Thursday, 17 April 2014

Sepia Saturday 224: The Servants at Quantock Lodge


Sepia Saturday by Alan Burnett and Marilyn Brindley

The Sepia Saturday image prompt this week shows a woman watering her artichokes while a man, presumably her husband, stands with a pipe firmly clenched in his mouth and holding a shovel. He's perhaps pretending that he's just finished the weeding, but is clearly not dressed for the task. My contribution to the meme this week is a group of servants, including gardeners and groundsmen, who may be in their best clothes, but they don't look quite as out of place in the garden.

In something approaching the manner popularised by fellow Sepians Tattered + Lost and Mister Mike, I will attempt a deconstruction and/or reconstruction of the occasion.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Quantock Lodge Servants, 79/August, Cabinet card portrait
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This early cabinet portrait mounted on plain card was a fortuitous purchase on eBay a few years ago, lucky in that such items often attract furious bidding which very quickly puts them totally out of my reach costwise, but if I remember correctly I was the only one to show any interest in this. It is unusual not only for the subject matter, a large group of servants from a big house, but also that the location and date are written on the card mount.

Quantock Lodge is a mansion built as a holiday residence in the Gothic revival style during the mid-19th century for Henry Labouchere, 1st Baron Taunton (1797-1869), and described by Nocolas Pevsner as "a large rather dull Tudor house ... Gothic Stables, a specially crazy Gothic Dovecote and a big Gothic Lodge." Although Baron Taunton's second wife inherited the estate on his death in 1869, his eldest daughter Mary Dorothy Labouchere (1842-1920) lived there after her marriage in 1872 to Edward James Stanley, D.L., J.P. (1826-1907), later a British Conservative politician from 1882 until 1907. By August 1879, when this photograph was taken, the Stanleys had a son and a daughter, both born at St George Hanover Square, London, and a second son was born on 30th August, also in London.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Cabinet card portrait by Monsieur Bernard's Prince Imperial Photographie Francaise, 8 Alphington St, Exeter
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Rather than using printed card mount, the photographer has used a small paper label with his details pasted on the back of the card.

MONSIEUR BERNARD'S
PRINCE IMPERIAL
MEMORIAL
Photographie Francaise.
-:o:-
8, Alphington St. EXETER.

Copies may always be had.
No.

I've been unable to find records of a photographer named Bernard working in either Exeter or Somerset. However, there was a Daniel Bernard of Austrian origin living at 12 Smythen Street, Exeter in April 1881 who described himself as picture frame dealer. That he had links with Somerset is demonstrated by the birth of his two children at Bristol in 1875 and 1878. Bernard's use of the name "Prince Imperial Memorial" was particularly opportunisitic, considering that Napoléon, the Prince Imperial, had been killed in Zululand only a couple of months earlier, and the "Prince Imperial Memorial Fund" set up in mid-June.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Detail of Quantock Lodge servants

This group of servants - 10 male, 9 female and a young lad - is large, indicative of a fairly wealthy household, which the Stanleys certainly were. Mary's mother and paternal grandmother were members of the Baring banking family. The census record of Quantock Lodge, Over Stowey, Somerset for 3 April 1881 (p1 & p2), only 20 months after the photograph was taken, shows 21 servants - 8 male, 12 female - as well as a governess and a young boy, with three additonal male employees living in married quarters nearby. In order to compare the census list with the people we see in the photograph, I have extracted their details:

NameAgeOccupation1871--1891
Eleanor E. MAJOR22Governess
Annie REID40Butler's wife (Visitor)
Caroline FARLEY49Housekeeper
Emile WELLS30Cook
Elise REDFLEUR31Ladies Maid [sic]
Mary MAY25NurseHousekeeper, 1891
Thomas REID45Butler
Walter REID37Valet
William DAVIS28Under Butler
Thomas WALKER30Footman
James GRANDFIELD25FootmanUnder Butler, 1891
Henry WATTS322nd Coachman
James STACEY23Groom
George LUCAS22House Servant
Mary A. PRICE26Kitchen maid
Alice E. TOFFS19Kitchen maid
Elizabeth VINCENT22House Maid
Gerald A. ELLIS8Scholar (Nephew)
Clara PACKER31Head Housemaid
Hannah HUTCHINGS28Still Room Maid
Elizabeth WALTER282nd Housemaid
Jane HOOPER193rd Housemaid
Caroline THORNE184th Housemaid
William ISTED39Head Coachman
Archibald BOUSIE60Head GardenerHead Gardener, 1871
John MARSHALL56Head Gamekeeper

