Rye Photographers S-Z

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Professional Photographers in Rye (S-Z)

  Joseph Sellen - Robert Baggallay Thorpe - Edwin Whiteman

Joseph SELLEN (c1835-1897)

Active as a photographer in Rye between 1887 and 1890

Joseph Sellen was born in Doddington, Kent, around 1835. He appears to have been the second son of Mary and Richard Sellen, a master baker. Richard Sellen (c1801-1869) was born in Ospringe, a village on the outskirts of Faversham in Kent. Around 1827, Richard Sellen married his wife Mary (c1805-1874), a young woman from Doddington, a village 6 miles south of Sittingbourne. The couple settled in Mary's home village of Doddington, where Richard Sellen ran a bakery for over thirty years. Mary gave birth to at least eleven children, including Jane (born1828), Eliza (born c1830), Solomon (born c1832), Clara (born 1834- died 1837), Joseph (born c1835), Flora (born 1837), Julia (born 1839), Mary Phoebe (born 1840), Reuben (born 1843), Ann (born 1845 - died 1855) and Elizabeth Sellen (born 1850). When Richard Sellen died in 1869, the family bakery passed to Joseph's younger brother Reuben Sellen (1843-1912). By this date, Joseph Sellen had married and was living in Ashford, Kent.

In 1862, Joseph Sellen had married Sophia Elizabeth Jarvis (born 1833, Petham, Kent), the daughter of Henry and Sophia Jarvis. [The marriage of Joseph Sellen and Sophia Elizabeth Jarvis was registered in Lambeth, Surrey during 3rd Quarter of 1862]. Joseph and Sophia Sellen set up home in Ashford, Kent, where five of their seven children were born - Clara Sophia (born 1863), Mary Jane (born 1864), William Henry (born 1869), Frederick Joseph (born 1870-died 1873), and Albert Ernest Sellen (born 1874).

Joseph Sellen in Rye

By 1875, Joseph Sellen and his family were living in Rye. A daughter named Flora Josephine Sellen was born in Rye during the 4th Quarter of 1875. Another daughter, Laura Edith Sellen, was born in 1878 [ birth registered in Rye during the 2nd Quarter of 1878]. At the time of Laura Sellen's birth, Joseph Sellen was running a greengrocer's shop in Lion Street, Rye. Within a few years, Joseph Sellen was working as a dairyman and milk dealer from his premises in Lion Street. Mrs Sophia Sellen, Joseph's wife, ran the greengrocer's shop in Lion Street, while her husband supplied milk to his customers. It appears that around 1885, Joseph Sellen began to supplement his income by taking photographic portraits at his shop in Lion Street.

 

[ABOVE]  A view of Lion Street, Rye, from a photograph taken around 1905. Joseph Sellen operated a number of businesses in Lion Street between 1875 and 1890. By 1878, Joseph Sellen and his wife Sophia were running a greengrocer's shop in Lion Street. Sellen also worked as a dairyman and milk dealer in this street. Around 1885, Joseph Sellen began to take photographic likenesses at his premises in Lion Street. Between 1887 and 1890, Sellen was taking photographic portraits at the Belveil Studio at 110 High Street, Rye.
 
Joseph Sellen - Portrait and Landscape Photographer in Rye

Joseph Sellen probably began taking photographic portraits at his shop in Lion Street, Rye, in the mid 1880s. Joseph Sellen's early carte-de-visite portraits are rubber-stamped "J. Sellen, Portrait & Landscape Photographer, 18 Lion Street, Rye".

[ABOVE] High Street, Rye as depicted in a "phototype" published in 1897

Around 1886, Joseph Sellen was given the opportunity to take possession of a well-equipped photographic studio in Rye's High Street. A photographic portrait studio was attached to a local tobacconist's shop at 110 High Street, Rye. The photographic studio at 110 High Street had been established by Robert Baggallay Thorpe (see below) in the mid 1860s. Around 1879, Thorpe had sold his photography and tobacconist business to the firm of Oliver & Martin. James Oliver and George Martin were primarily tobacconists, but they continued to run the photographic studio at 110 High street, Rye for the next few years. By 1887, Joseph Sellen had acquired the tobacconist's shop and the photographic studio at 110 High Street, Rye.

[ABOVE] The trade plate of of Joseph Sellen, Portrait and Landscape Photographer of 18 Lion Street, Rye rubber-stamped on the reverse of a carte-de-visite produced around 1885. The use of a rubber stamp to advertise the photography side of his business suggests that this is one of Sellen's earlier carte-de-visite portraits. [ABOVE] Carte-de-visite portrait of a young woman holding a Japanese style parasol, photographed around 1885 by Joseph Sellen at his business premises in Lion Street, Rye. A year or so later, Joseph Sellen acquired a better equipped studio at 110 High Street, Rye. By 1887, Sellen was using professionally printed cartes.

Joseph Sellen's Belveil Studio at 110 High Street, Rye

[ABOVE] Carte-de-visite portrait of a young woman and child by Joseph Sellen, Belveil Studio, 110 High Street, Rye (c1887). Joseph Sellen also operated from premises in Lion Street, Rye.

[ABOVE] Reverse of  a carte-de-visite portrait showing the trade plate of Joseph Sellen, Portrait and Landscape Photographer, Belveil Studio, 110 High Street, Rye (c1887).

