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Alfred Braddock – a commercial photographic surveyor and recorder of Victorian Hornsey

Many of the images we have from the late Victorian and early Edwardian period of Hornsey Borough come from the lens of commercial photographer Alfred Braddock.

Braddock’s photographic career started as photography technology was evolving rapidly, making photography in the field much easier and more affordable. Much of his work was a response to the dizzying pace of change all about him. The resulting portfolio of work provides a precious record of a world that was fast vanishing.

East Anglian Roots

Alfred Braddock was born in 1844 in the Norfolk Broads village of Martham. Both his father, James, and grandfather, William, were thatchers and farmers. Both were apparently men of some means. Just a couple of years before Alfred was born, his father was recorded as owning more than four acres of land and his grandfather 15 acres.1 It is possible that some of this was used for growing the wheat and reeds used for thatching.

By the time of the 1871 census, James was described as a farmer with his landholding increased sixfold to 23 acres.

Fig. 1: James Braddock’s cottage (left) on 'The Green' in the centre of Martham, most probably Alfred’s birthplace. After the Braddocks lived in this house, it was bought by the Chapman family, as in this photo of 1912. The house in the period of the Braddock's stewardship was only the thatched portion on the left.(Image source: see footnote 1)

Arrival in London

Despite his father’s increasing prosperity, Alfred apparently didn't want to carry on in the rural environment of thatching and farming. At some point in the 1860s, he moved up to London. In 1871, he was working as a buyer for R. J. Winter Linen drapers in Goodge Street. The census of that year shows that he was one of 46 employees. As the photo below shows, Winter’s was not a small undertaking.

Fig. 2: By the early twentieth century, Winter’s Drapery Market occupied four buildings just to the west of Charlotte Place. In 1871, only the further two were occupied by Winter’s. All four buildings are still standing today.

In 1872, Braddock married Pimlico tailor’s daughter Emily Scott in Bromley, East London. In the census taken in the year prior to their wedding, Emily had been working as a sewing machinist, living with her father's family in a working class area of Pimlico between a distillery and the Belgrave Dock. Both Emily and Alfred are recorded on the marriage certificate as residing in Bromley, East London at the time of marriage.2

In 1874, their son Victor was born in Wandsworth. He was baptised the following year in Kensington. On Victor's baptism certificate, Braddock's occupation is given as draper's assistant. By 1877, the family were at 86 Acklam Road, North Kensington, in a house backing on to the Hammersmith and City railway between Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park stations.3 It is interesting to note that their son’s baptism was performed along with that of young Alfred Moore, a carpenter’s son whose parents shared the same address as the Braddocks.

Move North of the River

Through the 1880s, the Braddocks seem to have lived a somewhat unsettled life, moving quite frequently from one address to another. By the start of the decade, they had arrived in north London and were living at 15 Broughton Road, Stoke Newington.5

Fig. 3: Number 19 Broughton Road in 1909

A year later, the couple had moved down to Hackney where they were living at 24 Chatsworth Road. In the premises beneath their flat, Emily had established a fancy stationery shop.5

At this point, Alfred was still working in the drapery trade, with his occupation given in the 1881 census as lace buyer. A few years later, he was selling photography. It is a distinct possibility that by the start of the decade, Alfred had started taking photos as a hobby and perhaps tried selling a few in Emily’s store. Once he found that they were popular, we might speculate that he decided to try his hand at photography as a business. As we’ll see, like it or not, poor Emily seems to have apparently been sidelined in the process.

In 1883 or 84, the family moved to 10 Clapton Place South. Braddock had apparently given up his drapery career to run a photography business from 6 Lower Clapton Place.6 It seems likely that these changes had been enabled by an inheritance following his father’s death in 1879. We know that the funds were probably made available by the 1880 sale of some or all of his father’s land.

Fig. 4: Norfolk News 19th June 1880

By the mid 1880s, Braddock had started taking and selling photographs of Hackney. His work quickly got noticed and got a number of mentions in the local press. Most notably was the following piece in the Hackney Mercury and North London Herald.