The boy was actually Mrs Stanley's nephew, Gerald Arthur Ellis, but I've included him in the extract because he is, rather oddly, listed among the servants. Gerald's father Major-General Sir Arthur Ellis was Equerry to the Prince of Wales, and Gerald himself became a Page to Queen Victoria.

Image © and courtesy of BBC
Status and heirarchy of servants in a Victorian house
Image © and courtesy of BBC News Magazine

I can't give an authoritative source for this, but I have the impression that census listings for such households generally show the servants in order of seniority. It is interesting to note that the head gardener had been there since 1871, while two of the servants were still working at Quantock Lodge a decade later in 1891. In those ten years Mary May had worked her way up from Nurse to Housekeeper, while James Grandfield had undergone a similar promotion from Footman to Under Butler.


The Butler and the Housekeeper, Quantock Lodge

The two central figures in this tableaux, also probably the oldest, are almost certainly the most senior male and female servants in the household, the butler and the housekeeper. The butler looks to be in his forties. Thomas Reid was shown as 45 in the 1881 census, but 46 or 47 when he died at Quantock Lodge in February 1884 - depending on source - and is therefore a good candidate. His wife Annie is described as a visitor in the census, and was therefore not a regular member of the household. After her husband's death, she continued to live nearby in Taunton, described in the 1891 Census is "living on her own means."

The housekeeper at Quantock House in April 1881 was Caroline Farley. She gave her age as 49, but I've been able to track her through the remaining census records from 1841 to 1901, and it appears that at the time the photograph was taken in the garden of Quantock Lodge in August 1879, Caroline was probably in her mid-fifties. The housekeeper in the photograph looks a little older than this, perhaps in her sixties, but there are no older women in the census list, so this may be Caroline Farley's predecessor - it's difficult to be sure.


The Valet, Quantock Lodge

Thomas' younger brother Walter Reid was also at Quantock Lodge in 1881, aged 37 and employed as a valet. Judging by his clothing, his age and the similarity of their facial features (in particular ears, nose and mouth), I think he may be standing in the back row, second from right, with his right hand resting with some degree of familiarity on the shoulder of a woman seated on the butler's right, and possibly his left hand on the shoulder of another young woman. Walter was the executor of his brother's will dated April 1884, in which he left a personal estate of £480. I've been unable to find any record of Walter after this date.


The Under Butler and the House Servant, Quantock Lodge

Judging by their clothing, their ages and their proximity in the lineup to the butler, I believe that the two young men standing in the back row, directly in line with the butler and the housekeeper, are probably the Under Butler (right) and male House Servant (left), listed in the 1881 census as William Davis (aged 28) and George Lucas (aged 22). George Lucas was an inmate of the Dorchester Union Workhouse at Fordington in 1871, his mother having died when he was very young.


The Two Footmen and the 2nd Coachman, Quantock Lodge

The double-breasted coats with large brass buttons worn by all three young men standing at the right hand end of the back row makes them likely to have been footmen and coachmen. In 1881 Thomas Walker (30) and James Grandfield (25) were the two footmen, while Henry Watts (32) was the Second Coachman. It is difficult to tell whether that is the order they appear in the photograph.


The Cook and the Head Housemaid, Quantock Lodge

Unfortunately these two are in a part of the photograph which has been overexposed, with a resulting loss of definition. From their clothing, seniority dictated by their position seated to the housekeeper, and their ages, I believe them to be the Cook (left) and the Head Housemaid (right). In 1881, these positions were filled by Emily Wells (30) and Clara Packer (31). I tracked down Emily/Emma Wells to the magnificent Petworth House in Sussex in 1871, where she was employed by the 2nd Lord Leconfield as a Still Room Maid, the most junior servant in the household.


