Attingham’s WWI Stories

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Hello readers of the Attingham Mansion Blog!

We thought that you might like to take a peek at our new blog, Attingham WWI Stories. Here is a link to the blog homepage: http://attinghamww1stories.wordpress.com/

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Attingham WWI Stories has posts giving exciting insights into what was happening at Attingham and in the lives of the 8th Lord and Lady Berwick during the First World War. Posts appear monthly and show what was going on that same month 100 years ago. Based on research into letters and documents of the war years, each post will include quotes and photographs from the time.

During WWI, Attingham was tenanted by the Dutch-American Van Bergen family. The outbreak of the war found the family planning to give part of the house as a military hospital, which opened in October 1914. By 1918 there were 60 beds and an operating theatre.

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During the war years, Thomas, 8th Lord Berwick, served in the Shropshire Yeomanry and as a diplomat in Paris. He had met Teresa Hulton, later the 8th Lady Berwick, before the war and continued to correspond with her throughout the war. They were married in June 1919 and began a new chapter in Attingham’s history when they came to live together on the estate.

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Teresa had grown up amongst elegant and artistic surroundings in Venice. When the war broke out she was visiting relatives in England, where she found work helping Belgian refugees who had fled to London, and translating secret documents. When Italy joined the war in May 1915, Teresa returned to Italy to work for the Red Cross. She was stationed at Cervignano, near the Italian Front Line, where she worked as a nurse and at a soldiers’ canteen.

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The mass of letters and photographs that Teresa brought with her to Attingham after her marriage provide an invaluable resource into life during WWI and they will be the main focus of the blog posts.

To make sure that you don’t miss an episode, please sign up to get the monthly posts sent automatically by clicking the ‘Follow’ button and entering your e-mail address.

Our WWI exhibition entitled The Great War for Civilisation is available to view daily from 10am in the Attingham Park Stables.

Bursting at the Seams

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Costume is a very evocative part of any collection. It provides a very personal insight into the lives of the individuals who wore them, and can often be linked to key phases in their lives. An example of this that we have mentioned before is our collection of 1953 Coronation Robes, which we were able to reproduce and have on display for the ‘Hidden Lives: Royalty, Glamour and War’ exhibition. In contrast with this formal costume though, the pieces in this blog are from a more light-hearted occasion exemplifying the 8th Lord Berwick’s playful side.

The coronation robes on display as part of our Hidden Lives exhibition.

The coronation robes on display as part of our Hidden Lives exhibition.

As alluded to in previous posts, the 8th Lord and Lady were fond of dressing up. We have multiple photographs showing some of the many occasions upon which they donned their glad rags for a do. The particular costume and occasion in this blog however are from before the marriage of the 8th Lord and Lady.

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8th Lord Berwick and Hon. Mrs. Henry Brougham 3rd Baron Brougham and Vaux, Royal Albert Hall, 1910

From the dating and description of this portrait in our archives, we have been able to deduce that the event in question was probably the Chelsea Arts Club Ball in 1910. The Chelsea Arts Club Ball was held on New Year’s Eve, and was generally a theme based costume event. The Ball was described as ‘the most scandalous event on the social calendar’, although as a man in his early twenties it may not be unusual that the 8th Lord attended such an event. The photo, visible above, shows the 8th Lord in costume along with Diana Brougham, née Stunt, wife of Hon. Henry Brougham 3rd Baron Brougham and Vaux.

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We are fortunate to still possess nearly all of the components of this costume and with some details of its origin (also visible on the National Trust Collections Website). The set of hat, jacket, coat, and breeches are attributed to the costume designers and suppliers B.J. Simmons and Co. of Covent Garden, London.  B.J. Simmons and Co. designed and produced theatrical costumes between 1889 and 1959, further examples of their work can be seen via this link.