Sussex trade directories published between 1887 and 1890 list Joseph Sellen as a photographer at both 110 High Street and at his business premises in Lion street, Rye. On taking possession of the tobacconists shop at 110 High Street, Rye, Joseph Sellen called his photography business the Belveil Studio. (The origin of the studio name is obscure, but "Belveil" might have derived from a Belgian term similar to the French word "bellevue" meaning "beautiful view" or "beautiful image"). Joseph Sellen described himself as a "Portrait and Landscape Photographer". As well as taking portraits in his "Belveil Studio", Joseph Sellen worked as an "Outdoor Photographer", taking photographic views of the area and visiting private residences to take family group portraits on location. Joseph Sellen also established the "Belveil Portrait Club", whereby inhabitants of Rye could have their photographic portraits enlarged to "life size" and handsomely presented in finely finished frames. The "life-size" portraits were not cheap, but Sellen's customers could pay for the large photographs over a period of months on "easy terms". (The "Club Package" system of paying for expensive photographs in instalments was an established practice in the 1880s. Large photography firms, such as A. & G. Taylor and Brown Barnes & Bell, charged as much as 30 shillings for a large, framed portrait, but after delivery their customers could pay for the portraits over a period of thirty weeks using the club system). It is likely that Joseph Sellen's Belveil Portrait Club enabled his customers to pay for large portraits that were ordinarily out of their financial reach. By paying one shilling a week into the "Belveil Portrait Club", residents of Rye could obtain large portraits associated with status and wealth.

Sussex trade directories published between 1887 and 1890 list Joseph Sellen as a photographer at both 110 High Street and at his business premises in Lion street, Rye. Joseph's wife, Sophia Sellen, died in Rye in 1890, at the age of 57. After the death of his wife, Joseph Sellen closed his photographic studio in Lion Street and based himself at 110 High Street, Rye. Perhaps prompted to abandon photography by the arrival in Rye of the experienced photographer Edwin Whiteman (see below), Joseph Sellen was listed as a "Tobacconist & Hairdresser" on the 1891 census return for 110 High Street, Rye.

By 1895, Joseph Sellen had left Rye and was working as a dairyman and milkman in the Faversham district of Kent. A Kent trade directory issued in 1895 lists Joseph Sellen as a milk dealer residing at Calico House in Newnham, a village near the Kent market town of Faversham. Joseph Sellen died in 1897 at the age of 62. [Death registered in the district of Canterbury during the 3rd Quarter of 1897].

The Photographic Studio at 110 High Street, Rye

[ABOVE] This trade plate of the "Photographic Studio, 110 High Street, Rye", was stamped on the reverse of a carte de-visite portrait produced around 1882

Robert Baggallay Thorpe (1834-1910) established a photographic portrait studio at 110 High Street, Rye around 1865. Robert Baggallay Thorpe moved to Winchelsea and sold his photography and tobacconist business to the firm of Oliver & Martin around 1879. James Oliver and George Martin were tobacconists by trade and possibly employed a professional photographer to take portraits at their High Street shop. In 1881, a photographer named George Baker (born 1855, Castle Cary, Somerset) was lodging at a house nine doors away from Oliver & Martin's business premises in Rye's High Street and might have been hired by the two tobacconists to take portraits at No.110. Around 1886, the photographic studio at 110 High Street passed to Joseph Sellen (see above). The studio at 110 High Street, Rye closed around 1890.

[ABOVE]  A view of High Street, Rye, photographed around 1905. On the right of the picture is the shop of Frank Jarrett, who worked as a grocer and wine merchant's agent at 92 High Street, Rye. Immediately to the left of Jarrett's shop, at No.93, is the business premises of Anthony Vincett & Son, florist and seedsman. The site at the photographic studio at 110 High Street, was located beyond the two-wheeled handcart parked on the kerb in the middle distance.

 

Robert Baggallay THORPE (born 1834, Rye Sussex - died 1910)

Photographer active in Rye between 1865 and 1879

[ABOVE] Mrs Harriett Thorpe (c1789-1876), widow of Thomas Thorpe (1791-1847), linen draper  of Rye, and mother of Robert Baggallay Thorpe, who worked as a photographer in Rye during the 1860s and 1870s. This carte-de-visite portrait of Mrs Thorpe was taken at her son's photographic portrait studio at 110 High Street, Rye, around 1866.

[ Photograph courtesy of Phyllis Nordstrom and Patricia M. Larsen ]

 

[ABOVE] Thomas William Thorpe (1808-1877) the eldest son of  Harriett and Thomas Thorpe senior, linen draper  of Rye. After Thomas Thorpe senior died in 1847, Thomas William Thorpe took over the running of the family drapery business in High Street, Rye. This portrait dates from around 1860, but was copied and issued in carte-de-visite format by Thomas's brother, Robert Baggallay Thorpe about 10 years later. Thomas William Thorpe travelled to the United States in 1872 and died in the State of Michigan five years later.

[ Photograph courtesy of Phyllis Nordstrom and Patricia M. Larsen ]

 

 Ishpeming, Michigan, USA

[ABOVE] View of Ishpeming, Michigan, USA, where Thomas William Thorpe of Rye, Sussex, settled with his family in 1872. This view, taken from an old picture postcard, was photographed from the Jasper Hills, which are rich in minerals such as red jasper, quartz and iron oxide. It is believed that Thomas WilliamThorpe and his family were drawn to Ishpeming because of the mining opportunities in the area.
 
[ABOVE] View of  Main Street, Ishpeming, Michigan, USA, from an old picture postcard. where Thomas William Thorpe of Rye arrived in Ishpeming with his family around 1872. Thomas William Thorpe died in Ishpeming on 17th March 1877. Several members of Thomas William Thorpe's family settled in Ishpeming, Michigan in the 1870s and 1880s.