Fig. 5: Hackney Mercury And North London Herald, July 25, 1885

In another short piece about Clapton Pond in the Hackney and Kingsland Gazette in the same year (18 March 1885), a journalist praised Braddock’s work. In a parenthetical comment, he wrote, “Mr Braddock has admirably photographed (the pond), together with many another interesting ‘bit’ of our borough”.

There is no trace of Emily's stationery business after the move from Chatsworth Road. Perhaps she became his assistant, attending the photography business shop whilst Alfred roamed about town with his camera.

Developments in Photography

It is no coincidence that Braddock’s start in photography came at the exact time that technology opened the activity to a much wider audience. Early photography called for much heavy equipment and for processes which meant that street photography was difficult at best. The earliest type of photos, Daguerreotypes, required an exposure of around twenty minutes. By the early 1840, the new wet plate collodion technology had reduced that time to about twenty seconds. But the photographer still needed to prepare, expose, and develop his photographic plates within 10-15 minutes. For field photography, this meant carting around a mobile darkroom on a cart.

Dry plate, or gelatin technology, developed in the 1870s, was far more practical and it simplified the process of taking photographs enormously, particularly for landscape and street photography. The development meant that it was no longer necessary to travel, carrying a dark tent or with a cart or coach converted to enable the plates to be prepared immediately before taking photographs and to be processed immediately after.

Fig. 6: A late Victorian advert for dry plates, mocking the cumbersome technology that had just been made obsolete

The new technology also significantly reduced exposure times to just a few seconds and, in some cases to fractions of a second.

Dry plates were bought ready-prepared and, unlike wet plates, could be stored for several weeks or months before exposure and development. By the end of 1878, four English manufacturers, were offering photographic dry-plates for sale.

Fig. 7: A box of dry plates made by the company set up by the inventor of the dry-plate process, Charles Bennett. Many of these boxes have survivedbecause they were commonly used for long-term storage of the plates following exposure.

Braddock’s entry into photography also coincided with the emergence of a new social movement. During the second half of the nineteenth century people had begun to question the social and environmental changes brought about by industrialisation and urbanisation. Concern about these issues led to the emergence of societies for the preservation of the natural environment, architecture, and monuments. One such movement was the photographic record and survey movement.

The leading group in this movement was the National Photographic Record (NPRA) who used photography to create an historical record for the national good, using a purely volunteer workforce. Two of its leading lights were Crouch Enders, father and son George and Edgar Scammell, whose work has been covered previously on HoL.

Beyond august bodies such as the NPRA, there were many amateur groups conducting photographic survey work including those such as the North Middlesex Photographic Society. Based in Hornsey, a large proportion of the society’s photos represented the local area. The NMPS collection included a set of photos of Harringay Park.7

Others involved in photographic survey work were private individuals and commercial photographers. Braddock fits in to the last grouping. We can only guess at his motivations: whilst we know that he produced multiple copies of his pictures for sale, it is also likely that he was driven by some of the same recording passion as the wider survey movement.

Braddock in Hackney

Fig. 8: ;One of Braddock’s earlier photos, Builders in Clapton Passage, 1884 (very close to where the Braddocks lived for a short while)

By late 1889, Braddock was trading from 153 Clarence Road in Hackney.8 At some point, he also apparently ran his business from, and possibly lived at, 221 Dalston Lane, but a date has not as yet been pinned down.

A photograph from this last address shows that Braddock had also started offering studio photography in the 1880s, no doubt to supplement his income. Studio photography had also developed quickly after 1886 when the burning of magnesium powder came into general use. Because this reduced exposure times to mere seconds, the development did away with the need for sitters to remain stock still for long periods. This more amenable experience brought a huge increase in the popularity of studio photography.

Two collections of Braddock's Hackney survey-type photos came into the possession of Hackney Archives through good luck and determination. The first was found in a skip in south London and purchased from an antique dealer. The second was purchased from a dealer at Cheltenham racecourse.9

Fig. 9: Man in uniform, Braddock, probably 1880s

Although Braddock had moved from, he continued to visit the area and photograph  Mare Street, the Lea and Stamford Hill until as late as 1907.