Staff and Interns - Halloween 2013

Staff Halloween Costumes 2013

Lord and Lady Berwick wearing fancy dress in the Picture Gallery c. 1923

Lord and Lady Berwick wearing fancy dress in the Picture Gallery c. 1923

The quality of this Russian style costume, as well as the others which we are aware of – the Medieval Pageant at Ludlow and the 1780s formal wear – demonstrate a certain dedication to fancy dress. A dedication that I doubt many of us could match with our own fancy dress or Halloween costumes, although I doubt we have the same budget. Regardless, these items and photos give us an insight into the Berwicks’ private and social lives, and greatly help us to better understand and connect with them and their story.

Lifting in the steel!

Last week we took delivery of the crane, which will now be in residence on the East Side of the Mansion until August.  There was much excitement as the crane boom seemed to rise from a very compact area to extend to its full length.

The crane being unpacked and the boom extended

The crane being unpacked and the boom extended

The crane being unpacked and the boom extended

The crane being unpacked and the boom extended

To many visitors’ amusement a man was soon seen dangling from the the crane as the engineers calibrated the weight and lifting.

View of the crane from the Outer Courtyard of the fully extended crane.

View of the fully extended crane from the Outer Courtyard.

The crane is here to lift the steel components of the new roof as well as the aluminum gutters, outer lantern for the Nash Staircase and the glass.  In order to keep the crane steady there are 50 tonnes of concrete blocks providing ballast.  You can see them best through the Boudoir window.

The crane has a ballast of 50 tonnes of concrete

The crane has a ballast of 50 tonnes of concrete

It takes great skill and a large team to get the steel from the secure compound on the East Side of the Mansion, right over the top of the building to its final resting place in the centre.

 

The crane lifting some of the steel at the front of the Mansion.

The crane lifting some of the steel at the front of the Mansion.

The crane driver moving the crane around and over the Mansion.

The crane driver moving the crane around and over the Mansion.

The steel being lowered into position after being moved from outside of the Mansion into the center.

The steel being lowered into position after being moved from outside of the Mansion into the centre.

One of my favorite roles is the ‘Slinger Banksman’ – a strange title, but actually really important!  The Slinger Banksman is responsible for the ensuring the safety in crane rigging and slinging operations, where he selects and attaches the lifting gear to the load to ensure a safe and secure lifting operation.

The Slinger Banksman is the one in the orange vest.  Steel being lowered into its final location.

The Slinger Banksman and the crane driver are the ones in the orange vests. Steel being lowered into its final location.

Steel being secured in location.

Steel being secured in location.

Some interesting facts!

  • The crane acts like a weather vane – it knows which way the wind is blowing and moves to accommodate the weather, this is very disconcerting if you see it move after the crane driver goes home!
  • The steel structure on its own weighs 8 tonnes. When the glass and aluminum gutters are added, it will weigh a total of
    20 tonnes
  • The total length of the structural steel components is approximately 330m, that’s a 1/3 of a kilometre (or 11 blue whales lined up tail to tail!).
  • The new roof is 133 square metres or 1200 square feet.  There will be 52 panes of glass, none of which are square,
    ranging in size from 0.75m to 2.5m wide x 1.5m to 2m long.

All the photos in this post were taken by our lovely Volunteer Roof Photographers Richard and Angela Knisely-Marpole.

Glittering Gilding

The high level gilding in the Nash Staircase which would have surrounded the inner skylight has been painted over.  When we were able to get up to have a look, tantalizingly you could still see tiny gold glimpses in the cracks of the paint.

Glimpses of the over painted gilding visible under the cracking paint.

Glimpses of the over painted gilding visible under the cracking paint.

Paint analysis showed that there would have been two bands of gilding on the inner and outer edges of the moulded oculus with the middle section painted in the pink glaze, linking to the fish scales in the dome.

Paint analysis revealing hints of the paint schemes that were there before.

Paint analysis revealing hints of the paint schemes that were there before.

As any attempt to clean the paint-over section resulted in the gilding underneath being removed too, it was decided to redecorate and re-gild this feature.