Robert Baggallay Thorpe and the Thorpe Family of Rye

Robert Baggallay Thorpe was born in Rye, Sussex, in 1834, the youngest son of Harriett Barnes (c1789-1876) and Thomas Thorpe (1791-1847), a linen draper. Harriett Barnes, who was originally from Brookland, a village 8 miles west of Rye, married Thomas Thorpe at Rye on 19th January 1808. The union of Thomas and Harriett Thorpe produced five children. The couple's first child, Thomas William Thorpe was born at Brookland, Kent, on 1st of August 1808. A year or so later, Thomas and Harriett Thorpe settled in Rye, Sussex, where their second child Elizabeth Thorpe was born in 1810. [ Elizabeth Thorpe was baptised in Rye on 6th November 1810]. At least three more children were born in Rye. George Frederick Thorpe was born on 17th August 1813 and baptised in Rye on 22nd September 1813. Some fourteen years later in November 1827, Mrs Harriett Thorpe was delivered of another son, who was named Charles Barrow Thorpe. In 1834, when she was around forty-five years of age, Harriett gave birth to Robert, her last child. The last addition to the Thorpe family was baptised Robert Baggallay Thorpe on 11th April 1834. ( Robert's unusual second name was spelt variously as Baggallay, Baggalay, Baggally and Bagally, but here we will use 'Baggallay', the spelling used in the baptism register and the record of his marriage ).

Thomas Thorpe, Robert Baggallay Thorpe's father, established a draper's shop in the High Street of Rye. Thomas Thorpe is recorded as a linen draper in Rye as early as 1820, when Mrs Naomi Hull, the wife of labourer David Hull, was indicted for "fraud on Thomas Thorpe, linen-draper". Thomas Thorpe senior built up a successful business in Rye, selling cloth, dress material, handkerchiefs, ribbons and stockings to the inhabitants of Rye and supplying linen to various institutions, such as the Winchelsea Workhouse. ( For example, on 2nd July 1824, Thomas Thorpe, linen draper presented a bill for 18s 4d to Mr Stephen Southerden on behalf of Mrs Bailey "For 2 pairs hose, 6 yards blue print, 5 yards cotton print, 2 yards flannel, 1 yard print, tape and cotton, 1 handkerchief, 1 yard print ". In the same year, Thomas Thorpe senior was presenting bills to the Overseers of the Poor at Winchelsea ). When William Holloway, Rye's resident local historian, published his book "The History and Antiquities of the Ancient Town and Port of Rye" in 1847, he included a table "to show the real value of all the property in the town and parish of Rye, in the year 1833, together with the names of the owners and their proportionate parts of the same", Thomas Thorpe is listed as the owner of property to the value of 1,200. ( For comparison, Thomas Clarke, shipwright, owned property to the value of 75, Reverend John Myers, vicar of Rye, had property to the value of 480, and solicitor Weeden Dawes was the owner of property valued at 1,020 ).

Thomas Thorpe senior became one of the leading citizens of Rye and was active in local politics. In 1828, in advance of the Parliamentary Reform Bill of 1832, Thomas Thorpe was one of the sixty-one men of Rye who signed a petition "for the purpose of obtaining evidence respecting the right of voting for members of parliament in the ancient town of Rye." After the the Municipal Corporation Bill was passed in 1835, Thomas Thorpe could stand for election to the town council. On 20th January 1836, Thomas Thorpe was elected to serve as a councillor on Rye's Town Council and, by 1839, he had become an Alderman.

Sometime before 1832, Thomas Thorpe had been joined in the family drapery business by his eldest son Thomas William Thorpe. Pigot's Sussex Directory issued for the years 1832-1834, records the firm of Thomas Thorpe & Son, linen drapers, in the High Street of Rye. Various records indicate that the partnership of Thomas Thorpe with his son Thomas William Thorpe lasted over the next 15 years. ( For instance, on 11th February 1837, it is recorded that Elizabeth Wright, "wife of Robert Wright, mariner" was charged with "theft of ribbon from Thomas Thorpe and Thomas William Thorpe").

Thomas Thorpe, Robert's father, died at Rye in 1847, aged around fifty-six. Thomas Thorpe senior's drapery business passed into the hands of his eldest son, Thomas William Thorpe. During the 1850s and 1860s, Thomas William Thorpe is recorded as the sole proprietor of the linen draper's shop in Rye's High Street.  In 1836, Thomas William Thorpe had married twenty-two year old Caroline Butler. During her sixteen year marriage, Mrs Caroline Thorpe gave birth to eight children, five of whom reached adulthood - George (born 1842), Caroline (born 1844), Thomas William Thorpe junior (born 1846), Clara (born 1848) and Harriette Mary Thorpe (born 1852). Shortly after giving birth to her daughter Harriette in 1852, Thomas Thorpe's wife died. Mrs Caroline Thorpe was only 38 years old when she died during the 4th Quarter of 1852.

[ABOVE]  A view of High Street, Rye, looking towards the west, photographed in the 1860s. The George Hotel, which can be seen on the left of the picture, was located at 98 High Street, Rye. The photographer of this street scene could have been Robert Baggallay Thorpe, who established a photographic studio at 110 High Street, Rye, around 1866.

At the time of the 1861 census, Robert Baggallay Thorpe was residing at 114 High Street, Rye, with his widowed mother Mrs Harriet Thorpe, who is described on the census return as an "annuitant", aged 72. On the 1861 census return, Robert Baggallay Thorpe is recorded as a "draper's assistant", aged 27 and was probably employed in his elder brother's drapery business. Around 1865, Robert Baggallay Thorpe embarked on a new career as a photographer. George Frederick Thorpe, one of Robert's brothers, had studied law and by 1851 he was working as a solicitor. Another brother, Charles Barrow Thorpe, had married Lucy Myrtilla Barrett (born 1832, Otley Yorkshire) in 1852. Charles and Lucy Thorpe produced two children that reached adulthood - Kate (born 1854, Hastings) and Charles Frederick Thorpe (born 1856, Hastings). Charles and Lucy Thorpe lived in the United States for a couple of years (1863-1865) before returning to England in 1865. It was while visiting his home town of Rye that Charles Barrow Thorpe died in 1866, at the age of 38.

