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.

Cabinet Card by Holgate, Burnley

cabinet card - holgate small

I just have to share this cabinet card of a beautiful young woman staring directly into the camera. Taken by photographer James Holgate of Bridge End Studio, Burnley, it probably dates to the 1880s, the period in which Mr. Holgate was most active. Unfortunately there are no clues as to the identity of the woman (the reverse of the card is blank). To my eyes she resembles ‘Mary (Patsy) Cornwallis West‘, although this could simply be due to the fashion of the time.

Any thoughts appreciated!

Lady Mabel Bridgeman

mabel bridgeman a small

mabel bridgeman b small

This cabinet card of Lady Mabel Bridgeman is a copy of the original, although not a recent one. She was born in 1855 (the eldest child of the 3rd Earl of Bradford), so I would guess the photograph was taken around 1880.

In 1887 she married William Kenyon-Slaney who, having excelled at football at Eton, was selected to play for England. And in 1873 he became the first footballer to score a goal in an international match. Perhaps this makes Mabel the original footballers’ wife? Although, by the time they married his footballing career was over and from 1886 until his death in 1908, Kenyon-Slaney acted as Member of Parliament for Newport, Shropshire.

mabel bridgeman - the shrewsbury chronicle fri may 1 1908The Shrewsbury Chronicle – Friday 1st May 1908

There are numerous mentions of Lady Bridgeman (later Lady Kenyon-Slaney) in the newspaper archives, most of them being society reports. She mixed in the same circles as the British royal family and met Queen Victoria on more than one occasion. The photograph below was taken on a visit by the Prince and Princess of Wales to Bradford, with Lady Bridgeman sat on the front row, next to Mary of Teck (Princess of Wales and later Queen consort).

The Sphere - Saturday 14 May 1904The Sphere – Saturday 14th May 1904

(A. Prince of Wales   B. Princess of Wales   C. Lady M Kenyon-Slaney)

Mabel passed away in 1933 at the age of 77. She was buried next to her husband at Ryton Church, Shifnal, Shropshire. According to the Staffordshire Advertiser 4th February 1933: There were many floral tributes, one from Lord Harewood and the Princess Royal being of pink carnations, with the inscription “In loving memory from Harry and Mary.” The ‘Mary’ in question was the daughter of Mary of Teck.

Various information from Ancestry.co.uk

Newspaper clipping/quotes from The British Newspaper Archive  © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Outdoor CDVs


I particularly like cartes de visite that have photographs taken outside, such as the one above. I am struck by the natural lighting, and how the baby appears to be wriggling causing mum to hold on tightly.


This second image shows two men posing on a stile. It’s as though they are taking a break during a walk. The photograph is badly faded and I had to do some processing to bring any detail out (including a thumbprint in the middle!).


This third and final image looks as though it might also be outdoors. In a back-yard perhaps? To me, the lighting is different to the previous two. So perhaps it is a photographer’s studio, set up to look like the outside.

A pity, then, that all three cartes de visite are unmarked and the photographers unknown. That might at least have provided a clue.

Irene & Doris


Recently found, this photograph of a young girl in a lacy outfit is presented on a rather battered board with the name ‘Irene  M Hargreaves’ written on the back.

Alongside it was a cabinet card of a girl wear a similar hat and dress:


The handwriting on the back of this second photograph is more difficult to read, but my best guess is “Doris Mary Sandoe, aged 2 1/2 years, 1895”. According to census data a Doris/Dora Sandoe was born in Broadclyst, Devon c1893, the daughter of surgeon John Worden Sandoe. Is this the same Doris?

And where did Irene and Doris get their wonderful hats?!

cabinet-card-hopwood-burnley   cabinet-card-kelley-plymouth

Sir Edward George Clarke

sir edward clarke

Printed on thin card this is a vintage copy of a photograph by W. Heath & Co., Plymouth. It is signed by ‘Edward Clarke’, who was a Victorian barrister and Conservative politician born in 1841. He took part in a number of famous legal case, representing Oscar Wilde in 1895 and (in a separate case) cross-examining the Prince of Wales in 1891. He was knighted in 1886 and lived into his 90th year.

Several other portraits of Sir Edward Clarke can be found on the National Portrait Gallery website.

Haw Par Villa, Singapore

I recently came across a batch of small vintage photographs, depicting gruesome scenes that immediately intrigued me. Scanned and enlarged I realised they were mostly of model figures. On the back of one is written ‘Tiger Gardens, Singapore’ and another mentions ‘Chinese Gardens’. So I leapt onto the internet (what did we do in the days before Google Search?!) and soon found information about Haw Par Villa, Singapore, aka Tiger Balm Gardens.

Haw Par Villa Singapore 2

Haw Par Villa Singapore

According to Wikipedia, the gardens opened in 1937 and remain open today. I would guess that these images were taken in the 1950s. One is labelled “Another pleasant pastime – the Bandwagon!” and another, which makes me smile, says “Would you say he is happy at his work?!”.

During my search I also came across the following video, with similar images set to music… enjoy!