Gilding is the art of applying thin leaves and foils of precious metals to a surface to give the appearance of a solid or inlaid metal.  The process used has changed little since antiquity.

Showing how thin and fragile the gold leaf is.

Showing how thin and fragile the gold leaf is.

Preparation is the key to good gilding.  The timber used must be sound, free from dust, dirt and grease and well seasoned.  The surface is first primed with a coat of hot rabbit skin size to seal the surface.  Any joints, knots or cracks are strengthened with a layer of cloth.

The gold leaf can be cut and transferred to the work area in a number of ways.  The gilder quite often uses a leather ‘cushion': they open the book of gold leaf and transfer a page quickly to the leather, so that it is flat and ready for cutting.  Professional gilders will usually empty several sheets onto the back of the cushion, select a sheet from the pile, carry it to the front of the cushion and lay it flat with a puff of air.

Blowing the leaf onto the cushion to make it lie flat.

Blowing the leaf onto the cushion to make it lie flat.

Gold is cut and picked up from the cushion and transferred to the brush by firstly drawing the brush across your hair neck and face so that it picks up the natural body oils, but it can’t be too greasy or it will not release the gilding and the leaf will be torn.

Cutting the gilding ready to be picked up by the brush and applied to the size.

Cutting the gilding ready to be picked up by the brush and applied to the size.

Picking up the gilding with a brush.

Picking up the gilding with a brush.

There are two techniques of gilding, water and oil.  We used oil gilding for the Nash Staircase dome.  In this technique the gold is brushed onto a surface prepared with gold size onto a non absorbent area and waiting for the right stage of tackiness.  Gold size is linseed oil which has been heated with a drying agent, traditionally lead oxide.  We used a yellow coloured size to make it easy to see the area where the gold is to be applied and it also enhances the appearance of the gold.

The upper and lower band painted in the coloured size ready for the gold leaf to be applied.

The upper and lower band painted in the coloured size ready for the gold leaf to be applied.

The gold is then pressed onto the size and finally the excess is removed by a soft brush (skewing in).

Brushing the gilding onto the size.  At this point the gilding looks rough.

Brushing the gilding onto the size. At this point the gilding looks rough.

Brushing the gilding on.

Brushing the gilding on.

Smoothing the gilding using a soft brush ().  The pot is to catch the loose leaf as it falls.

Smoothing the gilding using a soft brush (skewing in). The pot is to catch the loose leaf as it falls.

Finished gilding.

Finished gilding.

All the photos is this post were taken by our lovely Volunteer Roof Photographers Richard and Angela Knisely-Marpole.

Pretty in Pink

The fish scales in the Nash Staircase have for the last few months been undergoing a careful cleaning and repair regime.  There are 11,550 of them in total, each being applied individually and with great accuracy. They are arranged in 42 rows graded from a width of 23/4 inches at the bottom to 13/8 at the top, with 275 scales in each row.

The dirty scales taken while the internal scaffold was being installed.

The dirty scales, taken while the internal scaffolding was being installed.

The cleaning of the scales has made a huge difference and shown how dirty all these inaccessible surfaces have become.   The scales were carefully cleaned using de-ionised water and cotton wool swabs.

Cleaning begins on the fish scales.  You can also see the difference cleaning makes on the fluted walls and gilding.

Cleaning begins on the fish scales. You can also see the difference cleaning makes on the fluted walls and gilding.

The resulting green tinged off-white colour of the cleaned scales created an unfortunate contrast with the cleaned dark red of the the fluted walls. Paint analysis showed that the scales had been painted three times since construction.

Peeling away the paint layers - a scale undergoing paint analysis.

Peeling away the paint layers – a scale undergoing paint analysis.

The original scheme gave a translucent pinkish brown glaze caused by probably a resin varnish.  There would have been a sheen but the paint was too thin to have a high gloss.

The green coloured paint has been carefully removed revealing the original pink colour scheme.

The green coloured paint has been carefully removed revealing the original pink colour scheme.