At the time of the 1871 census, Mrs Harriett Thorpe, now aged eighty-two, was occupying two adjoining houses at 110 & 111 High Street, Rye. Living with Mrs Thorpe were her three unmarried children - sixty year old Elizabeth Thorpe, who was presumably running the family home, George Frederick Thorpe, a fifty-seven year old bachelor with no apparent source of income, and Robert Baggallay Thorpe, who is described on the census return as "Photographer and Tobacconist", aged 37.

Up until this date, Thomas William Thorpe, Robert's eldest brother, had continued to run the family's drapery business in Rye's High Street. In 1872, Thomas William Thorpe and three of his children - George (30), Caroline (28), and Clara (24) - sailed to the United States on the ship "Erin". Thomas William Thorpe and his daughter Caroline travelled to Michigan, while his son George Thorpe became a theological student and studied for the priesthood in Wisconsin. Thomas William Thorpe settled in Ishpeming, Michigan, where he died in 1877. Clara Thorpe returned to England and on 21st September 1878 at Bournemouth, she married Henry Isaiah Ward, a master painter of Devizes, Wiltshire. At the time of their marriage, Clara was thirty years of age and Henry, her husband, was forty-four. Charles Barrow Thorpe's widow, Lucy, returned to America with her two children after her husband's death. Mrs Lucy Thorpe, married John Perry Mitchell (born 1831, Milton Abbot, Devon) in 1870. Kate Thorpe and Charles Frederick Thorpe, the two children of the late Charles Barrow Thorpe, made a new life in America. In 1875, at the age of twenty, Kate Thorpe married James O. St Claire (born 1852, Ohio), a merchant who had established a business in Ishpeming, Michigan, the iron-mining town where Thomas William Thorpe had settled with his daughter Caroline. Kate's brother, Charles Frederick Thorpe (born 1856) had also settled in Ishpeming, Michigan. In 1883, Charles married Anna Mary Crowley at St Joseph's Church, Ishpeming, but at the end of their lives the couple were living in California

All of the children of Thomas William Thorpe eventually settled in the United States. Caroline Thorpe (born 1844) married gold miner John Kemp and resided for a time in Michigan and Colorado. At the time of the United States census of 1880, Harriette Mary Thorpe (born 1852), a twenty-seven year old music teacher, was staying with her sister Mrs Caroline Kemp in Boulder, Colorado. A few years later, Harriette Mary Thorpe married recently widowed Charles Merryweather (born 1828, Dalton-in-Furness, Lancashire). At the time of the 1880 US census, Charles Merryweather, who formerly worked as surveyor, was described as a grocer and dry goods merchant of Ishpeming, Michigan. Charles Merryweather invested in several mining operations in Ishpeming and became a wealthy man. Harriette's brother George Thorpe (born 1842), who had studied for the priesthood at Nashotah House, a seminary of the Episcopal Church in Wisconsin, died in Michigan in 1889. Thomas William Thorpe junior (born 1846) joined his siblings in the United States, eventually settling in California, where he died in 1915.

Thomas's sister, Mrs Clara Ward (Clara Thorpe), who had married in England and lived for a time in Devizes, Wiltshire, emigrated to Canada with her husband in 1890. Henry and Clara Ward made their home in Toronto, Canada, but after Henry Ward died in 1903, Clara and her daughter Phoebe (born 1890) travelled to California in the United States. Clara Ward and her four year old daughter made a new life in the Los Angeles area of California, where her brother Thomas William Thorpe junior and her younger sister Mrs Harriette Merryweather were already living.

[LEFT] Los Angeles, California photographed around 1900. Members of the Thorpe family made their home in the Los Angeles area of California in the 19th century. Thomas Thorpe junior and his sisters Mrs Harriette Merryweather and Mrs Clara Ward were residing in Los Angeles during the early years of the 20th century

 

Thorpe's Draper's Shop in Rye's High Street

Thomas Thorpe (1791-1847), Robert Baggallay Thorpe's father, established a draper's shop in the High Street of Rye some time before 1820. After the death of Thomas Thorpe in 1847, the drapery business passed to his eldest son Thomas William Thorpe (1808-1877). Thorpe's draper's shop continued operating in Rye's High Street until Thomas Thorpe junior emigrated to the United States in 1872.

[RIGHT] Thomas Thorpe's drapery store in High Street, Rye, photographed around 1865 by Robert Baggallay Thorpe, the youngest son of Thomas Thorpe senior (1791-1847), the founder of  the family's drapery business. This picture of Thorpe's drapery store was probably one of the earliest views photographed by Robert B. Thorpe. The reverse of this carte-de-visite photograph is labelled with the hand-written inscription "R. B. Thorpe, Photographer, Rye". Robert Baggallay Thorpe, established a permanent photographic studio at 110 High Street, Rye, around 1866.

[LEFT Photographs produced by Robert Baggallay Thorpe from 1866 onwards carry a commercially printed trade plate. Before 1866, Thorpe was writing "R. B. Thorpe, Photographer, Rye" on the reverse of his cartes ( See example on the right)

[ABOVE] A view of Thomas Thorpe's drapery store in High Street, Rye, photographed  by Robert Baggallay Thorpe (c1865).

[ABOVE] The reverse of Thorpe's carte-de-visite with "R. B. Thorpe, Photographer, Rye" hand-written in ink.