Move to Wood Green and Hornsey

By 1890, the Braddocks had moved out of Hackney and up to 98 Alexandra Road, close to the junction with Wood Green High Road. Alfred was 45, Emily 40 and their son Victor was 16.10 Like his neighbour at the other end of the road, Charles Casbon, Alfred gave his occupation in the census of that year as Artist in Photography. This seems to have been a common epithet, no doubt employed in an effort to borrow the aura of the art world and to confer a sense of accomplishment and respectability.

Uncharacteristically, Braddock remained at Alexandra Road for almost twenty years. Then in 1910, he moved to 8 Campsbourne Road for a couple of years, before relocating for a year or two to 120 Turnpike Lane, opposite Wightman Road.

Braddock's Camera Equipment

Braddock probably became a familiar site during his most active field photography period whilst based at Alexandra Road. Although, he wouldn’t have been burdened with the range of equipment required prior to the late 1870s, the ‘portable’ cameras of the late nineteenth century were still formidable beasts. The most compact it might have been would be like the late nineteenth century field camera pictured below.

Fig. 10: Field camera from the late nineteenth century.

Once the camera was set up, Braddock took great care in composing his photo, something at which he is considered to have had a good level of skill. Many of his photos also included groups of people. It is still no easy task for a photographer today to marshal groups for a photo. What with all the excitement attached to photography in the late nineteenth century, one can imagine that it may well have been like herding cats.

Once everything was in place, Braddock would have had to calculate the exposure time. For a typical shot this would have been between a fraction of a second and a few seconds. The slide-rule type piece of equipment from the 1890s, pictured below, allowed photographers to make precise calculations. The exposure time scale on the ruler runs from 0.06 to 60 seconds.

Fig. 11: Actinograph exposure calculator from c1890


Once his composition was set and his exposure calculation done, taking a photo would have entailed the following:

  1. Putting the dry plate, in its plate holder, into a camera.
  2. Sliding the cover from the plate holder, to uncover the dry plate.
  3. Uncovering then re-covering the lens.
  4. Sliding the cover on the plate holder back over the dark slide.
  5. Removing the plate holder from the camera and taking it to the studio for processing.

Hornsey Portfolio

About eighty of Braddock’s photos of Hornsey Borough survive, either as photo prints or postcards. His earliest known work in Hornsey is dated 1890; the latest from 1908.11

His most photographed locations are Hornsey High Street and Priory Road. About a quarter of the surviving images are of the High Street, including four of St Mary’s church, and about a half dozen each of shops and pubs. Most of the latter two categories include large groups of people gathered outside. There are fourteen surviving images of Priory Road, including two of the Warner Estate roads. Beyond these two main areas of focus, there are a half dozen of Tottenham Lane, four of Nightingale Lane and Tavern and one of Hillfield Avenue.

There is a small selection of Braddock photos on HoL. But the Hornsey Historical Society hold the main collection, a handful of which are available online.

Below is one of the latest known surviving Braddock photos. When used for postcards, like this one, preprinted standard size postcard backs were used. This was different from the size of the dry plate images. So a common practice was to crop the images, which is why, I suspect, we see Braddock postcard with rounded corners.

Fig. 12: Braddock took a number of photos of snowy scenes, including this one of St Mary's Church, Hornsey High Street, 1908

Beyond Hornsey, thirteen photos survive of Muswell Hill, eight of Crouch End, six of Harringay, including one of Turnpike Lane (probably the one showing his house at number 120), six of Highgate and one of Tottenham. A good number of his Hackney images have also survived.

In addition to his field photography, Braddock continued to do studio work. Below is a copy of a carte de visite (CDV) photo I have recently acquired. Apart from its local connection, I rather like the relative informality of the photo.

Fig. 13: Man and girl carte de visite, Braddock & son, c 1890

The carte de visite craze, probably deserves another article all of its own. Suffice it to say for the present, that the late Victorian mania for collecting CDVs of friends and family was certainly very much appreciated by photographers like Alfred.

As the legend at the bottom of this charming carte de visite shows, for some of the period that Alfred was working in Hornsey, his son Victor was also helping to run the business. This was for a relatively short period, however. On census day, 31st March, 1901 Victor was recorded as a photographic artist, living at the family home. But, very sadly, three months later, aged just 26, Victor died, cause unknown. We can imagine that Alfred and Emily were devastated.

Later Life

Despite his son's death Braddock carried on working. In 1910, he and Emily moved to 8 Campsbourne Road and a year later to 120 Turnpike Lane, opposite the junction with Wightman Road.12 After 1911, Braddock vanishes from the records for a couple of years before popping up again in 1914, living on the Noel Park Estate in Wood Green, at 40 Vincent Road.

At around this period, there was another significant life event for Alfred. In September 1912, just over a decade after losing his only child, his wife Emily died, aged just 61. Alfred must have been left feeling totally bereft.

At Vincent Road, he apparently lived a more modest life, occupying only half of a relatively small house. The other half, downstairs I suspect, was occupied by piano teacher, Mrs Edwards.13

The latest known surviving Braddock photos are from 1908. However, his photography business was listed at Vincent Road until 1924, when Braddock was eighty. I assume that he was still working until that point, if perhaps somewhat irregularly.

He remained in the upstairs flat at Vincent Road above Mrs Edwards, until his death in 1932, aged 88.

It is difficult to read too much into such a sketchy personal history as the one we have for Alfred, most especially when we have no access to his thoughts or first-hand reports of him. But it’s not unreasonable to speculate. I find myself imagining Alfred as a young man in a fast-changing world, drawn to London, then the centre of so much that was happening in the world. His father would have perhaps had sufficient means to lend a little support and he possibly used local connections to secure Alfred's drapery role.14

I wonder if Braddock became quickly disillusioned with his drapery career. Perhaps he took up photography as a hobby, enjoyed it and realised that it might be possible to run a photography business. However, he was only one of many young men who were doing the same and so competition was no doubt fierce.

He found a niche with his survey-record style photos and supplemented it with studio work. But from the facts we know, it doesn't appear that it was a career that allowed him to accumulate any wealth or improve his circumstances.

In his mid-fifties, he lost his only child and his wife died when he was 65. He then moved into the upstairs flat of a small terraced house in a more downmarket part of town.15 Perhaps he sat upstairs alone looking out of the window across Vincent Road, listening to Mrs Edwards give lessons to the latest tone-deaf child as they plonked away at her piano, all the time missing his wife and son. Or, perhaps he was quite happy living alone in his flat, and contentedly busied himself with his photography, relishing the move to celluloid film and happy to run his business until the age of eighty.

Either way, Hornsey and Hackney salute him for his work and I’m sure that many people are thankful for the precious moments of history he captured.

Thank you, Alf.


1. Biographical data from 1851 census and 1852 baptism record. Family land holdings data from the 1842 Martham Tithe awards via Peter Dawsons wonderfully detailed record of Martham, the Martham Norfolk website. My thanks to Peter Dawson for supplying the photo used in Fig. 1 and for his kind permission to use it above.

2. According to the information given on their marriage certificate.

Emily's address on the 1871 census was Cambridge Terrace. This was in an area of Pimlico, near to Belgrave Dock and the now long vanished wharves on the banks of the Thames. Just nearby was the Royal Army Clothing Depot. One wonders if Emily was working for her father or at this factory, or one like it.

3. My thanks to Gerry N for digging up the baptism record which shows this address. The site of 86 Acklam Road now lies under the Westway (A40). The terraces of small houses in that road and the neighbouring ones were swept away in the middle of the last century, to be replaced by public housing.

The Hammersmith & City railway had opened in 1864. When it opened, Ladbroke Grove Railway Station was named Notting Hill Station.it was renamed Notting Hill & Ladbroke Grove in 1880 and Ladbroke Grove (North Kensington) on 1 June 1919.