This discovery corresponds to Nash’s 1807 estimate document with includes ‘scales formed in stucco and polished or varnished’. This colour also ties the Nash Staircase more into the decorative scheme of the jib stairs and the first floor corridor.  These spaces have an intricate decorative scheme on paper that was revealed and restored only a few years ago.

The first floor corridors with the decorative scheme paper fully restored after years of being hidden under red oil paint.

The first floor corridors with the decorative scheme paper fully restored after years of being hidden under red oil paint.

The original decoration was repeated possibly because the original developed a network of cracks, or there was water ingress (we know water ingress was a problem in the Picture Gallery from 1807).  There is no dirt layer between the two schemes so this must have happened soon after the original decoration.  They painted a very thin coat of lead white oil paint followed by a fresh coat of the pale pinkish brown varnish. The varnished scheme must have been in place for a number of years, as there is a thick layer of dirt separating this and the final light green seen today after cleaning.  The presence of lead white indicates it must have been carried out before World War II. We carefully reinstated the pink scheme, after consultation with the National Trust panels and English Heritage to ensure we were making the right choice. The paint was created using conservation varnish mixed with yellow ochre and red oxide.  Only teaspoonfuls of the pigment had to be used to create the right colour.

The paint preparation area!  All the paint was mixed on site.

The paint preparation area! All the paint was mixed on site.

Checking the colour mix.

Checking the colour mix.

The paint was very thin and had to be applied with a large brush working quickly around the dome.

Starting to paint the fish scales.  Once they started to paint they had to keep going until they finished.

Starting to paint the fish scales. Once they started to paint they had to keep going until they finished.

Half way round showing the contrast of the pink and the green colour.

Half way round showing the contrast of the pink and the green colour.

Three layers were applied to the fish scales and preparation work was done ready for the gilding to be reinstated around the lantern oculous.

The finished pink scales and the painted oculus ready for the gilding.

The finished pink scales and the painted oculus ready for the gilding.

The new colour against the cleaned and uncleaned red fluted walls.

The new colour against the cleaned and uncleaned red fluted walls.

You can watch a short video on the whole process by clicking here. All the images were taken by our conservators or our lovely Volunteer Roof Photographers Richard and Angela Knisely-Marpole

Throw Open the Doors

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The season is upon us. Open the shutters, raise the blinds, and throw open the doors. Following the winter clean the mansion has had good dose of love and attention from our house conservation team. The floors have been waxed, the pelmets dusted and silver polished. However, we thought that it might be nice to share our work with the visitors. So, this week we have been laying the Dining Room table in front of the public, to give them a better idea of our work, and how the table would have been laid in the 1800s. See also ‘Regency Banqueting Splendour’ for more information.

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Here we have a detailed plan of all the place settings, as well as a booklet of photographs of each place setting for reference.

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During the winter clean the tableware had been stored in these crates, which have now been brought back into the dining room, ready to have their contents returned to pride of place.

In addition to this demonstration we have wide range of new interpretation and displays up for the new season. In response to volunteer and visitor comments we have concentrated on bringing a story back to the Sultana Room, setting it up in the 1930s during the 8th Lady’s own restoration of the room.

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The former Ottoman curtains laid out in the process of being repaired.

The biggest change over winter though has been the return of the Nash Staircase to its former beauty. I shan’t go into too much detail on that though, as there are posts soon to follow, which will concentrate solely on completed work on the staircase. However, I will draw your attention to the, already introduced, new Nash Staircase chandelier, and the new under-stair ‘cinema’, showing a film about the restoration of the Nash Staircase.

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Temporary lit cases for the old and new Nash Staircase chandelier (The new chandelier is due to arrive on the 7th March)

These are just a few of the changes that have occurred over the winter season, and there will be much more to come as the season develops, including scaffolding tours, from April. So come and visit us and see what else has changed…

Stunning Stained Glass

One of the Nash Staircase’s most striking features is the stained glass inner skylight.

The stained glass skylight and fish scale decorated dome before the project began.

