Mary Jane Wooff & Mrs Littlefair

photo - Mary Myttons

This photo is small but packs a huge amount of charm. Trimmed down from a postcard, it is possibly a school photograph. I just love the little girl’s relaxed smile, the ribbon in her hair and her gorgeous twinkly eyes.

photo - Mary Myttons - back

Turning it over reveals information about the sender and receiver, written in pencil by Mary herself. The fairytale names (Myttons, Littlefair, Dumsup) made me wonder, at first, if they came from the child’s imagination. But no! They are real and exist, and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

Mrs Littlefair can be easily found on the 1911 census, living at Dunsop Farm, Slaidburn, Lancashire. Born in 1849, her full name was Isabella Mary Littlefair (nee Furness). She was the second wife of James Littlefair who, at 21 years her senior, was 83 years old and had retired from farming. According to the census, Dunsop Farm was in the hands of Mr Littlefair’s younger son, also called James.

So who is the fresh faced girl in the photograph?

Initially I searched for the name Mary Myttons but that yielded no results. I had wrongly supposed that the word Wooff was an after thought but learned a valuable lesson… never make assumptions! Read differently, it became apparent that Wooff was Mary’s surname, and Myttons was a farm just a short distance from the Littlefair’s home. They were neighbours!

Returning to the census, in 1911 John Robert Wooff, wife Ellen Wooff (nee Alston) and their four children were living at Myttons, Slaidburn. Mary was born later the same year and became the youngest of five. I would guess that she was around 9 or 10 years old in this photograph, making Mrs Littlefair around 70 and presumably an old lady to Mary’s young eyes.

In 1935, Mary Jane Wooff married William Armistead Breaks at the Methodist Chapel in Slaidburn. The only reference to Mary that I can find in the newspapers is an announcement of her examination success. She gained ‘first class’ in the Tailoring of Children’s Garments, the culmination of three years study (1):

Clitheroe Advertiser and Times - Friday 08 July 1949.jpgImage © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Mary died in 1976, aged 64, but left us this lovely momento from her childhood. I am sure Mrs Littlefair treasured it!

Newspaper clipping courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive; The British Library Board. Further research carried out using Ancestry and Lancashire BMD.

(1) Clitheroe Advertiser and Times – Friday 08 July 1949

Louis Saul Langfier (Photographer)

Louis Saul Langfier - Dancer - Crop1

Some photographs take me on a journey and this is one of them. It is a softly focussed image of a dancer holding a painted tambourine. It immediately makes me think of the 1920s (although it could be earlier) and is mounted on thin, textured card with the photographer’s name embossed on the lower right.

When my daughter, who studies Dance, saw this photograph she drew my attention to the early 20th century American dancer Isadora Duncan, who developed a free and natural dance style inspired by the Greek arts and folk dance. The style came to be known as modern dance, and included floorwork unlike classical ballet. The dancer in the photograph obviously fits this genre, with loose clothing and a pose reminiscent of Duncan, though unfortunately there is nothing on the photograph to identify who she is.

Happily the photographer can be identified a little more easily. Or so it seems! Although faint in places, the embossed name contains the words Louis and Edinburgh and comparison to other online images confirms it to be Louis Saul Langfier (1871 – 1948):

Louis Saul Langfier - Dancer

photo - dancer photographer

Louis Saul Langfier was one of a family of Langfiers, including brother Adolph, all working in the photographic trade with their businesses often overlapping. One particular family member Louis Langfier gained success in London, being located in prestigious Old Bond Street and boasting patronage by the Royal Family (The Sketch – Wednesday 26 June 1901):

Image © Illustrated London News Group

During an interview published in The Sketch, Louis states that he joined his ‘nephew’ L. S. Langfier at ‘the firm in Glasgow’ in around 1896. Indeed, Louis Saul Langfier was named alongside ‘uncle’ Louis Langfier in The Edinburgh Gazette, 14 Oct 1898, as co-owner of Langfier and Langfier & Co., 158 Sauchiehall St, Glasgow. According to the interview above, ‘uncle’ Louis then left Scotland in 1899 to set up a London firm, leaving Louis Saul to look after the Glasgow studio.