4. Residence address from Kelly's Directory for Northern Suburbs of London, 1880. Broughton Road is now called Barbauld Road. It was completely redeveloped in the mid / late 20th Century. The only Victorian building that survives is the Londesborough Arms public house, now at no. 36.

5. Residence address from 1881 census. Shop information from Post Office Home Counties Directory (Middlesex), 1881 and 1882. In this directory Emily was listed as 'Mrs Emily Scott'. There was no listing for any year prior to 1881. Fancy stationers sold gifts and greetings cards and other items along with traditional stationery goods. A search on the internet suggests that whilst the term has fallen out of use in the UK, it is still widely used in the Indian subcontinent.

6. Residence address from electoral register for St John at Hackney, Dist No 5, Hackney Ward

The business listing from Post Office London Suburban Directory, 1884. In my research I have come across a couple of references to Braddock's business at this stage having been a tobacconist and stationer. However, there is nothing to verify this nicotinic adjunct, nor even the continuation of the stationery trade. In the directory, his business is given as simply photographer. Next door, at 6a, was William Hutchinson, Confectioner.

I can find no trace of Clapton Place on the mid or late nineteenth century Ordnance Survey maps. But we know from the directory listing that it was bisected by Clapton Square and its location was qualified as being near Mare Street.

7. The NMPS photos for Harringay Park were once in my possession but have since handed to the Hornsey Historical Society. Before the set came to me, it had included a photo of Harringay House. This however, disappeared due to a period of lax stewardship by the Haringey library service towards to end of the last century. Some of the NMPS photos of Harringay were reproduced on HoL back in 2007.

8. Address from 1889 electoral register for Hackney, No 2 Central Division - No 3 The Hackney Downs Polling District.

9. National Archives on the Hackney Braddock Negatives.

10. Residence address and biographical data from 1891 census. Before the renumbering in the 1890s, the house was known as 3 Adelaide Villas. Kelly's Middlesex dirceoty for 11890 also lists Braddock at 3 Alexandra Villas.

11. There is one photo held in the archives which has been given a date of 1876. I have not had a chance to check this date, but I suspect that either the date or the photographer may not be correct. To the best of my knowledge, Braddock was not active in photography until 1880, by which time dry-plate technology was available.

12. Residence address from Kelly's Directory, Hornsey 1910-1911 and 1911 census.

13. Death Information from Death Index, July - August, 1912. Vincent Road residene and biographical infomration from Kelly's Directory, Wood Green, 1914.

14.The census records of 1871 listed him below another Norfolk boy and the manager of the business was also from Norfolk.

15. By 1901, records show that the Braddocks were letting a room to a 22 year plumber. In 1911, rooms had been let to two, apparently unrelated pensioners. The fact they had lodgers probably bears some testament to the couple’s financial circumstances. I suspect it was this income that allowed the Braddocks to live in more comfortable houses. Moreover, that it was probably Emily who managed that side of things. I suspect Alfred had no patience or interest in it, after Emily’s death, which might explain his move to Vincent Road.

Sources used for Photographic History

The Camera as Historian: Amateur Photographers and Historical Imagination, 1885-1918, Edwards, Elizabeth, Duke University Press, 201

The Science Museum Blog https://blog.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/a-brief-guide-to-photogra...

Adam Mathew Publications http://www.ampltd.co.uk/digital_guides/photography_prt1_2/local_his...

New York Public Library https://www.nypl.org/collections/nypl-recommendations/guides/photog...

History of Photography and Photojournalism , Ross Collins North Dakota State University

National Museums of Scotland, Victorian photographic techniques - https://www.nms.ac.uk/explore-our-collections/stories/science-and-t...

Edin Photo Dry Plates - http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/1_early/1_early_photography_-_processes...

Tamino Autographs, Old Photographs: The Evolution of Photographic Formats, https://www.taminoautographs.com/blogs/autograph-blog/old-photograp...

Science + Media Musem, Colin HardingHow to Spot a Carte de Visite https://blog.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/find-out-when-a-photo-was...

