Old photos and their history

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.


Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *