Thomas Russell (Chichester)

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Thomas Russell of Chichester

[ABOVE] Two designs from the reverse of carte-de-visite portraits produced by Thomas Russell in the early 1890s. Thomas Russell employed a wide range of designs on the backs of his photographs from 1885 to 1900.

Thomas RUSSELL (1841-1903)

Thomas Russell was born in Chichester, Sussex on 19th August 1841.  Thomas Russell was the sixth child and third eldest son of Frances and James Russell, a cabinet maker from West Wittering. James Russell (born 1809, West Wittering) had married Frances Aylmore (born 1810, West Wittering) in 1831. The couple settled in Chichester around 1833 and by the time Thomas Russell was born in 1841, James Russell was running a cabinet making business in East Street, Chichester.

James Russell (1809-1899) established a photography business in Chichester in the 1850s. Six of James Russell's ten children - Annetta Russell (born 1833), James Russell junior (born c1835), Josiah Russell (born 1839), Thomas Russell (born 1841), Hezekiah Russell (born 1844) and John Lemmon Russell (born 1846), - joined him in his photography business. James Russell's third daughter Ruth Russell (born 1837, Chichester), married John Fielder ( born c1836 Fritham, Hampshire ), who also became a photographer and later managed James Russell's studio at 65 East Street, Chichester.

In the mid 1860s, James Russell senior formed the firm of James Russell & Sons with his photographer sons. During the 1870s, James Russell & Sons established branch studios in Worthing, Littlehampton, Bognor, and, for a brief time, Petworth. Around 1881, James Russell's youngest son John Lemmon Russell, was despatched to London to establish branch studios of J. Russell & Sons in the capital and in other areas on the outskirts of London.

Thomas Russell probably worked as a photographer's assistant under his father James Russell during his early working career. On 28th July 1862 at St Mary's Church, Portsea, twenty year old Thomas Russell married Mary Harriett Stroud (born c1835 Chichester). The couple's first child, Alice Frances Aylmore Russell was born in Chichester in 1863 [The birth of Alice Frances Aylmore Russell was registered in Chichester during the 4th Quarter of 1863]. A son named Hezekiah Reuben Russell was born in Chichester during the First Quarter of 1867. At least three more children followed - Mary Russell (born 1877), Thomas James Russell (born 1881) and Martha Lydia Patricia Russell (born 1883). Sadly, Thomas, the couple's youngest son died shortly after his first birthday. During this period it is likely that Thomas Russell was employed as a photographer in the firm of James Russell & Sons, but around 1885 Thomas Russell broke away from the family firm and set up his own studio at Eastgate in Chichester.

1881 Census : Bognor Road, RUMBOLDS WYKE

NAME

 

OCCUPATION

AGE

PLACE OF BIRTH

Thomas Russell Head

Photographer

40

Chichester, Sussex
Harriett Russell wife  

46

Chichester, Sussex
Alice Russell daughter  

18

Chichester, Sussex
Hezekiah Russell son Operator - Photo

15

Chichester, Sussex
Mary Russell daughter  

4

Chichester, Sussex
Thomas Russell son  

3 months

Chichester, Sussex

[ABOVE] 1881 census return for Thomas Russell and family. Thomas Russell's wife, Mary Harriett Russell often reversed her two forenames and is sometimes recorded as Harriet M. Russell as well as Mary H. Russell.

After operating from his studio in Eastgate, Chichester, for a few years, Thomas Russell opened a second studio in Southgate, Chichester. By 1890, Thomas Russell was working solely from the Southgate Studio and he continued working at this studio until his death in 1903.

[ABOVE] The design on the reverse of  a cabinet portrait by Thomas Russell which gives Russell's studio address as 20 Southgate, Chichester (c1895). Before 1895, Thomas Russell's studio was given simply as Southgate, Chichester with no building number.

[ABOVE] The reverse of  a carte-de-visite by Thomas Russell, produced when he was operating two studios in Chichester - one at Eastgate and the other at Southgate (c1888).

[ABOVE] A carte-de-visite portrait of an unknown man by Thomas Russell of Southgate, Chichester (c1890).

[ABOVE] The reverse of  a carte-de-visite by Thomas Russell which gives details of  Russell's studio in Southgate, Chichester (c1889).

Thomas Russell at the Southgate Studio, Chichester

[ABOVE] A carte-de-visite portrait of a young child by Thomas Russell of Southgate, Chichester (c1890). Thomas Russell later became well known for his "instantaneous photographs of children"

Thomas Russell worked as a photographer in Southgate, Chichester for about 15 years. After 1895, the buildings in Southgate were numbered and Thomas Russell's business address was given as 20 Southgate, Chichester. Unlike many other photographers of the time, Thomas Russell and his family did not reside in living quarters attached to the studio. In the early 1890s, Thomas Russell and his family lived at a house in Cawley Road, Chichester and by the end of the decade the Russell family were residing at 227 Oving Road, Portfield, Chichester.

