Early Photographic Studios
in Wolverhampton

G. Whitfield

Whitfield's address on the carte on the left is 11 Dudley Road, Wolverhampton.  All of his cartes in my collection have that address.

But Ian Beach, from Western Australia, sends us the photo on the right of his maternal grandfather William George Yates (who also appears on these pages in a photo by R. Page), with his wife Sarah (nee Millward) and his eldest daughter, Winifred.  

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.

Whitlock's are the only limited company found so far.  The card says they are of Birmingham and Wolverhampton but nothing further is known.

On the right is a photo by "Whitlock, Wolverhampton" of General Gatacre, found as a loose leaf from a book. Gatacre had a successful career until his poor performance in the Boer War. He was sent home and promoted.

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. 

The printed area of this photo measures about 63 x 45 cm. In the wide border below is the title "Wolverhampton Chamber of Commerce" and their seal.  In small type just below the print is the legend:  "Copyright. Published 1927 by H. J. Whitlock & Sons Ltd., Royal Warrant Holders to His Majesty the King, 63 Darlington Street, Wolverhampton".
Accompanying the photo is another, slightly smaller, which has a copy of the main photo with a number on each figure.  Below that is printed the name which corresponds to each number.   

Thus the people shown in this detail of the main photo are:  J. Burns Dumbell, OBE, J.P., President;  Sir Charles T. Mander, Bart; Loftus B. Moreton, J.P.;  Llewellyn H. Twentyman, J.P.

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.

Whitlock Brothers

The Whitlock Brothers were at 63 Darlington Street and were the successors to Mrs. Williams.

Presumably this firm was incorporated (probably sometime around the turn of the century) as H. J. Whitlock and Sons Ltd. 

Mrs. Williams

Mrs. Williams was at 63 Darlington Street.  This is presumably the Talbot Place shown on the back of one of her cartes. 

Judging by surviving examples, Mrs.Williams was good. She seems to have had a well equipped studio.

On the back of this card is hand written:  "left to right: M. M.Wilkinson nursing, A. C. Cowper nee Hill, Sidney Shaw, E. H. Wilkinson nursing, S. M. Greatrick nee Hill. Seated in front: -Susie Shaw. Taken about 1890".

On this carte (left) Mrs. Williams' address is given as 42 Darlington Street. This may be a studio photo or possibly one taken at the sitter's home. The name "Capt. Smythe. R.N." is written on a paper slip, pasted to the reverse.


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..

Lewis Williams

The card shown has the address 166 Bilston Street, Wolverhampton; but another card has the address Bristol Chambers, 140 Bilston Street, Wolverhampton.

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