Early Photographic Studios
The date on this photo is April 1915 and the address given for Geo. Whitfield is 29 Snow Hill. The vignetting of all the Dudley Road photos in my collection, and the style of the studio furniture in the Snow Hill photo, suggests that he moved from Dudley Road to Snow Hill, rather than vice versa.
H. J. Whitlock & Sons Ltd.
Whenever this firm came into existence, it certainly continued to 1927 as a photo by them, of that date, has been found thanks to the assiduous searching of the late Reg Aston.
In all there are 193 people in the photo. It seems to have been achieved by photographing each man individually (or perhaps in small groups), making a print of each, painstakingly cutting round each figure, meticulously assembling them together and then re-photographing the montage. The result is a remarkable technical feat (as well as a remarkable record of all the industrial and commercial men of the time).
The information on the photo also enables us to determine the previously unclear sequence at 63 Darlington Street: first, Mrs. Williams, then Whitlock Brothers, then H. J. Whitlock and Sons Ltd.
Many H. J. Whitlock photos of local personalities appear in the Red Books and in official publications. The firm seems to have carried on from Mrs. Williams as the leading studio of the time. And note that Rejlander had his studio in Darlington Street, as did Bennett Clark (though both were at different street numbers); the road must have had magnetic attraction for the town's leading photographers.
March 2006: I am grateful to Marie Fellows who tells me: "Sarah Williams was born in Oakengates, Shropshire, in 1841. As she married a Thomas Williams she kept her maiden name. Sarah and Thomas had a daughter named Frances Mary. Sarah was widowed and the last information I have was that she lived at The Cottage, Hagley, nr. Stourbridge. (Sarah had a brother, William Henry, who was my husband's grandfather)".
James Morley has very kindly provided us with some photos which he has found in an album of cartes de visite which he acquired in late 2006. He is still studying this very interesting collection which seems to have been compiled by someone associated with the Great Western Railway, as it contains many cartes from studios in Swindon and Wolverhampton. It contains this very interesting page:
The photograph of Mrs. Armstrong was taken by W. H. Dodds (previously only identified as the predecessor of C. Stallard). The photograph of the great Joseph Armstrong was taken by Mrs. Williams. It seems to be the photo of Armstrong which has been very widely used in publications about the Armstrongs and the GWR.
All of this leads to the distinct impression that Mrs. Williams was Wolverhampton's leading studio photographer of the time. The studio was taken over, presumably on her retirement, by Whitlock Brothers who9 later became H. J. Whitlock and Sons Ltd..