Old photos and their history

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:




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