The Governess and the Lady's Maid, Quantock Lodge

There are only two women dressed in dark clothing, both of them fairly young, and they must, I think, be the Governess and Lady's Maid. The young woman seated on the grass at the far left of the group has a substantial hat, and appears to be of an appropriate age to be the 22 year-old Governess, Eleanor E. Major. Ten years later she was working as a Governess to the family of her previous employer's sister, Mina Frances Ellis, and was still employed as a governess in 1901. The woman holding a dog on her lap may be the 31 year-old Elise Reafleur (or Redfleur), the Swiss-born lady's maid to Mary Stanley.


The Nursemaid, Quantock Lodge

Five months prior to the sunny summer morning when Monsieur Bernard visited Quantock Lodge, the Honourable Mrs. Stanley placed an advertisement in the Morning Post, a conservative daily London newspaper "noted for its attentions to the activities of the powerful and wealthy," looking for a "superior Nurserymaid to help in the care of two children (see below). Pregnant with her third child, she was obviously anticipating the extra work load. It would be nice to think that Mary May, the 25 year-old "Nurse" listed in the 1881 Census, who was still with the Stanleys ten years later at Quantock Lodge as housekeeper, came to them in response to this advertisement. My feeling is that she is seated at far left, between the butler and the governess.


Advertisement in the Morning Post, 18 March 1879

In 1898 Mary Ann May married the under-butler James Grandfield and the couple moved to Kensington where James found work, now as a butler. The 1901 Census shows the Stanley household without a butler. James was still working as a butler in London in 1911 and died in 1919, while Mary died in 1939.


The Kitchen and House Maids, Quantock Lodge

The three remaining women in the group, standing immediately behind the butler, housekeeper and cook, look to be in their early to mid-twenties, and could be either kitchen or house staff. Unaccounted for in the census are two kitchen maids, four house maids and a still room maid. Presumably some were either too busy to outdoors engaging in such frivolities as a photographic portrait (read camera-shy), or absent on the day.


The Head Gardener, Quantock Lodge

The man standing at the extreme left of the group may be the Head Gardener, Archibald Bousie, who lived with his family in the gardener's cottage on the estate. He was born on 9 March 1821 at Markinch, Fife, Scotland and, judging by the number of credits in The Flora of Forfarshire by William Gardiner, published in 1848, he was a very knowledgeable and active botanist as a young man. Mr Bousie was employed from c. 1848 by Henry Labouchere, Lord Taunton, as the head gardener in the famous gardens laid out by Capability Brown and Humphry Repton at Stoke Park in Buckinghamshire. He won numerous medals and prizes for his fuschias, rhododendrons, calceolarias, fancy pelargoniums, figs and desert apples in flower and fruit shows at the Crystal Palace, Royal Botanic Society and Royal Horticultural Society between 1855 and 1863.

After Stoke Park was sold in 1863, Bousie moved to Quantock Lodge where he worked in a similar capacity, first for Lord Taunton and later for his daughter and son-in-law, the Stanleys. He died at Over Stowey on 20 December 1910, aged 89 years, after having passed on the reins at Quantock Lodge to his son David Alexander Bousie.


The Head Gamekeeper and the Groom, Quantock Lodge

As we get further down the list, I feel on more shaky ground regarding identifications. The man with a large stick and an even more impressive beard seated on the grass is dressed as an outdoor servant, but I don't believe he can be the Head Coachman, so I think it more likely that he is a gardener or a gamekeeper. The 1881 Census shows one John Marshall, aged 56, Head Gamekeeper, living near Quantock Lodge and it seems likely this is him. The man seated at far right, holding onto a dark-coloured poodle, is probably the groom, shown in the census as James Stacey, aged 23.


