nevill St., Southport and Branches”. The address is in Lancashire.

The photo was coloured. Streaks of what looks to be green crayon are clearly visible. And black ink brings definition to her neckline.

Harold John Seaman

Harold was born 1886 in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. His father, Alfred Seaman, was also a photographer.


In the 1901 census, Harold lived with his mother Martha A Seaman, four brothers, and sister at 13 High Street, Chesterfield. His two elder brothers were photographer’s assistants. He had become a photographer’s apprentice. All worked with their father at the family home.

Alfred was not with them during the census. He is instead listed as a boarder at Smedley’s Hydropathic Establishment in Matlock, Derbyshire.

Established 1853, Smedley’s Hydro Hotel offered recuperation from fatigue and improvement of health. Turkish baths and massage were among their hydrotherapeutic treatments. Alfred could also have relaxed in their well-stocked library or engaged in one of their leisure activities such as bowls, fishing, and tennis.


Harold married Maud Mary George in 1906. Born in 1886, she was the daughter of a florist.

In 1907 they had a son, Dennis Seaman.


They divorced in 1916. Their divorce records show that Maud had been accused and found guilty of adultery with a man by the name of Richard Avner. The two met secretly many times. One such meeting took place between 1913 and 1914 at “The Laurelo” in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

The court granted custody of Dennis to Harold.

At the time of their divorce, Harold lived at 35 Nevill Street (the address on the photo). Maud had moved in with Richard at 3 Saxon Street in Dover, Kent.

Prior to the divorce, Harold and Maud had been living in numerous places. One place given is the Needwood Hotel, Nuneaton, Warwick.

I cannot find any further records for Maud Mary, Richard Avner, or Dennis Seaman after this date.

Persons wanted

In 1916, the year of the divorce, Harold advertised for a retoucher (Liverpool Echo, 1916):

“Photography.-Smart Young Lady Retoucher.- State wages. send photo, Seaman, Nevill-st., Southport”

It’s possible that such a person as this could’ve retouched our photo of the woman in the green hat.

Second marriage

Harold is still moving around. In 1924 he has moved from Nevill Street to 64 Manchester Road in Southport.

By 1939 he is now living at 82 Manchester Road. He remarried. His new wife, also a photographer, is Emily Norma Seaman (b1892). Joan Seaman (their daughter, born 1918) is a photographic assistant. They have a son, Harold John Seaman (born 1935).

Someone else is living with them in the 1939 census but that record is still officially closed.

I would be interested if anyone knew more about Emily. When did they marry? Is Harold the biological father of Joan?


Harold died on the 21st November 1950 at Bath Street, Southport. He still lived at 82 Manchester Road. He left Emily £5627 10s and 6d.


Kelly, (1924). Kelly’s Lancashire Directory 1924.

(1916) ‘Persons Wanted’, Liverpool Echo, 11 July, p.1.

Scans of a 1940s book on photo retouching:


The luxurious Smedley’s Hydro:




Mawdsley, Saundrey, and Cook, Singapore, c1920s/1930s

A photo of three men in Singapore printed on a Gevaert postcard back.

A rough date of the photo can be surmised from their clothing. The creased cuffed trousers, slicked centre-parting, round sunglasses, and pencil moustache point to the 1920s or 1930s. One looks to be wearing a felt hat that could be a fedora.

They’re photographed outside, standing against a wall.

Gevaert Photo Products was founded by Lieven Gevaert in Antwerp, Belgium in 1894. The company later merged with Agfa in 1964 to become Agfa-Gevaert.

Singapore – 1920s and 1930s

The island city of Singapore had been part of a British Crown Colony since 1st April 1867. The name of this colony was the Straits Settlements. Other territories within this colony were Dinding, Penang, Labuan, and Malacca.

It was a modern city boasting magnificent European architecture. The roads were filled with motor cars and trams. Apart from the heat and rickshaws, one could forget they were in Asia.