All was not completely rosy however, since in 1905 the estates of Louis Saul, including the Glasgow address, were sequestrated/closed (Aberdeen Press and Journal – Wednesday 26 July 1905):

Aberdeen Press and Journal - Wednesday 26 July 1905Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Perhaps Louis Saul Langfier had hit hard times? Or perhaps he simply wished to spend his energies looking after his own company ‘Louis Saul Langfier Ltd’, newly located in Edinburgh (The Scotsman – Friday 01 April 1904)?

1904 The Scotsman - Friday 01 April 1904Image © Johnston Press plc

By 1908 the Edinburgh company was advertising ‘the most beautiful works in colour’ and appealing for attention from Art Connoisseurs (The Scotsman – Saturday 24 August 1907):

1907 The Scotsman - Saturday 24 August 1907Image © Johnston Press plc

Thus at first glance Louis Saul appears to have made a success of his second Scottish endeavour, with the firm known as ‘Louis Saul Langfier Ltd’ existing in Edinburgh until it’s liquidation in 1929.

So it wasn’t until I stumbled upon a rather unpleasant newspaper article in the Sunday Post, dated 1919, that I realised the situation was more complicated than I first supposed (Sunday Post – Sunday 02 March 1919):

Sunday Post - Sunday 02 March 1919 titleImage © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Pushing the racist overtones to one side, the article asserts that German photographer Carl Henrich T Shmidt is ‘manager and principal shareholder in the high class photographic business of Louis Saul Langfier Limited at 60 Princes Street (Edinburgh)’. Furthermore, it states that Mr Schmidt had been the principal shareholder of the firm since 1910 or thereabouts.

Which begs the question… where was Louis Saul Langfier after Mr Schmidt took over the Edinburgh studio?

I have a theory, as suggested by entries in the British Telephone Directory archives. In 1910 and 1911, ‘S. Langfier’ is listed as Artist & Photographer in James St., Harrogate (Yorkshire). And from 1913 to 1921, a photographer by the same name is listed at three different London addresses. The name possibly refers to Samuel Langfier, father of Louis Saul and Adolph, who died in 1919 aged 78. But I think it likely that the two sons, particularly Louis Saul, were in fact running these businesses.

Supporting this, Adolph’s name is quoted in relation to the bankruptcy of the Harrogate firm (Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer – Wednesday 20 July 1910):

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Wednesday 20 July 1910 bankruptaYorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Wednesday 20 July 1910 bankruptbImage © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

And Louis Saul is living at one of the London addresses, 115 Queen’s Road, Westminster, according to the 1919 Electoral Register for London.

Finally, another of the London addresses, 123 Victoria Street, Westminster, is associated with Louis Saul’s wife, Pearl Lyndon, who herself is a fascinating character with a complicated story (and the subject of my next blog post).

Which brings me back to the photograph of the dancer at the top of this post. Should we just assume it to be the work of Louis Saul Langfier, because of the embossed signature? Or would it be better to attribute this work (and presumably many others) to photographer Carl H T Schmidt? After all, credit where credit is due!

Newspaper clippings courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive; The British Library Board. Further research carried out using Ancestry and The Gazette.

Any mistakes are my own! Please feel free to contact me with corrections/further information.



Cabinet Card by F. Sharples (Blackburn)

F. Sharples Cabinet Card Cropped

This amazingly clear portrait of a serious looking gentleman was taken by F. Sharples of Blackburn, Lancashire. It is oval in format and the image is well preserved because it has been stored in the original paper envelope. If only more vintage photographs were stored this way! Not only would it keep them in better condition, but the envelope itself contains useful information not present on the actual card:

F. Sharples Cabinet CardF. Sharples Cabinet Card - Envelope

The photographer was Frederick William Edleston Sharples, born 1867 in Blackburn, Lancashire. In 1911 he and his family were living at 4 Limbrick, Blackburn, the same address as his photographic studio.

I came across an interesting news snippet in the Preston Herald, Wed 19 Jun 1907 that relates to Mr Sharples. He and another man Henry Charnley were driving from Blackpool to Burnley when they collided with a tram in Preston. The car sustained £35-worth of damage, and the men sued Preston Corporation (owners of the tram) for the repair costs. The case went to court and the details of the accident seem somewhat extraordinary by modern standards; the men were over-taking two carts when they saw a tram coming towards them. The car was trapped by the carts to the left and two lorries to the right and therefore had nowhere to go, so the driver of the car (the report doesn’t specify) ‘put up his hand to the driver of the tram as a warning of the position and to make his presence known’! The car apparently stopped, the tram didn’t and, well, you can probably guess that the car was damaged. And a tyre was burst. Despite this, no-one was hurt and the men continued in the car for the remainder of the journey.