The Young Lad, Quantock Lodge

Finally, we have the well dressed young lad sitting cross-legged in front of the housekeeper and the cook. There is only one boy shown in the census, Gerald Ellis, nephew of Mrs Stanley, but in August he would have been only six years old, and this chap looks to me to be around 9 or 10, at least. The Stanley's eldest son Henry Thomas Stanley was a year younger than Gerald, so it's not likely to be him either. I suspect that he was a local lad employed as a Hall Boy.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Quantock Lodge servants

Possible identification of individuals in Quantock Lodge Servants photo:

1. Archibald Bousie, aged 60, Head Gardener
2. Walter Reid, aged 37, Valet
3. Unidentified Kitchen or House Maid
4. George Lucas, aged 22, House Servant
5. Unidentified Kitchen or House Maid
6. William Davis, aged 28, Under Butler
7. Unidentified Kitchen or House Maid
8. James Grandfield, aged 25, Footman
9. Thomas Walker, aged 30, Footman
10. Henry Watts, aged 32, Second Coachman
11. Mary May, aged 25, Nurse(maid)
12. Thomas Reid, 45, Butler
13. Caroline Farley, aged mid-50s, Housekeeper
14. Emily Wells, aged 30, Cook
15. Clara Packer, aged 31, Head Housemaid
16. Elise Reafleur/Redfleur, aged 31, Lady's Maid
17. James Stacey, aged 23, Groom
18. Eleanor E. Major, aged 22, Governess
19. John Marshall, aged 56, Head Gamekeeper
20. Unidentified Hall Boy

Of course I understand that most readers will have decided, probably well before getting to this point, that my IDs are at best tentative, and in the worst case, rather unlikely. My aim at putting this list out in the cybersphere is to generate some interest and possibly further information about the servants who worked, perhaps not straight away, but hopefully in due course.

For more gardening of the sepian variety, I can recommend visiting the other Sepia Saturday contributers.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Sepia Saturday 223: The Finest Equipped Photographic Gallery in the Vicinity


Sepia Saturday by Alan Burnett and Marilyn Brindley

This week's Sepia Saturday image prompt is all about buildings and town scenes. I'll be taking a closer look at some tintypes from my own family's collection, and an emerging story about a photographic studio in Chicago, Illinois. The building itself will only appear later in the article, so please bear with me.

Image © and collection of Brett PayneImage © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Charles Leslie Lionel Payne (1892-1975), taken c. October-November 1892
Sixth plate tintypes (63 x 88mm, 65 x 90mm), unidentified photographer
Probably by H.R. Koopman, 11104 Michigan Ave, Roseland, Chicago
Images © and collection of Brett Payne & Barbara Ellison

Among the family photographs that my aunt and I have inherited are a series of four sixth-plate tintypes. The term "sixth-plate" refers to the size of the photograph, produced by cutting a full plate (8½" x 6½" or 216 x 165mm) into six, each measuring roughly (2¾" x 3¼" or 70 x 83mm). As with many such tintypes, the edges are roughly cut and the corners have been trimmed to make them easier to slip into photo album slots.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Detail of two six-plate tintype portraits of Leslie Payne

As is also commonly found with this format, they have no photographer's details or other distinuishing marks, but I can be fairly certain that the two almost identical portraits of my grandfather Charles Leslie Lionel Payne were taken in Chicago. He was born there in April 1892 and returned to England with his parents in mid- to late November that year, so would have been six or seven moths old at the time he parents took him to the studio. The two images appear at first glance to be of the same view. A detailed examination of the child in the pram reveals identical poses which I think we have to assume would be impossible to duplicate for two separate exposures.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Detail of two six-plate tintype portraits of Leslie Payne

Sharp-eyed readers will however have noticed subtle differences, which are more obvious in these two views of the pram's undercarriage. There is a considerable shift in the position of the rear axle in relation to the rim of the front wheel in the two images. How can this be if the two photographs were taken in the same split second, as evidenced by the child's pose? Well, the answer lies in a question of parallax, defined in the COD as the "apparent displacement of an object, caused by actual change of point of observation." This Wikipedia article has an animation which shows the effect very well.

Image © and courtesy of Rob Niederman
9-tube "Gem" wet-plate camera, by unknown U.S. maker
Image © and courtesy of Rob Niederman

In other words, the two portraits were indeed taken at the same instant, but from two slightly different positions. This was achievable with a multi-lens camera, such as the one shown above. Camera collector and very knowledgeable historian Rob Niederman points out that the noticeable vertical parallax, along with no perceptible horizontal parallax, suggests the second image was probably directly above the first on the original plate. The camera must have had at least a four lens set (1/9-tubes, using a 4¼" x 5¼" plate) or conceivably 9, 12 or 16 lens sets. He adds, "In summary, studio outfits were very adaptable in what you could do with them."