 

Portraits of the Thorpe Family taken by Robert Baggallay Thorpe

[ Photographs courtesy of Phyllis Nordstrom and Patricia M. Larsen ]

[ABOVE] Thomas William Thorpe (1808-1877), linen draper, the eldest son of  Harriett and Thomas Thorpe senior of Rye. Thomas William Thorpe ran a drapery business in Rye's High Street from 1832 until 1872, the year he sailed for North America. In 1872, Thomas William Thorpe travelled to Ishpeming, Michigan, USA, where he settled with his daughter Caroline. Thomas Thorpe died in Ishpeming, Michigan, on 17th March 1877. [ABOVE] Elizabeth Thorpe (1810-1877), the eldest daughter of  Harriett and Thomas Thorpe senior of Rye. Elizabeth never married and as the eldest and only daughter in the family, she helped her widowed mother to run the family home and raise her two younger brothers, Charles and Robert. [ABOVE] George Frederick Thorpe (1813-1874), solicitor, the second eldest son of Harriett and Thomas Thorpe senior of Rye. George was a bachelor and at the time of the 1871 census he was living at 110-111 High Street, Rye, with his widowed mother and unmarried siblings Elizabeth and Robert. George Thorpe died in Rye, Sussex, in 1874 at the age of 61.

[ABOVE] Clara Thorpe (1848-1927), daughter of  Caroline and Thomas William Thorpe, linen draper of Rye. Clara travelled to the United States with her widowed father in 1872, but returned to England after his death. Following her marriage to Henry Isaiah Ward (born c1834, Devizes, Wiltshire), Clara emigrated to Canada, eventually settling in California in the United States.. [ABOVE] Miss Elizabeth Thorpe, Robert B.Thorpe's sister, pictured with her niece Harriette Mary Thorpe, the youngest daughter of  Caroline and Thomas William Thorpe, linen draper of Rye. This carte-de-visite portrait by R. B. Thorpe, Elizabeth's youngest brother, dates from around 1872, the year Harriette Thorpe's father sailed to North America. Miss Elizabeth Thorpe died at Rye in 1877 at the age sixty-six. [ABOVE] Harriette Mary Thorpe (1852-1934), the youngest daughter of  Caroline and Thomas William Thorpe, linen draper of Rye. Harriette Mary Thorpe emigrated to the United States where she worked as a music teacher before marrying widower Charles Merryweather (born 1828, Dalton-in-Furness, Lancashire) a grocer and dry goods merchant and later "Capitalist" of Ishpeming, Michigan.
 

Robert Baggallay Thorpe - Photographer of Rye

[ABOVE] Two trade plates used by the photographer R. B. Thorpe of 110 High Street, Rye, taken from the backs of Robert Thorpe's cartes-de-visite. [LEFT] The trade plate design used by Robert Baggallay Thorpe in the mid 1860s. [RIGHT] The trade plate design used by Robert Baggallay Thorpe from around 1868 until 1878.

 

Robert Baggallay Thorpe - Professional Photographer in Rye


Robert Baggallay Thorpe began working professionally as a photographer in Rye in the 1860s. ( Kelly's Post Office Directory of Sussex, published in 1866, lists R. B. Thorpe as a photographer at 110 High Street, Rye). In the 1871 census, Robert B. Thorpe, an unmarried man of thirty-seven, is shown residing in his business premises at 110-111 High Street, Rye, and gives his occupation as "Photographer and Tobacconist". Robert B. Thorpe is also recorded as a professional photographer at 110 High Street, Rye, in the local trade directories that were published between 1866 and 1878.

[ABOVE] A typical photographic portrait studio in the 1860s. The photographer is using a special carte-de-visite camera with 4 lenses, which could capture multiple images on a single photographic glass plate (see the opened camera on the floor). To the right of lady being photographed is an artificial fire-place, a fake balustrade and, behind that, a painted backdrop. In the foreground of the picture is an adjustable posing stand, complete with head-clamp and a studio chair for seated poses. The studio is equipped with a large, north-facing window, which provided soft, even lighting, ideal for portraiture.

Like the majority of professional photographers working in Sussex at this time, Robert Baggallay Thorpe derived most of his income from the production of carte-de-visite portraits, small albumen prints mounted on thin white cards, measuring roughly 21/2 inches by 41/4 inches (6.3 cm by 10.5 cm). We do not know exactly how much Robert Thorpe charged his customers for these carte-de-visite portraits, but during this period the average price for a dozen cdv portraits was 6 shillings (30p).(See the chart on carte-de-visite prices). Robert Thorpe took these small photographic portraits in his studio at 110 High Street, Rye. Judging by the carte-de-visite portraits produced in Rye by R. B. Thorpe between 1866 and 1878, Robert's studio in Rye's High Street was typical of the period, being equipped with a variety of painted  backdrops (Thorpe's range of painted backcloths featured elaborate fireplaces, classical columns and fake windows overlooking impressive landscapes), studio furniture (in Thorpe's case one chair and a small occasional table), basic studio props, such as a set of embroidered curtains to use as drapes, and the usual patterned carpet to cover the bare floor boards of the posing area.

Although Robert Thorpe's photography business would have mainly involved the production of carte-de-visite portraits in his studio, he also also worked outdoors, taking his camera to picturesque parts of Rye and the surrounding area to produce photographic views that could be sold in carte-de-visite format. (See the carte-de-visite view of Winchelsea Church below). There is also evidence that he visited private residences to take family or group portraits or travelled to nearby villages to take photographic portraits on location. (See, for example, the equestrian portrait of John Body of Beckley, below, and the portrait in the Robert B. Thorpe Gallery of Asneth Jones, photographed at Winchelsea in 1867).

[ABOVE] Equestrian portrait of Mr John Body," a friend of the Thorpe family", a carte-de-visite by R. B. Thorpe, 110 High Street, Rye ( c1877). The subject is probably John Body (born 1845, Beckley, Sussex), a market gardener in Sandhurst, Kent. John Body married Priscilla Barnes in 1885 and lived in Wittersham, Kent, before settling in Bodiam, Sussex.