The passengers of the tram asserted that it was the tram that had came to a halt, and that the motor car ran into them. But despite this contrary evidence, and after two weeks of deliberation, the case was found in favour of Mr Sharples and Mr Charnley, who were awarded £35 7s 5d, with costs (Preston Herald, Wed 3 Jul 1907).

Another interesting snippet comes from the Lancashire Evening Post, Sat 9 Sep 1905:

Lancashire Evening Post - Saturday 09 September 1905Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

I do hope Mr Sharple’s dog found a loving home, and that the gun found a safe pair of hands!

Newspaper clipping courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive; The British Library Board. Further research carried out using Ancestry.

Mr & Mrs Alf Dodgeon

Portrait of Elizabeth Colbert 1906Portrait of Elizabeth Colbert 1906 (inscription)
1906 – Wishing you a Happy & Prosperous New Year – From Mr & Mrs Alf Dodgeon

This charming portrait is housed in an oval cardboard frame, which is signed (more clearly on the original) ‘Mr & Mrs Alf Dodgeon’. When I see an unusual name such as this I give a little cheer, since it makes identification so much more likely.

A quick search of the census brings up very few candidates, with only one Alf(red) Dodgeon of roughly the correct age. Born in Nelson, Lancashire, Alfred and his family can be found on the 1911 census living in Burnley. He was 55 at the time and working as a cotton manufacturer. He and his wife Elizabeth (Colbert) had been married for 29 years and of their five children, three had reached adulthood.

In the course of scouring the internet for information I came across several references to Alfred’s interest in photography. He appears to have won prizes in competition and even had a photograph published in The Amateur Photographer magazine, 1907 (vol.46, pg.313). All of which makes me wonder if he took this lovely photograph of his wife himself?

Nelson Leader - Friday 17 June 1932Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Alfred retired from his workplace Carrington and Dewhurst Ltd in 1932, as reported in the Nelson Leader (Friday 17 June). I hope he was able to indulge more time in his photographic hobby – it would be wonderful to see other examples of Alfred’s work, if any exist!

Newspaper clipping courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive; The British Library Board. Further research carried out using Ancestry and Lancashire BMD.

Leslie Bros. Photographers (Who Weren’t Actually Brothers)

Cabinet Card Portrait by Leslie Bros

This beautiful portrait was taken by photographers Leslie Bros. of Bolton and Blackburn. I have no information about the sitter (the reverse is blank) but a little digging about the photographers reveals that, despite their title, they weren’t actually brothers.

The following advertisement (which curiously denies rumours that the photographers have left Bolton) is taken from the Leigh Chronicle and Weekly District Advertiser, 31 Jan 1913:

Leigh Chronicle and Weekly District Advertiser - Friday 31 January 1913Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

They sign themselves as Thomas Leslie and Fred Leslie, but all is not what it seems as shown by the following notice in The London Gazette, 25 Jul 1916:

The London Gazette 25 Jul 1916 supp 29679 pg 7373

Their relationship appears to have been strained to the point where not only did the Company (Leslie Bros.) dissolve, but they were no longer ‘brothers’ at all! In fact, Leslie Bros. were a working partnership between Fred Read of Liverpool, and Thomas Dent of Nottingham. The dominant partner appears to have been Fred Read, who had previously worked with Arthur Shaw under the name Fred Arthur, and who later in 1916 formed the Company Fred Arthur Ltd with another colleague, H W Blunt.

As for Thomas Dent, all I know is that he married his sister-in-law in 1914. His previous wife, Sarah Elizabeth Dent (nee Haskett) is present on the 1911 census, but in 1914 a marriage took place between Thomas Dent and Florence N Haskett. What happened to Sarah, I don’t know. Nor do I know if Thomas continued in the photography business after the demise of Leslie Bros.

Interesting as it is, none of this identifies the girl in the photograph. But judging by the quality of the image I think it a shame that Fred and Thomas couldn’t settle their differences and retain their ‘brotherly’ working relationship for longer.

Newspaper clipping courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive; The British Library Board. Further research carried out using Ancestry and The Gazette.