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Charles Hallam Payne (1870-1960), taken c. 1892
Sixth plate tintype (62 x 86mm), unidentified photographer
Probably by H.R. Koopman, 11104 Michigan Ave, Roseland, Chicago
Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison

The third tintype is a three-quarter length standing portrait of Leslie's Uncle Hallam - Charles Hallam Payne (1870-1960) - who was with Leslie and his parents in Chicago in 1891 and 1892.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Unidentified subject, taken c. 1892
Sixth plate tintype (66 x 88mm), unidentified photographer
Probably by H.R. Koopman, 11104 Michigan Ave, Roseland, Chicago
Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison

In the fourth portrait, an unidentified young man, smartly dressed and with a moustache, is seated in a studio with a painted backdrop.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Detail of backdrops in two six-plate tintype portraits

Examination of the painted backdrop (above left) shows similarities with that used in the two portraits of Leslie Payne. I have some reservations, but the similarity of the branches and knots in the tree trunks has more or less convinced me that they are the same backdrop, although perhaps touched up a little between the two sittings.

It seems likely therefore, given the similarity of features and their provenance, that all four tintype portraits were taken in the same studio. But who was the man with a moustache?


Pullman Car Works, Roseland, Chicago, c.1890
Photograph by H.R. Koopman

Leslie's parents Charles Vincent and Amy Payne had travelled to Chicago, Illinois from their home in Derbyshire, England in May-June 1891, very soon after their wedding. Accompanying them was Vincent's younger brother Frank Payne, and together they would join another brother Charles Hallam Payne, who had gone to Chicago to look for work a year earlier. Uncle Hallam had been working as a carpenter at the Pullman Car Works.

The moustachioed man is obviously not Charles Hallam and, by comparison with many other photographs in my collection, is not my grandfather Charles Vincent. I thought at first that it might be Frank (unfortunately we have no other photographs in the family collection with which to compare it), but Frank would have been only 18 years old at the time, so I think that is very unlikely. Perhaps he was a friend.


Pullman Car Works, Roseland, Chicago, c.1890
Photograph by H.R. Koopman

In a letter written to him on 12 January 1891 his father Henry Payne thanked Hallam for a ...
"... book of Pulman [sic]. I am glad to hear that Pulman does not go in for many hotels. Perhaps you will make a note of that."
This book, currently in the collection of my aunt, includes a number of photographs of Pulman's works and the town he built to house his workers, including the two shown above, all taken by photographer H.R. Koopman.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Employee's Pass for The World's Columbian Exposition, 1 June 1892

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
United Carpenter's Council Quarterly Working Card, Oct-Dec 1892

Some time after the arrival of his brothers all three found employment at the Chicago World's Fair, officially known as The World's Columbian Exposition. However, it appears that they were still living in Roseland - Lesley Payne's birth certificate shows that he was born at 10810 Curtis Ave, Roseland, Chicago on 9 April 1892.

Image © Pullman State Historic Site & courtesy of Illinois Digital ArchivesImage © Pullman State Historic Site & courtesy of Illinois Digital Archives
Koopman Advertising Flyer, 1 May 1888, Printed paper (150 x 220mm)
Portrait of H.R. Koopman, c. 1894, Oval silver gelatin print (70 x 133mm) on grey-coloured card mount (108 x 212mm)
Images © Pullman State Historic Site, courtesy of Illinois Digital Archives

Henry Ralph Koopman (1865-1944) operated photographic studio in Roseland, a suburb of Chicago, from 1884 until the early 1900s, offering a wide variety of formats at what he boasted was the "finest equipped photograph gallery in the vicinity."

