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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Joseph Noble Perks, Cabinet Card of a Family, Swadlincote

A family portrait cabinet card embossed with “J Perks, Swadlincote” in gold lettering. The clothing and hairstyles suggest the early Edwardian era. Two adults, we can assume are the parents, pose with two girls and a boy. A studio backdrop of an opulent indoor scene lies behind them.

Joseph Noble Perks

Joseph was born in 1877 in the village of Woodville, Swadlincote. He was born to John and Annie Perks. Woodville is currently part of South Derbyshire but at the time had been within the boundaries of Burton-on-Trent and Staffordshire.


At 3 years old, Joseph lived with his parents and siblings at 194 Burton Road in Overseal, Swadlincote. He had an older brother and younger sister, Benjamin and Annie. His dad was a pipeworks engineer.


Swadlincote had been the site of pipe yards. They made clay pipes that were sold throughout the world. This wide commercial reach was enabled by Swadlincote’s connection to the Victorian and Edwardian railway.

Joseph’s family appear to have moved from Yorkshire so his dad could work at the pipeworks.

1901 census

At 23, Joseph still lived with his parents, though they moved to 219 Occupation Lane in Woodville, Swadlincote. He now had two sisters, Annie and Nellie, and a new brother called Charles. His eldest brother Benjamin had moved out. Nellie was a school teacher and Charles, at the age of 14, was an apprentice fitter.

Joseph was now listed as a photographer


Joseph married Evelyn Grace Warren in 1909. She was born in 1884 in Newhall. The town of Newhall is also part of Swadlincote.

In 1901, Evelyn lived with her parents and two brothers at 186 High Street, Newhall, Swadlincote. She worked as a dressmaker.

1911 census

By 1911, Joseph – now 33 – had settled down with Evelyn at 26 Church Street, Church Gresley, Swadlincote. He worked from home, self-employed as a photographer and picture frame maker.

RAF and knitting

There is a record of Joseph being a member of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1918. At the same time, Evelyn served in the Swadlincote division of the British Red Cross. Her duties included knitting, needlework, war hospital supplies, and home worker.

1939 census

The last available census has Evelyn and Joseph living at 68 James Street, Midway, Swadlincote. They have constantly moved during their lives, though they cannot yet escape the gravitational pull of Swadlincote. Joseph was still a photographer. They lived with their two grown-up children, Noel Perks (certificated assistant teacher) and Iris Perks (shorthand typist). Noel was an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) warden who either was a trainee or trained others in first aid. Joseph also had ARP duties.

If you would like to add to the story of the Perks family then please add your comments below or contact me directly.




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