Somewhere In India

Indian Temple 1

These vintage photographs are possibly my favourite ones from the entire bundle. Taken in India, in a temple that I have yet to identify, they are of a larger format (approximately 16x12cm) with a matte surface that has a subtle texture. I particularly love the reflections in the water, the warmth of the tones, and (in the third one, below) the somewhat unusual camera angle!

Perhaps they were taken for a magazine or newspaper article? They certainly are not run-of-the-mill snapshots. The man who is posing in them features in several other images from the same collection, but with no further clues as to his identity I have hit a brick wall in my research. Any help would be appreciated… or simply enjoy the photographs!

Indian Temple 2Indian Temple 3

Sir Clement T Mullings & The Mettur Dam

Mettur Dam (a)Mettur Dam (b)Mettur Dam (Title)

Among the images I recently acquired is an album page containing photographs of the Mettur Dam which is located across the Cauvery River, in the Salem District of Tamil Nadu, India. The Dam was officially opened by Sir George Stanley (Governor of Madras) in 1934, having taken 9 years to construct. The photographs appear to show the Dam in the later stages of its construction.

The album page is accompanied by the following photograph of a group of men. Judging by their varied gazes, I would guess there was more than one photographer present! I had no luck in identifying the men until I searched newspaper archives for the Mettur Dam and found a newspaper photograph of Sir Clement Tudway Mullings, who is seated second from the left:
Sir Clement T Mullings (India)

Clement Mullings was born in 1874 in Cirencester, Gloucester, and appointed Chief Engineer of the Mettur Dam project from 1927 to 1931. He then retired and moved back to the UK to live in Cheltenham with his wife, Letitia. But in 1934, on the opening of the Dam, the King approved the honour of a knighthood upon the then Mr. Mullings. It was reported in several newspapers, including this one (Illustrated London News – Saturday 01 September 1934):Illustrated London News - Saturday 01 September 1934 (Mullings)

The photograph of the seated gentlemen above is the only image of Sir Mullings that I have come across in this collection so far. I suspect that the other men were also engineers. I am particularly interested in the man second from the right, who appears in many other photographs including some I have already shared. I will include a few more photographs of him in my next blog post.


photo - india - weddinga cropped

As mentioned in my previous posts, many of the photographs in this little bundle are badly damaged. Because of this it would be easy to dismiss individual images, or tear them apart and keep only the best, such as the beautiful 1920s wedding photograph above.

But I cannot bring myself to do that because as a whole they tell a story, of travel and friendship and more than a hint of nostalgia.

Immersing myself in these images has taken me on a journey, to a different time and way of life.

So, in an effort to keep these memories together I have returned them to an album of their very own. And maybe one day they will be reunited with the family they belong to!


Prince Of Wales In India (1921)

photo - india - victoria memorial kolkata small

During the winter of 1921-22, Edward Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) toured India, including Calcutta (Kolkata) in West Bengal. It was here on Wednesday 28th December 1921 that the Prince officially opened the Victoria Memorial, an impressive marble building dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria. The above photograph, which is unmarked, appears to have been taken at that opening ceremony.

photo - india - victoria memorial kolkata cropped

Although a little blurred, close inspection shows enough detail to convince me that the Prince of Wales is present in the image. Compare the above crop to the article below (taken from The Sphere – Saturday 28 January 1922). A ‘tear-shaped’ fan can be seen in both photographs, directly behind the Prince. Lady Ronaldshay’s dress stands out against the men in uniform. Even the table to the side of the Prince can be seen.

The Sphere - Saturday 28 January 1922 a

The photograph below is another from the same small bundle. Although unmarked it can easily be identified as Raj Bhavan, Kolkata, then known as Government House. The Prince of Wales stayed here during Christmas of 1921 and hosted a Garden Party on Thursday 29th December, the day after the opening of the Victoria Memorial. Whoever took this photograph may have attended both events.

The images are brought to life by a silent film from the archives of the British Film Institute (BFI). At the beginning of the clip a photographer walks into view carrying his tripod and camera. Could this be the same tripod seen in the first photograph of this blog post?

More information can be gleaned from a book entitled His Royal Highness The Prince Of Wales Tour In India (1921-1922) by M. O’Mealey, which details the entire trip including the programme of events for Christmas 1921.  It is always satisfying to provide context for unmarked photographs, and in this case relatively straightforward given the amount of information available on the internet. What is much less straightforward is knowing precisely who took the photographs!