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Berkshire Family Historian
December 1999

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Q & A WITH JEAN

Ken Godfrey, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada

This photograph belonged to my grandfather, Thomas Godfrey, who came from East Hanney, Berkshire, to Canada about 1888. It is possible that this couple were William Godfrey (born 1831 whose first wife was Mary Herman) with his second wife, Sarah Ashfield, née Bunce (born about 1841) who were married in 1874. However, they could also be other members of the Godfrey, Herman or Bunce families.

No wedding ring can be seen on her left hand, so it is not clear if the couple in this photograph, who appear to be in their late 40s or early 50s, are married or just brother and sister. However, because it was found among Thomas Godfrey's effects, it does seems likely that they are all related and this picture was taken sometime prior to Thomas Godfrey's departure for Canada in the late 1880s.

Her best plain woollen dress chosen for the visit to the photographer's studio consists of a matching close-fitted bodice and separate pleated skirt. The boned and lined bodice is trimmed with toning satin round the neck, in two wide strips either side of the row of shiny buttons and cuffs on her long straight sleeves. The only washable part of the outfit is a fashionable white 'piecrust'frill tacked inside her neck-band. She appears to have a small brooch at her throat.

His comfortable, but unfashionably buttoned up, three piece suit. has a low-waisted morning coat with stitched edges, a single breast pocket and close-fitting cuffs. The front edge of the skirt curves back so that the bottom button cannot be fastened. The 'Gentleman's Magazine' had said in 1886 that it was fashionable to leave coats unbuttoned or fastened with a single button only but this had obviously not reached all levels of Berkshire society. His wide spotted cravat is tied under a turn-down white collar.

This is a well-arranged example of the classic Victorian photographers' pose of a couple apparently disturbed while studying a book together. The out-of-focus lower background seems to be some sort of wall and she is seated in an elaborately carved wide wooden chair.

The photographer Walton Adams had an "Art and Science Studio" at 29 Blagrave Street, Reading, from 1886 until he retired in 1922. Born Arthur Walton Adams in Portsmouth, Hampshire, in 1843, he acquired his photographic skills from Dr Richard Leach Maddox, a keen amateur photographer and inventor of the dry gelatin plate which from the late 1870s revolutionised photography.

Adams lived in Southampton from at least 1867 and, with his London-born wife Annie and seven children, was recorded in the 1881 census as a photographer. At least two of his sons, Marcus and Christopher, later joined him in the business. Although the Blagrave Street premises were sold to Pelham Crowe in 1922 it continued to operate under the name "Walton Adams". In 1969 the business changed hands again and moved to 1 Prospect Street, Caversham where it is still listed as "Walton Adams & Sons Ltd".

Sources: A Century of Photography in Reading, compiled by Mary Southerton (1986), unpublished typescript in Berkshire FHS Reference Library. 1881 census: PRO - RG 11/1214/64 & RG 11/1351/62. BT Telephone Directory Reading 1998


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