[Photograph courtesy of Phyllis Nordstrom and Patricia M. Larsen]

Around 1879, Robert Thorpe sold his shop and photographic studio to two tobacconists, James Oliver and George Martin ( For a few years between 1880 and 1882, the two tobacconists operated the photographic studio under the name of Oliver & Martin). After selling his business to Oliver and Martin, Robert Thorpe moved to Winchelsea, a small seaside town, 2 miles south-west of Rye.

[ABOVE] Carte-de-visite view of Winchelsea Church by R. B. Thorpe, 110 High Street, Rye (c1866). The photographer left Rye and set up home in the village of Winchelsea around 1879.

[Photograph courtesy of Phyllis Nordstrom and Patricia M. Larsen]

 

[ABOVE] Robert Baggallay Thorpe listed as a photographer at 110 High Street, Rye in the 1866 edition of Kelly's Directory of Sussex. Thomas William Thorpe, Robert's elder brother, is shown as the proprietor of the family's drapery business in Rye's High Street.

[ABOVE] The Rye photographer Robert Baggallay Thorpe, photographed towards the end of his life (c1910).

[Photograph courtesy of Phyllis Nordstrom and Patricia M. Larsen]

[ABOVE]  The George Hotel in Rye's High Street, photographed around 1870 by Robert Baggallay Thorpe. The George Hotel, which still stands today, is located at 98 High Street, Rye. Robert Baggallay Thorpe's photographic studio was situated a dozen doors away from the hotel at 110 High Street, Rye.

[ABOVE] A carte-de-visite portrait of a seated woman, inscribed "Grandmother Brett, Mary Paine's Mother", photographed by R. B. Thorpe, 110 High Street, Rye ( c1866). Negative No.242.
 

TOWN (Studio)

 Carte-de-visite Portraits

 

 3 copies

6 copies

12 copies

HASTINGS (J. W. Thomas)

2s 6d for 3

4s for six

6s per dozen

HASTINGS (J. Blomfield)  

5s for six

8s per dozen

HASTINGS (E. Whiteman) 2s 6d for 3  

6s per dozen

HASTINGS (F. R. Wells) 2s 6d for 3    6s per dozen

EASTBOURNE  (W. Hicks)

  5s for six 7s 6d per doz.
BRIGHTON ( S. Grey)     5s per dozen
BRIGHTON (C. Wootton )     7s 6d per doz.
BRIGHTON (J. J. E. Mayall)     1. 1s per doz.

[ABOVE] Prices for carte-de-visite portraits at various Sussex studios in the period 1865-1870. The larger cabinet format was introduced in 1866. Messrs. W. & J. Blomfield charged 30 shillings for a dozen of the "New Cabinet Portraits". In the mid 1860s, the average weekly income for a whole working class family was 31 shillings. The general average wage of an individual worker around this time was around 14s 5d a week. The economist Leone Levi (1821-1888) estimated that for the whole of the United Kingdom in the mid 1860s, the average earnings of adult male workers was 19 shillings a week and for adult women the average weekly wage was 11 shillings. In the mid 1860s, workers under the age of twenty earned around 7s 6d a week, which would not have covered the price of a dozen carte-de-visite portraits at a high class photographic studio in Hastings (e.g. Messrs. W. & J. Blomfield of Robertson Street).

 

Professional Photographers in Rye during Victorian Times

According to the trade directories published in Sussex between 1866 and 1870, there were only two professional photographers working in the town of Rye in the late 1860s. Kelly's Post Office Directory of Sussex, published in 1867, lists Robert Baggallay Thorpe as a photographer at 110 High Street, Rye and Edwin Thomas Gasson is recorded as a photographer at his picture-framing shop in King Street, near Rye's Landgate. Robert Thorpe worked as a photographer and tobacconist and Edwin Gasson combined his photography with several other money-making activities. The commercial section of Kelly's 1867 Directory records Edwin Thomas Gasson as a "naturalist, photographer, stationer, picture frame maker & music seller".

Before 1865, to secure a photographic likeness, the inhabitants of Rye would either have to travel nearly ten miles to Hastings or rely on the occasional visits of itinerant photographers. In 1858, the artist and photographer Charles Goddard (who appears to have been a native of Rye but had moved to Hastings), visited the town twice a week to take photographic portraits in a temporary studio in Rye's High Street, "Opposite the London & County Bank".

Robert Baggallay Thorpe and Edwin Gasson both provided Rye residents with carte-de-visite portraits for about a dozen years. When Robert Thorpe left Rye for Winchelsea, his photographic studio at 110 High Street was continued, first under the tobacconist firm of Oliver & Martin and then by dairyman and milk dealer Joseph Sellen (see above). Edwin Gasson carried on his role as town photographer for a few more years after the departure of Robert B. Thorpe, his chief competitor. In the 1881 census, Edwin T. Gasson is described as a "Bird Stuffer & Photographer".

The next chapter in the history of professional photography in Rye began in 1890 with the arrival of Edwin Whiteman, an experienced photographer from Hastings. Edwin Whiteman dominated the photography scene in Rye until his death in 1917.

[ABOVE] Reverse of  a carte-de-visite portrait showing the trade plate of R. B. Thorpe, 110 High Street, Rye (c1870).

[ABOVE] Robert Baggallay Thorpe's carte-de-visite portrait of  his niece Harriette Thorpe (1852-1934), photographed at Thorpe's studio in Rye around 1870.

 

110 High Street, Rye - the site of Robert Baggallay Thorpe's Photographic Portrait Studio

[ABOVE] A view of High Street, Rye, looking towards the east, photographed around 1890. On the right-hand side of the picture is  the shop of William Golden, clothier, at 88 High Street, Rye. Robert Baggallay Thorpe's photographic portrait studio was located at the far end of the High Street at 110 High Street. By the time this photograph was taken, Thorpe had sold his business and had retired to Icklesham. Number 110 High Street was situated at the far eastern end of  Rye's High Street, near East Cliff and the town's Landgate. On the left, directly opposite Golden's clothing store, a hanging sign, in the shape of an iron kettle, marks the site of Francis Milsom's ironmonger's shop at 28-29 High Street.

