Old photos and their history

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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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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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:



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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.

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