The stained glass skylight and fish scale decorated dome before the project began.

As part of the Through the Roof Project we have been investigating its provenance and having the both this lantern and the outer protective lantern repaired and conserved.  We have been using a company called Holywell Glass to provide the conservation services to restore the stained glass.

In September the outer skylight was removed allowing us access to the inner skylight, the first access for several years.

The skeleton of the outer skylight after the glass had been removed.  This was the first time in over 40 years we have had access to the inner skylight.

The skeleton of the outer skylight after the glass had been removed. This was the first time in over 40 years we have had access to the inner skylight.

It soon became apparent how dirty the glass was.

Hand cleaned area of glass just after the outer skylight was removed.

Hand-cleaned area of glass just after the outer skylight was removed.

In fact it was so dirty the only way to clean the dirt off ready for removal was with the gentle suction setting of a Henry hoover.

The stained glass was so dirty we had to carefully hoover it with a Henry!

The stained glass was so dirty we had to carefully hoover it with a Henry!

The glass was carefully removed and stored to allow key building and restoration work to take place surrounding the skylight and for the glazing bars to be restored.

During November, Steve Clare from Holywell Glass came back to site to reinstate the stained glass lantern. The wooden frame had been refurbished and painted and a temporary deck was installed on the Nash Staircase scaffolding so that Steve could install the glass safely.

The restored and painted timber glazing supports for the inner skylight.  You can also see the working deck which was installed so that work could be carried out safely.

The restored and painted timber glazing supports for the inner skylight. You can also see the working deck which was installed so that work could be carried out safely.

The first job was to carefully clean the glass revealing a beautiful pink colour scheme.

The stained glass before it is cleaned by Holywell Glass.

The stained glass before it is cleaned by Holywell Glass.

A cleaned piece of glass next to one that has not been cleaned.

A cleaned piece of glass next to one that has not been cleaned.

Cracks were carefully repaired, or, where repairs could not be made, replacement new pieces of glass were cut and installed. Lead repairs were also made to the existing frames.

Some pieces of glass were to badly damaged to be repaired, instead a new piece of matching glass had to be cut and installed.

Some pieces of glass were too badly damaged to be repaired, instead a new piece of matching glass had to be cut and installed.

Marking out the size and shape of the new piece of glass.

Marking out the size and shape of the new piece of glass.

Cutting the glass to shape.

Cutting the glass to shape.

Lead soldering the glass into place.

Lead soldering the glass into place.

Cleaning up the solder.

Cleaning up the solder.

The completed repair.

The completed repair.

After the glass had been repaired and cleaned it had to be taken up the scaffold to the skylight.  There is only one way to do this safely – each piece has to be carried up by hand!

Each section had to be carefully carried up the scaffold - that's 6 ladders to navigate!

Each section had to be carefully carried up the scaffold – that’s 6 ladders to navigate and 20 panes of glass to get up there!

Each piece was carefully installed and fitted.

The first panes are in!

The first panes are in!

A view from the working deck of the stained glass.

A view of the stained glass from the interior working deck

Another view from the working deck of the stained glass.

Another view from the working deck.

When the stained glass was all in place, it was covered with wood to protect it until the refurbished outer lantern is installed.

The skylight carefully covered in wood to protect it while it awaits its protective outer skylight to return.

The skylight carefully covered in wood to protect it while it awaits its protective outer skylight to return.

In total it only took two days for all the glass to be cleaned and reinstated.  Looking at the two images below you can see what a difference a simple clean can make!  I can’t wait to see the effect of the cleaned skylight when the scaffolding in the Nash Staircase comes down!

The hoovered stained glass.

The hoovered stained glass before being cleaned.

The cleaned and restored skylight in all its glory.

The cleaned and restored skylight in all its glory.

All the photos is this post were taken by our lovely Volunteer Roof Photographers Richard and Angela Knisely-Marpole.

Let there be light!