[ABOVE] A detail from Percy F. White's 1933 pictorial map of Rye, showing the location of number 110 High Street, the site of Robert Baggallay Thorpe's photographic portrait studio between 1866 and 1878.

[ABOVE]  A modern photograph, taken in 2008, of 110 High Street, Rye, the site of Robert Baggallay Thorpe's photographic portrait studio between 1866 and 1878. Robert Baggallay Thorpe sold his photographic studio and tobacconist's shop at 110 High Street to tobacconists James Oliver and George Martin around 1879. The firm of Oliver & Martin operated the photographic studio at 110 High Street until about 1886, when the business passed to Joseph Sellen (see above). The photographic studio at 110 High Street, Rye closed around 1890.

 Robert Baggallay Thorpe in Winchelsea and Icklesham

Around 1879, Robert Baggallay Thorpe sold his photography business at 110 High Street, Rye and moved a few miles away to the small seaside town of Winchelsea. When the 1881 census was taken, Robert Baggallay Thorpe was working as a photographer in Winchelsea. The 1881 census return records Robert B. Thorpe as a "Photographer", aged 47, residing at 2 Crumwich Villas, High Street, Winchelsea with Sarah Burgess (born c1836, Lydd, Kent), a forty-five year old widow employed as his housekeeper. Boarding at Robert Thorpe's home was William Coleman Austen (Austin), a fifty year old "Annuitant" who is recorded on the census return as a "Lunatic". William Coleman Austen (Austin), who was born in Brightling or Brede around 1830, was to live with Robert Thorpe and Sarah for the next twenty-three years

On 5th December 1881, Robert Baggallay Thorpe married his housekeeper, Mrs Sarah Burgess. Mrs Sarah Burgess was born Sarah Mittell in Lydd, Kent, around 1836, the daughter of Sarah and John Mittell of Lydd. Sarah Mittell became Mrs Sarah Burgess when she married Stephen Burgess (born c1801) in the district of Romney Marsh in 1859. Sarah's husband died the following year leaving her as a twenty-four year old widow with one young son, Frederick Albert Burgess (born 1860), and another child on the way ( Sarah's second son, Stephen John Burgess, was born during the 3rd Quarter of 1861). After running a large farm with her brothers for ten years or so, Mrs Sarah Burgess found employment as a housekeeper with Robert Baggallay Thorpe.

By the time the 1891 census was taken, Robert and Sarah Thorpe had moved to Icklesham, a small village two miles south-west from Winchelsea. In 1891, Robert and Sarah Thorpe were living at Mount Pleasant, Icklesham. Robert Baggallay Thorpe was no longer working as a professional photographer and was caring full-time for Mr Austin, who was still suffering from mental illness. Robert Baggallay Thorpe is described on the 1891 census return as a fifty-seven year old "Lunatic Keeper". Ten years later, Robert and Sarah Thorpe were still residing at Mount Pleasant, Icklesham and were still looking after Mr Austin, who was now seventy years old. On the census return, Robert Baggallay Thorpe (recorded as "Robert Bagallay Thorpe" by the census enumerator) gives his occupation as "Attendant upon Lunatic". At sixty-seven, Robert Baggallay Thorpe was only three years younger than his elderly patient.

[ABOVE]  High Street, Winchelsea, photographed in the 1890s. Robert Baggallay Thorpe moved to Winchelsea around 1878. The 1881 census return records Robert B. Thorpe, a 47 year old "Photographer", residing at 2 Crumwich Villas, High Street, Winchelsea with his widowed housekeeper, Mrs Sarah Burgess. Later that year, Robert Baggallay Thorpe married his housekeeper. Sometime before 1891, Robert and Sarah Thorpe left Winchelsea and settled in the village of Icklesham.

The Final Years of Robert Baggallay Thorpe

William Coleman Austen (Austin), the "lunatic" who had been cared for by Sarah and Robert  Baggallay Thorpe since 1881, died during the 4th Quarter of 1903 at the age of 73. It is possible that after the death of their charge, Robert Baggallay Thorpe returned to his home town of Rye with his wife Sarah.

Towards the end of his life, Robert Baggallay Thorpe was visited by his niece Mrs Kate St Claire (1855-1928), the daughter of his late brother, Charles Barrow Thorpe. Kate had been born in Hastings, Sussex, but had emigrated to the United States as a child. In 1875, Kate Thorpe married an American merchant named James O. St Claire and settled in Ishpeming, Michigan, the mining town where Thomas William Thorpe and his daughters Caroline and Clara had made their home. At the time of Kate's visit, her elderly uncle Robert Baggallay Thorpe was the only member of  the Thorpe family still living in England.

Robert Baggallay Thorpe died on 15th June 1910, at the age of seventy-six. Robert Baggallay Thorpe was buried in Rye Cemetery. Robert's widow, Mrs Sarah Thorpe died a few years later in 1913. [ Death of Sarah Thorpe registered in the district of Rye during the 1st Quarter of 1913].


 

[ABOVE] A memorial card recording the death of Robert Baggallay Thorpe on 15th June 1910, at the age of 76. The inscription spells Robert's full name as "Robert Baggalay Thorpe", but most of the documents produced during Robert's lifetime which record his full name give the the more usual spelling of his middle name as "Baggallay".

