Sometimes I come across something on Ebay that really excites me. Just a couple of weeks ago I spent the best part of thirty quid on a collection of 66 cartes de visite and cabinet cards barely held together by a falling apart album of very questionable taste – just to get hold of a single image that definitely isn’t worth £30. But I didn’t care, firstly because the collection belonged to a Leicester family whose tree I have been growing from the tiny acorn of a single named and dated photograph, and secondly because the cabinet card I wanted is perfect. Here is all about it.
The photographer is L. Norman of Clarendon Studio, Montague Road, Clarendon Park. The card stock (dark green), the gold bevelled edge, the studio name in gold all point to a picture taken during the early 1890s. The image is of a little girl in an outfit that almost certainly isn’t hers, and it’s not a very good image either – too much light in the top right hand corner and the little girl’s black- stockinged legs disappear in the gloom behind her. However that really awful vase and feather are beautifully clear.
A trip to Leicestershire Records Office told me quite a bit about Leonard. Leonard was born in Knighton village in 1870 and after school began work, as so many did, as a shoe clicker. He moved to 28 Montague Road in 1893 (shortly after his marriage to Elizabeth Carter) and 30 Montague Road – the most likely premises for “Clarendon Studio” in 1897. I suspect he occupied both 28 and 30 Montague Road between 1893 and 1907, when he moved to 51 Montague Road. None of the street directories of the period described Leonard Norman as a photographer, in fact his first entry is in Wright’s Directory of Leicestershire in 1906, at 30 Montague Road, as a “picture framer.”
- 30 Montague Road. It is still fairly apparent that this was once a shop premises
The 1901 census described him as “shopkeeper and picture framer.” Picture framing and photography often went together at this time, for obvious reasons. Leonard’s last directory entry was in 1912, but by this time he had already returned to his previous work as a shoe clicker so either the entry was out of date or Leonard was only working as a framer in his spare time. I wonder how seriously Leonard took the photography side of his business, and how successful it was. Clearly not all that successful – I feel quite sorry for him.
I am fairly confident that I will be able to find out the name of the little girl in the picture, as long as she was related to the Hughes family of Thornton Lane, Leicester, whence my album originated – and I think she must have been. So you can see why I was so excited to get hold of that tatty album. Regards, Elizabeth.