Thomas Russell described himself as an "Artist & Photographer" in his publicity and the advertising on his early photographs describe his business premises in Southgate as a "Fine Art Studio". In common with other photographers in the 1880s and 1890s, Thomas Russell provided a service whereby the original carte sized portrait would be "enlarged to any size and finished in oil or water colors". Thomas Russell also photographed "works of art" which were then enlarged or reduced in size and "painted artistically". Russell also worked as a gilder and was therefore able to present his finished hand-coloured photographs in handsome picture frames.

With the the availability in the 1880s of commercially produced, highly sensitive gelatin dry plates which reduced exposure times to fractions of a second, photographers became expert in photographing children. In the 1890s, Thomas Russell promoted his "instantaneous photographs of children". ( A few examples of Russell's child portraiture can be viewed in the Thomas Russell Gallery ).

Thomas Russell was assisted in his Southgate Studio by his wife Harriett and his grown-up children. As a teenager, Hezekiah Reuben Russell, Thomas Russell's son, worked as an operator in his father's studio. The 1881 census records the fifteen year old Hezekiah as a "photo operator ". Thomas Russell's eldest daughter, Alice (born 1863) and his youngest daughter Martha (born 1883) were also employed as "assistants in photography" at the Southgate Studio.

Thomas Russell and his Family

[ABOVE] A carte-de-visite portrait of a young man by Thomas Russell of Southgate, Chichester (c1898).

Hezekiah Reuben Russell (1867-1893)

Hezekiah Reuben Russell, Thomas Russell's only surviving son, was born in Chichester in 1867. In his early teens, Hezekiah trained as a photographer under his father and by the age of fifteen he was employed as a "photo operator". When Thomas Russell opened his own studio in Chichester around 1885, Hezekiah Russell became his chief assistant.

Early in 1886, at the age of nineteen, Hezekiah Russell married Beatrice Annie Frecker (born 1865, Guernsey, Channel Islands) the daughter of Sarah Cross Clark and James Bell Frecker, an ironmonger and plumber of St Peter's Port, Guernsey. [Hezekiah Russell's marriage was registered in the London district of Kensington during the First Quarter of 1886]. The couple set up home in Orchard Road, Chichester, and produced two children between 1886 and 1893. On Thursday, 23rd March 1893, following a bout of influenza, Hezekiah Russell died at the age of 26 from acute rheumatic fever. [The death of Hezekiah Reuben Russell was registered in the West Sussex district of Westhampnett during the First Quarter of 1893]. In 1911, Mrs Beatrice Russell, Hezekiah's widow, was working as a clerk in London and was residing in St Pancras with her twenty year old daughter Dorothy Russell (born 1890, Chichester).

Thomas Russell and Family in 1901

After the death of his son Hezekiah in 1893, Thomas Russell relied heavily on his daughters. The 1901 census records Thomas Russell, his wife and three daughters residing at 227 Oving Road, Chichester. Thomas Russell, the Head of Household, is described on the census return as a "Photographer & Gilder (Employer)", aged 59. Alice Russell, the eldest daughter, is entered on the census return as an "Assistant in Photography (Employed)", aged 37. Alice's youngest sister, seventeen year old Martha Russell, is also listed as an "Assistant in Photography". The middle sister, Mary Russell, is described by the census enumerator as a "Mother's Help & Domestic". The twenty-four year old provided assistance to her mother Mrs Mary Harriett Russell, who was now in her sixties. ( On earlier documents, Thomas Russell's wife gave her first name as "Harriett", but in 1901 she is recorded as "Mary H. Russell" ). Also residing at Thomas Russell's home in Oving Road was his ten year old grand daughter Dorothy Russell (presumably a daughter of his late son Hezekiah) and his brother-in-law George Stroud, aged 53,  a "cripple from birth", who was unable to earn a living. Also boarding at the house was George Henry Allen (born 1876, Chichester), described as an unmarried man of twenty-five, employed as an "Operator in Photography". George Henry Allen was to take on an important role in Thomas Russell's Southgate Studio over the coming years.

 

Carte-de-visite Portraits by Thomas Russell, produced between 1885 and 1903

[ABOVE] A carte-de-visite portrait of a young girl holding a ball by Thomas Russell of Chichester (c1888). [ABOVE] A carte-de-visite portrait of a girl by Thomas Russell of 20 Southgate, Chichester (c1895). [ABOVE] A carte-de-visite portrait of a woman by Thomas Russell of 20 Southgate, Chichester (c1894). [ABOVE] A carte-de-visite portrait of a woman by Thomas Russell of Southgate, Chichester (c1893).