 

[Memorial Card courtesy of Phyllis Nordstrom and Patricia M. Larsen]

[ABOVE] The photographer Robert Baggallay Thorpe with his niece Mrs Kate St Claire (1855-1928), photographed around 1910. Kate, the daughter of Robert's brother, Charles Barrow Thorpe, had been born in Hastings, Sussex, but had emigrated to the United States as a child, marrying an American merchant named James O. St Claire in 1875. When this photograph was taken, Robert Baggallay Thorpe was the only member of  the Thorpe family still living in England.

[Photograph courtesy of Phyllis Nordstrom and Patricia M. Larsen]

 

To view a selection of photographic portraits by Robert Baggallay Thorpe, click on the link below :

Robert B. Thorpe of Rye- Gallery

 

To view a selection of carte-de-visite views produced by the Rye photographer Robert Baggallay Thorpe, click on the link below :

Views of Rye and the Surrounding Area photographed by R. B. Thorpe of Rye

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS & SOURCES

[ABOVE] Mrs Clara Ward, (nee Thorpe), the daughter of Thomas William Thorpe (1808-1877), linen draper of Rye. Clara's father was the eldest brother of Rye photographer Robert Baggallay Thorpe. After her marriage to Henry Isaiah Ward, a master painter from Wiltshire, Clara settled in the United States. Phyllis Nordstrom, who has contributed to this webpage, is the great grand daughter of Mrs Clara Ward (1848-1927).

Thanks to Phyllis Nordstrom of Texas and Patricia M. Larsen of California for providing the Thorpe Family photographs which appear on this page. Phyllis and Patricia's great, great, grandfather was Thomas William Thorpe (1808-1877), the elder brother of Robert Baggallay Thorpe, the Rye photographer. Thanks to Phyllis and Patricia for supplying Thorpe family history material for this webpage. Both Phyllis and Patricia are great grand daughters of Clara Thorpe (1848-1927), aka Mrs Clara Ward. [see the illustration on the right]. Clara Thorpe married Henry Isaiah Ward in 1878. Mrs Clara Ward later gave birth to a daughter named Phoebe Ward (1890-1971) - Phyllis and Patricia's grandmother.

 

PRIMARY SOURCES : Trade Directories : Pigot's Directory for Sussex (1832-34), (1839-40) ; Kelly's Post Office Directory of Sussex (1845), (1850), (1851), (1862), (1866), (1870), (1874), (1878) ; Census Returns for Sussex: 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 & 1901. East Sussex Record Office : Archive of Rye Corporation - Indictments 1820, 1837. Parish of Winchelsea - Overseers of the Poor (correspondence). United States Census Records (1880) ; History and Antiquities of . . . Rye by William Holloway (1847).

SECONDARY SOURCES : Bygone Rye and Winchelsea by Aylwin Guilmant (Phillimore,1984), The Book of Rye by Geoffrey Spink Bagley (Barracuda Books,1982), A New History of Rye by Leopold Amon Vidler (originally published in 1934, Gouldens new edition 1971 ), Rye and Winchelsea by Alan Dickinson (Sutton Publishing, 2002).

WEBSITES : A2A - Access to Archives ;  FreeBMD - Births, Marriages & Deaths ;  Family Search (LDS Church records) - All Resources [ including  International Genealogical Index and United States Census (1880) ]

 

Edwin WHITEMAN (born 1857, Cambridge - died 1917, Rye)

Photographer active in Rye between 1890 and 1917

Edwin Henry Whiteman was born in Cambridge in 1857 [Birth registered in Cambridge during the 2nd Quarter of 1857]. Edwin Henry Whiteman was the eldest son of Jane and Edwin Whiteman senior (1834 -1876), a bookseller & stationer.

In the mid 1860s, Edwin Whiteman senior established a bookshop and stationery business, known as "The Library", at 52 High Street, Hastings. In 1866, Godbold & Co., a firm of photographers, opened a branch establishment at Mr. Whiteman's Library, 52 High Street, Hastings. Around 1868, Edwin Whiteman senior purchased the photographic studio at 52 High Street from Messrs. Godbold & Co.  From this date Edwin Whiteman senior operated the studio at 52 High Street, Hastings, under his own name.

In 1876, Edwin Whiteman senior died. From this date, the Whiteman studio was run by his widow Mrs Jane Whiteman  and her three photographer sons - Edwin Henry Whiteman (born 1857, Cambridge), William Whiteman (born 1861, Hastings) and Walter Whiteman (born c1864, Hastings). By 1887, Edwin Henry Whiteman, Mrs Jane Whiteman's eldest son, had become the proprietor of his mother's studio at 52 High Street, Hastings. By 1890, Edwin H. Whiteman had sold the studio at 52 High Street, Hastings and, with his wife and four daughters, moved to the small historic town of Rye, 9 miles north-east of Hastings .

Edwin Henry Whiteman established a photographic studio at Landgate in Rye and he operated as a photographer from this address from 1890 to 1894. When the 1891 census was taken, Edwin Whiteman, his wife Annie, and their five children were living at 15 Ferry Road, Rye. Edwin Whiteman is recorded as a "Photographer", aged 34.

By 1894, Edwin Whiteman had opened a new studio in Cinque Ports Street, Rye. Edwin Whiteman worked as a photographer in Cinque Ports Street until around 1913. The following year, Edwin Henry Whiteman moved his studio to Winchelsea Road, Rye, where he worked as a photographer until his death in 1917.

Edwin Henry Whiteman died in Rye during the First Quarter of 1917 at the age of 59.

To read a more detailed account of the life and career of the photographer Edwin Henry Whiteman, plus examples of his photographic work, click on the link below :

Edwin Whiteman of Hastings & Rye

[ABOVE] Portrait of a youth wearing a cap, a carte-de-visite photograph by Edwin Whiteman, Cinque Ports Studio, Rye (c1903). The sitter is identified on the reverse of the mount as "William Ransom".

 

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