Faking it: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop Mia Fineman, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012

Spartacus Educational, A History of Photography in Brighton, https://spartacus-educational.com/Brighton-Photographers.htm

Brayebrook Observatory, Photographic Exposure Calculation - A History, Chris Lord, https://www.brayebrookobservatory.org/BrayObsWebSite/HOMEPAGE/PHOTO...

The Light Farm, Gelatin Dry Plate Photography, Denise Ross, http://www.thelightfarm.com/Map/Books/cim/MapTopic.htm

A World History of Photography, 4th Ed, 2007 by Naomi Rosenblum

Historic Camera History Librarium, “Gelatin Dry Plate Process, http://www.historiccamera.com/cgi-bin/librarium/pm.cgi?action=displ...

Encyclopedia Britannica, History of Photography, “Development of the Dry Plate,”http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/457919/history-of-photogr...

John Werge, The Project Gutenburg eBook, The Evolution of Photography, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/38866/38866-h/38866-h.htm – Page_95

History of Photography Podcasts, class lectures with Jeff Curto from College of DuPage http://photohistory.jeffcurto.com

First Dibs https://www.1stdibs.com/furniture/more-furniture-collectibles/antiq...

Sources used for Postcard History

Postcard Types : Real Photographic. https://sunnyfield.co.uk/dayspast/types_real_photo.php

Real Photographic v Printed Postcards, https://postcard.co.uk/beginners_9.php

How to Identify and Date Real Photo Vintage Postcards, https://www.playle.com/realphoto/

Guide to real photo postcards, http://www.metropostcard.com/guiderealphoto.html

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Replies to This Discussion

Could be, John. Thanks. It would be something new though as I'm not aware of him having used that style of personal branding elsewhere.

The bare trees outside St Mary’s church Hornsey - image dated April 1904 - seem to show Spring arriving rather later in those days, or in that year at least.

This card has the caption flavour of a Braddock, a repro of an old print. However does anyone recognise it as a Hornsey scene?  That appears to be a bridge over a weir and the tall buildings have a mill feeling about them. Bearing in mind that Braddock came from Norfolk and had Dengie Essex connections, as yet unexplained, would it be scurrilous to suggest that Alfie might have reproduced a nostalgic litho of an East Anglian scene, on the basis that the customers won't know any different?

I expect someone will now point out a blindingly obvious Hornsey locale depicted that any fule kno - except me!

I agree, Ken. I don't think it's Hornsey.

A quick photoshop to change the juxtaposition of elements of Beeleigh Abbey, nr Maldon, as an example of a possible scene in Essex somewhere else?

Another Braddock: View across Priory Road from The Elms (now the TA Drill Hall)

Here's a photo of Sutton Lodge from Braddock's Hackney days. The building was at the end of Sutton Place. According to British History Online/WIkipedia, it was built as Hackney Proprietary grammar school and opened in 1830. By 1850, after declining numbers it was merged with the Church of England grammar school and the building was converted for use as a private house. By 1915, it was in use by MacEwan & Son timber merchants. In the 1950's the house was demolished and replaced by a factory for Metal Box, That too has now gone to be replaced by housing.

At the time of the photo, the residents were a Rev Reid W and Mrs Sarah Baker. Previously, it was the home of Vicar Benjamin F Smith. So I assume it was owned by the neighbouring St John's Church. In the 1850s, it had been lived in by a Wilmer Harris, who I think was in business. So perhaps the church acquired it after his death

Below is the school in 1835, with St John's Church behind it .(Image Public domain, Hackney Archives, via Wikipedia)

And next is the Metal Box Factory in the foreground on the left, looking down Sutton Place. The single storey building was erected in the first decade of the last century, perhaps when it was put into use as a timber merchant's yard.

I see that a Braddock such as you've used to illustrate your New River saga is up on ebay just now. Might we presume that the lady on the back is wife or daughter of the NRC patrolman?


Love the description of the photo,

Man Horse Riding Hunting Competition Hornsey Livery Photo Hunter

I assume that the appearance of the photo of the woman in the seller's photo stack is a mistake.

Seller's description says it's a photo stuck to the back

Aha. So, yes then, I suppose we might assume a relationship of some sort, then.



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