Those who lived on the streets of Singapore were mainly Chinese, with some Malays, Indians, and Europeans. This ethnically mixed population had been the result of British colonial development attracting immigration. And with these waves of immigration had come different religions. Singapore had become home to many Buddhist and Hindu temples, Muslim mosques, and Christian churches.

A film from British Pathé shows Singapore street scenes from the 1920s:

This is a longer film from 1930, made available by the University of Pennsylvania Museum:


There were many ways those three men could have entertained themselves. As well as the numerous shops, Singapore was home to three large amusement parks. These were called New World, Great World, and Happy World.

The first, New World, was opened in 1923 by the brothers Boon Tat and Ong Peng Hock. It offered general entertainment such as amusement rides (Ferris wheel, ghost train, dodgem cars), football, opera, boxing, and cabaret.

New World was followed by Great World, built by Lee Geok Kun and opened in 1929. Happy World, later renamed Gay World, opened in 1937. This third amusement park was built by George Lee Geok Eng of George Lee Motors.

Naval Base

Often described as the “Gibraltar of the East”, the British Empire understood its economic and strategic importance in the region.

In 1923, to counter the growing Japanese Empire, work began on a large naval base. It was completed in 1938. This concentration on fortifying Singapore from a naval invasion, however, led to its downfall. In 1942 the Japanese Army successfully conquered the island by attacking the naval base from the land.


“Empire Shipping On The Trade Routes Of The World.” Times [London, England] 5 Mar. 1924: 7. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 23 Sept. 2018.





General history of Singapore resource provided by National Library Board of Singapore:




Stylish Woman in Garden, Late 1920s

Here we see a photo of a woman printed on a postcard backing. The white picket fence, cut grass, and neatly ordered vegetation give away her location as that of a garden.

Her clothes are influenced by the popular flapper look. Her hair is in a bob. Instead of enhancing her curves, the outfit straightens her body. The hemline just below the knee was the fashion of the late 1920s as women showed more of their legs.

She’s wearing many items of jewellery. A beaded necklace, a charm bracelet with charms, an arm ring, and what may be a wristwatch.

The item she’s holding against her face looks like a purse.

For information on the clothing fashions of the 1920s you can try:



Beachy Head, Woman with Oriental-Patterned Parasol

A small photo of a woman sitting by the sea holding a parasol. The pencilled note on the back identifies the scenery as Beachy Head near the town of Eastbourne, UK.

She’s wearing what would’ve been regarded as indecent to the generation before. The hemline is high and her arms are bare. On her right arm is a mark left by what appears to be a bracelet; a tan line perhaps.

Beau Rivage Bar, Switzerland?


I’ve been told that the photo in a previous post is more likely to be of a building in Switzerland than Mexico.


I’m inclined to agree. Swiss traditional national dress does include ornately embroidered short-sleeved jackets.

Which Beau Rivage?

Beau Rivage is, however, a common name. For me, there were two main contenders for which Beau Rivage was in the photo. They were the historic Beau Rivage Palace and the equally historic Beau Rivage Geneva.

The Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland, opened in 1861. Its architecture is described on Wikipedia as being Art Nouveau and neo-baroque. The Beau Rivage Geneva – situated, as the name suggests, in Geneva – opened in 1865. Both share architectural features with the building in the photo.

Grand Hotel Beau Rivage

But, after exhaustive googling, I found the right building.

The Grand Hotel Beau Rivage in Interlaken, Switzerland, is an exact match. The windows and lamp pillars are identical. It was built in 1874 and reconstructed in 1899 after a great fire in 1895. It currently belongs to Lindner Hotels, based in Dusseldorf, Germany.

A vintage postcard being sold online shows one of the pillars with a sign protruding from it. The postcard can be currently found here:


So, we can now say with certainty that the photo is of a man and woman in traditional Swiss dress. The building is the Grand Hotel Beau Rivage in Interlaken. And there is absolutely no connection to Mexico.