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 tyhis 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 small house backing on to the Hammersmith and City railway between Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park stations.3
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
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.
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
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.
Once his composition was set and his exposure calculation done, taking a photo would have entailed the following:
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.
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.
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 on 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 suggest 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.
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
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
When I was looking up some old images for my brother's home area (The Dengie, Essex, twixt rivers Blackwater and Crouch), I came across this one by "Braddock of Hornsey", the picture overleaf being of Bradwell on Sea. This suggests that he roamed further afield. like another local postcard publisher, E.Gordon Smith of Stroud Green. The divide back on this Braddock card sets earliest date as 1902, when divided backs were first permitted in UK. Previously, only the address was allowed on the obverse of a card.
Thank you, Ken. I wonder how far and wide we can track old Alf?
This Bradwell on Sea card is presumably a real photo. The printed side: could they have been bought like this as unexposed photo papers, or done afterwards ? This then leaves the title on the front ( note it is numbered 792) and his Braddock name on the rear. Have these 2 been done with a handstamp ( like a John Bull printing set) ??
(Note from site admin: I've replaced the link to eBay with a copy of the picture, because it will be gone from eBay in a couple of weeks and leave in a dead link. At the time of writing, the image is hyperlinked to the eBay page, using the link provided by Gerry).
Yes, that '792' does suggest the vast number of Braddock images that remain to be identified.
I'd always assumed that the' John Bull' style lettering was added by eBay sellers to give cards a sense of age and authenticity. But Janet Owen at the HHS told me recently that it was Braddock's usual marking method.
My understanding of how photographers like Braddock produced postcards in the early 20th century was they bought postcard stock and printed real photos on to the front, rather than having them lithograph printed at a local printer. But I'm no expert.
From a quick peruse of internet, Braddock cards aren't showing up in any quantity. I'm wondering whether his excursions out of NE London were limited to southern Essex. I note an online description:"….. Original Real Photographic Postcard showing the Post Office and the villagers of Tillingham in Essex, in this wonderful animated scene, although the publisher is not stated, i can confirm that this superb photograph is by A Braddock of Hornsey in North London, as i have a couple of other Braddocks of Tilligham near to this number which is 776. Used in the post in 1905."
I looked myself last night and found a second CDV of a moustached man and a photo of a scene described as showing a British army officer in civilian dress with two of his men by Braddock of Hornsey.
The photo is most definitely unadulterated dry plate size/format. The back of that photo is interesting. I wonder if the writing is in Braddock's hand and I wonder what the piece of paper with the words Civilian dress is covering.
Using your tip on Tillingham this morning proved much more fruitful. In addition to the card you found (I take on Picclick), I found three more scans of Tillingham cards on eBay, which though unattributed look to be almost certainly to have been by the hand of Alfred Braddock.
PS: just did a similar search on Bradwell (as per your postcard) and found two more scans of cards of Bradwell that are almost certainly Braddocks. Thanks for the tips, Ken. This extends our sense of Braddock's works quite considerably.
Flushed with my success for Bradwell and Tillingham (thanks, Ken) , I had a look at other nearby towns and villages and came up with nothing. It could be that he just took a day trip out that way and took some photos of these two nearby villages. Or, it might be the case that, like most of the cards I found, there are a many more being Braddocks out there being sold unattributed.
I'm posting below the additional cards I found.
Aren't they just lovely village scenes!
Don't think I'd go with the "day-trip snaps" theory, though. Surely he'd want to sell them and the logical place to do so was in the locations pictured, though they're hardly popular resorts now, never mind 100+ years ago. The mystery remains as to why none are apparent of other settlements in the area, especially Southminster, Burnham and Maldon.
You're probably right about the notion of a day-trip. (And, yes, I checked all those places and came up blank).
It would also surprise me if he never went home and photographed Martham.
I've just learned from Peter Dawson who runs the Martham website that Martham had its own photographer, Albert Alfred Francis (1844 - 1932 - see comment below for date correction), the exact same lifespan as Braddock (which got me checking whether Francis was a pseudonym used by Braddock in his hometown. I can't find any evidence to support that though).
So, assuming that Albert Francis was a real person, in this tiny village he and Alfred must have grown up together and known each other. Perhaps they were even fast friends. I have to wonder whether they even explored or photography together, or dreamed together about one day becoming a photographer.
Re Albert Alfred Francis, I note from FamilySearch that he was listed in Martham electoral roll in 1913 and 1914. Lifespan given as 1832-1915
[your comment 8 to which this responds, seems to have used up reply facility!]