Image © Pullman State Historic Site & courtesy of Illinois Digital Archives
Koopman's Photograph Gallery, Cor. 111th St and Michigan Av., 1886
Silver gelatin print (239 x 182mm) mounted on card
Image © Pullman State Historic Site, courtesy of Illinois Digital Archives

This image of Koopman's Photograph Gallery at 11106 South Michigan Avenue, on the corner with 111th Street, was taken in 1886. The large windows and skylight on the side of the building indicate the position of the studio towards the rear. By the time the Paynes arrived in Roseland in 1892, where they lived only three blocks away from the gallery, Koopman had built himself a much grander three-story building with a studio on the third floor, although I've not managed to find a corresponding external view.

Image © Pullman State Historic Site & courtesy of Illinois Digital Archives Image © and courtesy of The Cabinet Card Gallery
Portraits of unidentified woman and children, c. late 1880s
Cabinet portraits taken by H.R. Koopman, Roseland, Illinois
Images © Pullman State Historic Site & courtesy of Illinois Digital Archives, © and courtesy of The Cabinet Card Gallery

The cabinet portraits above were taken in the late 1880s to early 1890s in Koopman's studio, and demonstrate that he used a very similar style of painted backdrop to those seen in the tintypes, although I have been unable to match the specific backdrop used in the latter with any marked Koopman portraits.

Image © Pullman State Historic Site & courtesy of Illinois Digital Archives
HR Koopman photographing his daughter, Marie, in his studio, c. 1895
Silver gelatin print (353 x 279mm)
Image © Pullman State Historic Site, courtesy of Illinois Digital Archives

This wonderfully evocative print from Koopman's archives preserved at the Pullman State Historic Site shows the photographer himself at work in the studio, capturing a portrait of his daughter Marie around 1895. He is composing the image on a ground glass screen at the back of a large format glass-plate studio camera, his head under a black cloth to exclude light. The lighting available from the large window and skylight can be moderated and diffused by the drapes hanging from the ceiling. A painted canvas backdrop is in place behind the seated girl, and a second rolled backdrop can be seen hanging above. There are a number of different items of standard studio furniture, including padded stool, side tables, cane chair, ornate screen, carpets and curtains, as well as a small stove to keep the studio warm and the clients comfortable.


Charles Vincent Payne, August 1891
Cabinet card by Harrison & Coover, Central Music Hall,
cnr. State & Randolph Streets, Chicago, Illinois
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

There were many photographic studios in Chicago, and I even have a cabinet portrait of my great-grandfather Charles Vincent Payne taken at Harrison & Coover's downtown studio in August 1891. However, I don't believe there were many photographers operating in Roseland in the early 1890s, and I think it is very likely that all four tintypes were made there. However, until I find another portrait showing that identical painted backdrop, I can't be sure. To this end, I've saved a search for Koopman portraits on eBay in the hope that some will turn up in due course.

The identity of the moustachioed man remains a mystery.

References and Further Reading

Horn, Don (2003) The Pullman Photographers, Railroad Heritage, No. 7, p. 5.

Nickell, Joe (2010) Camera Clues: A Handbook for Photographic Investigation, University Press of Kentucky.

Payne, Brett (2003) Fifty Years of Payne Journeys to North America - 1890-1892 : Chicago, Pullman & the Worlds Fair.

Payne, Brett (2009) Letter to America - A moment in the life of a young girl in late Victorian Derby, on Photo-Sleuth, 14 February 2009.

Payne, Brett (2009) Whistling Bird, the Arizona Cowboy and the Disappearing Lady, on Photo-Sleuth, 1 November 2009.

Payne, Brett (2011) Fearless femmes: great-grandmother Amy, on Photo-Sleuth, 6 March 2011.


Thursday, 3 April 2014

Sepia Saturday 222: A Question of Berthage


Sepia Saturday by Alan Burnett and Marilyn Brindley

Last year I had some correspondence with Bill Forster relating to the Stalag XXID Prisoner of War Camp at Poznan in Poland, which I wrote about in the story of Bill Ball and Work Camp 9. Bill had another query in connection with his own research on a group of sailors who also ended up in Stalag XXID:

I have a puzzle in identifying a photograph of a (French?) port where a requisitioned LNER ferry is berthed which carried the troops of the BEF to France in 1939-40. This is in connection with the book I published about my father's wartime destroyer, HMS Venomous, which I update between editions on my web site. I have successfully identified photographs taken by the men on Venomous at Calais on 21 May 1940 and at Boulogne on 22 May 1940 and uncovered some fascinating stories of the refugees they landed at Folkestone and Dover.

