Victorian Mystery Solved

A very curious co-incidence

Some months ago, out of the blue, a Mrs Marina Lord contacted one of our committee members (Trevor C). She had found an old portrait photograph in a drawer of a house that she had bought in Failsworth. The card was a Victorian carte de visite from the late 19th century.

On the reverse of the card was the inscription “S Beverley, Church Street, Blackpool” (the photographer) along with two circular inscriptions proclaiming “Oldham Photographic Society, First Prize 1870” and “Oldham Photographic Society, First Prize 1871”.

S Beverley Cabinet Card


The obverse shows a profile view of a rather austere looking woman wearing a dark dress with bustle.

Photograph of unknown woman by S Beverley

No-one on the committee could shed any light on this at the time. However….I happened to meet a member of Stafford Photographic Society (Gillian Jones) whilst judging the Midland Club Championships in Leicester a few weeks ago. The following week I was actually booked to give a talk at Stafford PS and Gillian arrived with a gift for me. Gillian has had a number of Directories of Photographers published and it turned out that her gift was a copy of “Lancashire Professional Photographers 1840-1940.” The ISBN for this book is 0 9523011 5 6 and it is currently available from Amazon. It was a very kind gesture and I asked her to sign the book for me, which she was happy to do.

As soon as I got home I was keen to look up Mr Beverley of Blackpool and sure enough, there he was….with an address in Church Street Blackpool from 1879-1882 and 1885-1890 and again, with his son, from 1892-1895. But there was an earlier entry for Mr Beverley, at his premises in Yorkshire Street Oldham from 1869-1876, the time during which he won the first prize in our Oldham PS competition shortly after the formation of the Society in 1867. In the book there is also a reproduction of one of Beverley’s cards of slightly different design but also showing the OPS first prize stamps.

Oldham Photographic Society founded 1867

Oldham PS was founded by professional photographers and John (W) remembered that he had a photograph of the first page of the original minute book of the Society. Sure enough, there is to be found Mr Samuel Beverley, a founding member of Oldham PS and its first Treasurer. (Click the photo to read page).

Oldham PS first page of original minute book 1867

Marina Lord was very happy to donate her photograph to the Society and it now forms an important part of our history. The mystery is solved, well…partly. Did Mr Beverley move to Blackpool to live? Probably not. Many Lancashire photographers of the 19th Century (and beyond) took up premises in seaside resorts for the summer season. Mr Beverley may have continued to live in Oldham throughout this period.

Dating the photograph

My best estimate of the date of the photograph is 1881-1886, judging from the woman’s clothing style (style of bustle, tailored dress with tight sleeves ending in a ruffle) and hairstyle (tight and austere, drawn back from the face) added to the style and colour of the card mount and the style of the printing of it. I think, in fact, that it may be nearer to 1886 than 1881. I have seen another card in similar design from 1886-8 where the photographer also refers to himself as “artist” and where there is a dotted line for negative number on the reverse – perhaps that was a fashion at the time. There is a helpful web site Date an old Photograph which may help others to date family photographs and Fashion Era may help date photos by fashion.


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