We have just purchased, thanks to gifts and donations as well as money the property has put aside, a new chandelier for the Nash Staircase!  This new light fitting is part of the project’s aim to return the interiors of the Nash Staircase and Picture Gallery to their Regency splendour.

Full view of the new chandelier.

Full view of the new chandelier.

Strangely no lighting at all is listed in the 1827 bankruptcy sale for the staircase, however in the second sale two years later a “15-inch bronze frame cut-glass Grecian Lamp, with patent two-light burner, ormolu chains, pulleys and lines to ceiling” is mentioned.  It was unclear if this was the light for this space or it had been left here with other unsold lots.

1827 bankruptcy sale catalog.

1827 bankruptcy sale catalogue.

A recent discovery of an 1842 inventory (on the death of 3rd Lord Berwick) gives a very similar description: “Hanging lamp 2 burners cut glass pan balance weight cord & pullies”.

William, 3rd Lord Berwick.

William, 3rd Lord Berwick.

The light fitting in the Nash staircase that was possibly installed by the 8th Lord and Lady Berwick has been referred to as a ‘dog’s breakfast’ in the past by some experts, however it has now been identified as a typical French lantern from the entrance to a Parisian ‘hôtel particulier‘ (a grand detached town house set back off a street) and was probably brought in a Parisian antiques shop by Thomas, 8th Lord Berwick when he was purchasing other antiques and textiles for Attingham.

Chandelier hung in the Nash Staircase by 8th Lord and Lady Berwick.

Chandelier hung in the Nash Staircase by 8th Lord and Lady Berwick.

This light never did justice to the staircase in either its appearance or in its ability to light the space on dull days.

After a lot of research and investigation, the historic lighting adviser to the National Trust identified a suitable light fitting at a specialist antique dealer in London.

Possibly the most amazing antique shop!

Possibly the most amazing antique shop!

Another view of this amazing shop.

Another view of this amazing shop.

Consulting with the curator and lighting experts to finalise hanging arrangements.

Consulting with the curator and lighting experts to finalise hanging arrangements – this is as detailed as the type of chain and wiring!

The new chandelier is a c.1830 English gilded and cut-glass Regency Colza Dish.

Top of the chandelier.

Top of the chandelier.

Bottom of the chandelier.

Bottom of the chandelier.

As part of the redesign of the outer and inner skylight, there will be a manual winch installed so that we can easily clean the fitting and change a light bulb.  Before the project we used to hook and pull the light fitting towards us with the help of an adapted long handled broom!

We will be looking at additional historic lighting in this space at a later date, as there is evidence to suggest there was lighting underneath the staircase as well as the central hanging light – watch this space.

Rehousing begins!

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Last week we finally began rehousing the first of the photographs. It was quite an exciting moment as this is what various members of staff and volunteers have been working towards for the last few years. As we rehouse each photograph we also assign it an inventory number, scan it, and add it to our collection management system. This means that very soon you will be able to see digital copies of the photographs yourself on the National Trust Collections website.

The reason for the photo archive projects is twofold. Firstly to make sure we know exactly what we’ve got and where it is, but also to ensure the photographs are stored correctly. Before coming into the possession of the National Trust, the majority of the photographs had been kept in suitcases – not an ideal environment! We can also see evidence of light damage, foxing, minor tears and cockling that may have occured from how they were stored and displayed in earlier years. Andy has written a blog about conservation issues with photographs before, but now that we’ve finally started rehousing I thought I’d talk about how we’re combatting them.

Each photograph is first gently cleaned with extremely soft brushes. We use squirrel hair on the emulsion side and goat hair on the reverse to remove surface dirt – it’s surprising the difference this simple technique can make to how the photograph looks.

After scanning and cataloguing, the photographs are put into pockets and given a slip of acid-free card behind for support, on which is written the inventory number. This not only confines individual photos to an enclosed location, but also prevents unnecessary handling when rifling through the boxes for a specific photograph. 