Image courtesy of Bill Forster
HMS Archangel by Eric Pountney
Image courtesy of Bill Forster

But [I] was puzzled by [this] photograph taken by the Wireless Telegraphy Operator, Eric Pountney, until it was identified by members of the "Ships Nostalgia" Forum as the LNER ferry Archangel which was used as a troop transport in 1939-40.

Image courtesy of Bill Forster
HMS Archangel at northern French port, by Lt Peter Kershaw RNVR
Image courtesy of Bill Forster

I have recently found a further photograph in my own collection taken by Lt Peter Kershaw of a ship which looks very similar berthed alongside a quay with railways wagons. But where was it taken? Venomous escorted troop carriers from the Solent (Southampton/Portsmouth) to Cherbourg, Le Havre and Brest in the first few weeks of the war and I suspect it would have been taken at one of these channel ports. Where there are no letters or journals - as in the case of Eric Pountney - I rely on his photographs to tell the story.

What I've done is had a good look at all three of the ports that Bill mentioned - Cherbourg, Le Havre and Brest - using the myriad of postcard views that are available, many of them on the Delcampe postcard auction web site. European postcard publishers were prolific, and there are a wealth of sources on the net for images of scenic postcards published before, during and after the Great War, up to the mid- to late 1920s. There appear to be far fewer from the 1930s, and I suspect that this may have been due to financial pressures caused by the Depression, although I haven't found a confirmation of what is really just an assumption on my part to explain the apparent paucity of images.


Le Havre, Bassin de l'Eure, undated postcard view

From what I can tell, Le Havre was the only one of the three which had the very distinctive tower lights, one of which appears close to the edge of the quay at centre-left in Bill's Archangel photo. They are very tall, probably of steel construction with a lattice framework, and are characterised by a curious bell-shaped frame for the lamp hanging from a short at the top. The lighting towers appear in most of the postcard views of Le Havre port from the early 1900s until the late 1920s - as in the view above, undated but probably from the 1920s.

Image courtesy of The Web Gallery of Impressionism
The Inner Harbor, Le Havre, by Camille Pissarro, 1903
Image courtesy of The Web Gallery of Impressionism

They are also depicted in many paintings by Impressionist artists, who appear to have congregated in Le Havre before and after the turn of the century. A typical example painted by that "father of the Impressionists," Camille Pissaro, in 1903 includes one of the characteristic tower lights.


La Nouvelle Digue - The New Dike, Le Havre, postcard view, PM 1927

Sadly, I've been unable to find any images of the port, wharves and quays which show railway carriages, or even areas clearly identifiable as railway sidings, although there were tramlines on some of the quays which serviced the ocean liners, I believe. However, I did find a 1927 (postmark) postcard depicting "La Nouvelle Digue" (or, The New Dike), which may well be where railway sidings were later built. The port was extensively damaged by bombing during the Second World War, so looking at modern photographs is probably no use at all.


Bassin des Torpilleurs, Brest, postcard view, PM 1912

None of the postcards I could find for Brest displayed such tower lights.


L'Entrée des Jetées, Cherbourg, postcard view, PM 1908

I did find a postcard view of the port at Brest with a similar tower light, but the design was sufficiently different to rule it out as a candidate for the Archangel's berth. While I can't rule out this particular quay being at some other as yet unidentified port, I think I can be fairly confident in saying that it's not either Cherbourg or Brest. If the Archangel only visited these three ports, then it was, in all likelihood, Le Havre.

I'm grateful to Bill Forster for permission to include the contents of his email and the the HMS Archangel photographs in this article. I have primarily aimed at demonstrating how the huge database of scenic images, in particular of old postcards, now available in various locations on the internet can be used to research and identify our own family photographs. Apart from the postcards for sale on various auction sites such as Delcampe and eBay, there are many web sites created by postcard enthusiasts. A little inventive searching will find the one with a particular focus that you're looking for.

If you haven't yet had your fill of reading about old photographs and postcards, the remainder of this week's Saturday sepians will no doubt have plenty more.
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