Russell's Studio at 20 Southgate, Chichester after 1901

Thomas Russell died in Chichester on 13th November 1903 at the age of 62. The studio at 20 Southgate, Chichester passed to his widow Mrs Mary Harriett Russell, who ran the studio with the assistance of her daughters and chief operator George Henry Allen for the next seven or eight years. Mrs M. H. Russell is listed as the proprietor of the studio at 20 Southgate, Chichester in local trade directories up until 1911. Mrs Russell's daughter Mary Russell (born 1877, Chichester), married Thomas George Purchase (born 1874, Chichester), a wine & spirit salesman, in 1910

The 1911 census shows Mrs Mary Russell, Thomas Russell's seventy year old widow, as the "Head of Household" at 20 Southgate, Chichester. Also recorded at Mrs Russell's photographic studio at 20 Southgate was her eldest daughter Alice Frances Aylmore Russell, described as a forty-six year old "Photographer's Retoucher", George Allen, a thirty-four year old "Photographer Manager" and "Martha Allen", described as a twenty-seven year old "Photographer". The young woman who gave her name as "Martha Allen" was Martha Lydia Patricia Russell (born 1883, Chichester), the youngest daughter of Mary and Thomas Russell, the late owner of the Southgate Studio. Martha has been given the surname of the studio manager George Allen, but both she and George give their marital status as "Single" on the census return and there is no record of a marriage between the two. George Arthur Russell Purchase, the son of Thomas G. Purchase and Mary Russell (the sister of Alice and Martha Russell) recalled in later life that it was Alice Russell "who married George Allen" and that "these two carried on a small photographer's business at Southgate, Chichester, under the business name of 'Russells'." George Purchase went on to remark that "Alice and George Allen had no children" and that Alice's youngest sister (Martha Lydia Patricia Russell), who preferred the name of "Patricia Russell", eventually married the artist and architect Anthony Raine Barker (born 1880, Harrow, Middlesex) in 1916.

After Mrs Mary Harriett Russell died in 1911 at the age of seventy-two. [The death of Mary Harriett Russell was registered in Chichester during the 2nd Quarter of 1911], the studio at 20 Southgate was continued by Mrs Russell's unmarried daughter Alice Frances Russell (mistakenly listed as "A & F. Russell" in local trade directories), with the assistance of George Henry Allen. George Purchase maintained that his aunt Alice Russell " married George Allen" and that together they "carried on a small photographer's business at Southgate, Chichester, under the business name of 'Russells'", but there is no official record that George Allen ever married Alice Frances Aylmore Russell. However, when Alice Russell died in 1939, her death was registered under the name Alice F. A. Allen.

By 1918, the photography business at 20 Southgate, Chichester was being managed by George Henry Allen, formerly the chief photographer in Alice Russell's Studio. George Henry Allen was still listed as the proprietor of Russell's Studio at 20 Southgate, Chichester in 1938. Between 1937 and 1940, George Henry Allen was producing photographic views of Chichester under the name of G. H. Allen.

[ABOVE] The trade plate of Thomas Russell, Artist & Photographer of 20 Southgate, Chichester (c1895)

[ABOVE] A modern map of the southern part of Chichester, showing the position of Southgate (orange), where Thomas Russell 's studio was located and Cawley Road (blue), where the Russell family lived in the early 1890s.


 

Click on the link below to view a selection of portraits taken at Thomas Russell's Studio in Chichester :

Thomas Russell Gallery

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[ABOVE] Detail from a photograph of West Wittering taken by George Henry Allen and issued as a picture postcard by Russells of  Southgate, Chichester.

Rendel Williams' Sussex Postcards Info website features several picture postcards produced by G. H. Allen of Russells, Chichester. Rendel Williams has also authored an article about George Henry Allen's career as a photographer and picture postcard publisher which is available on the Sussex Postcards Info website. To view a selection of photographs taken by George Henry Allen issued as picture postcards under the name of Russells of Chichester, go to Rendel Williams' Sussex Postcards Info website by clicking on the link below:

SUSSEXPOSTCARDS.INFO

 

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Paul Frecker for providing family information about Beatrice Annie Frecker, the wife of Hezekiah Russell (1867-1893), the son of Chichester photographer Thomas Russell. Paul is the great, great grandson of James Bell Frecker, the father of Beatrice Annie Frecker.

Thanks to Rendell Williams. Rendel's Sussex Postcards Info website is an excellent resource for those interested in picture postcards published in Sussex between 1900 and 1980. Rendel Williams' website features several picture postcards produced by George Henry Allen from the Russells Studio in Southgate, Chichester. Rendel Williams has also authored an article about George Henry Allen's career as a photographer and picture postcard publisher which can be accessed by clicking on the Sussex Postcards Info link provided in the box above.

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