Photographs in a timecare box

The boxes are also acid free and are designed so that pockets hang down from the rings. This ensures that there is no pressure on the bottom photographs. The boxes are then returned to the store where we take regular humidity readings with a humidistat to ensure the room is not to damp or too dry.

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Once completed, this should provide long term storage that will preserve the photographs in a stable environment for future generations.

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Identifying Photographs – Know your ‘Ambros’ from your ‘Ferros’

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As part of the Photo Archive project Rhiannon and I attended a “Historic Photographs Training Day”, in order to gain the necessary knowledge to effectively carry out the re-housing and cataloguing of the Attingham photo collections. In addition to this, the training day brought to my attention the great variety of photographic processes that had been used up to the 20th century. This led me to consider the different types of photographs in our own collection here. 

Daguerreotype (possibly of the 4th Lord Berwick) Daguerreotype (Mirror Effect)

In the last blog we left you with an image of this photograph, on the left, and identified it as a Daguerreotype. Daguerreotypes are commonly considered to be the first type of modern photograph, owing to its ability to hold a permanent image. Invented in 1839 by Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre, they remained in use until the 1860s. We are fortunate enough to have several of this types of photographs in our collection, which are quite rare in England as a result of the English patent system requiring licences, which seems to have excluded itself from the French Government’s endeavour to ‘endow [it] freely the entire world’, following their nationalisation of the patent.[1] The recognisable features of a Daguerreotype are: its composition of glass, its mirror-like complexion (demonstrated by the image on the right), and the copper-like appearance of the rear of the plate. Ambrotype

The image above is a type of photograph known as an Ambrotype, or a Wet-Collodion. This form of photography almost completely replaced the Daguerreotype in the 1850s, owing to its reduction of exposure times and comparative cheapness.  Like the Daguerreotype it is also generally to be found on a glass plate, although lacks the mirror effect visible above. Its other distinguishing feature though is the depth of the image, which almost has a three-dimensional effect when examined.

 Ferrotype

Ferrotypes, or ‘Tintypes’ as they are commonly known, are clearly distinguishable from Ambrotypes and Daguerreotypes owing to the material differences. Developed onto an iron plate, this type of photograph has a candidly different look and feel to it, making it easily identifiable next to previous forms of photography. Aside from its metallic texture, the blackened complexion of many Ferrotypes is also an indicator of the identity of this type of photograph. We received a tip as to the surest way of identifying a Ferrotype during the training day though, as part of a practical exercise. The use of a weak magnet was suggested, given the iron nature of the photographs (although I doubt this is common practice with real collections it did help in certain cases where the photographs were mounted on card).

Carte de Visite of the 8th Lord BerwickCabinet Card of the 8th Lady Berwick with her sister Gioconda

Although lasting as a novelty item, the metal Ferrotype was inevitably superseded by the cheaper and reproducible card-based photographic processes from the mid-1860s. The two most common types of card photographs in the 19th century were the Carte de Visite (CDV) and the Cabinet Card, appearing c.1859 and c.1866 respectively. There was little quality difference between the two processes until the 1870s, can you tell them apart? The man identifying feature is generally the size of these photos the CDV usually being roughly 2.5” x 4”, and the Cabinet being 4.25” x 6.5” (as demonstrated below).  Additionally, there are a variety of other ways to identify these photographs, including card thickness and the style of borders and artwork. Note details of the studios on the bottom of the card, while further details are to be found on the rear.

Carte de Visite and Cabinet Card

Comparison of the size between Carte de Visites and Cabinet Cards (8th Lord on the left, and the 8th Lady and her sister Gioconda on the right)

 

A final parting tip if you intend to attempt any identification of your own collections, is that it is always important to look at photographs as objects as opposed to images.

[1] R. Derek Wood, ‘The Daguerreotype Patent, The British Government, and The Royal Society’, History of Photography, Vol. 4, No. 1 (January 1980), pp. 53-9; Steve Edwards, ‘‘Beard Patentee’: Daguerreotype Property and Authorship’, Oxford Art Journal, 36.3 (2013), pp. 369-394.

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