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




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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.

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Theresa Walpole, Birmingham, 1876.

T. Pope produced this carte de visite in 1876. Pope had been active as a photographer at 36 New Street, Birmingham, between 1876-1879. I’d be grateful for any further information regarding this person.

Theresa Walpole

The card is named and dated “Theresa Walpole, Aug 26th 1876”. If we assume she lived in Birmingham, then we discover a Theresa Walpole, born in Birmingham 1856 to Thomas and Betsy Walpole.

1871, 1881, and 1891

There are three census records for Theresa: 1871, 1881, and 1891.

During 1871 and 1881 she lived with her mother and father and four younger siblings. In 1881 these were Thomas (50) (father, tailor), Betsy (51) (mother), twins Thomas (21) (jeweller) and Elizabeth (21) (tailoress), Eleanor (18) (bag liner), and her youngest sister Annie (17) (electroplate packer).

In 1881, at the age of 25, Theresa worked as a cocoa flaker. Her family had lived at 14 Clement Street in Birmingham. After her father’s death in 1886, she and her mother moved to 1 Knightstone Terrace, Coralie Street. At this time in her life, she became a Bible woman. I cannot find any further records after this year.


She rests herself on a plush chair. Her position is relaxed, though this is more due to the need at the time to steady oneself during the long exposure of the camera. She is around 20 years of age.

Apart from a curtain draped over the chair, there is no decoration. A neutral background had been fashionable at the time. Later on, studio portraits would have elaborately decorated backdrops that displayed both indoor and outdoor scenery.

The faded monochrome does little justice to her clothes. Availability of improved dyes in the 1870s saw great splashes of colour in fabrics. We can only now guess what colours she wore in this picture.

There is a chain dropping from between her buttons. This is likely for a pocket watch discretely tucked inside her outfit.

We find a sticker on the back of the carte de visite. “Yes, if you profit by experience and avoid former errors.” This sounds like a quote from the Bible or a moral from Aesop’s fables. “Theresa advice” looks to have been scribbled in pencil. Was this advice from Theresa or given to Theresa?

As always I am keen for any further information, whether about Theresa or anyone else. Please reply using either the comment section or email myself directly.

Coralie Street in Birmingham no longer exists, but memories of it are available at:


The address of T. Pope comes from:


A useful resource on carte de visite and antique photos in general:

Robert Pols. Looking at Old Photographs: Their dating and interpretation. 1999.


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