Posted by: christinelaennec | November 25, 2012

Rehoming some Victorians

Thank you all for your kind Thanksgiving wishes.  We had a good visit from Our Son yesterday, and the Dafter was well enough to join us.  We made things very, very easy – the pumpkin pie was the only actual Thanksgiving dish, but we were grateful in our hearts.  I’ve been enjoying reading about Thanksgiving celebrations in America and seeing lots of amazing pictures of beautiful food and decorated tables.

On to today’s post.  Does it ever take you about 11 years to get around to something?  Sometimes it does me.  This post is about a task that I had been meaning to carry out ever since we moved into our flat 11 years ago.  We discovered, up the the crawlspace above the top floor, three framed Victorian photographs.  I immediately contacted the people who had lived here for the 40 previous years (didn’t put that off!), but they didn’t know anything about them.  And ever since, I’ve felt a sense of responsibility for these photographs.  They seem like a family, although it’s impossible to be sure.  Here’s the photograph of the woman:

Portrait of a Victorian woman

She has such character in her face, don’t you think?  I think she must have been alert, intelligent and kind.  And probably quite strong as well.

There’s a photograph of a baby, lovingly framed in gold:  The photograph isn’t in sharp focus, and the baby’s hand, which obviously waved, is quite blurry indeed.  This was the best I could do to avoid reflections in the glass, sorry:

Victorian baby

What a sweet baby!

The photographs are all about two and a half feet tall.  I wonder whether having them taken and framed would have been a considerable investment for a family?

In a frame that matches the one the woman’s photograph is in, there is a studio photograph of a man.  He looks curiously like the Dafter’s primary school headteacher!  I wonder what his profession or trade was?  There don’t seem to be obvious clues in the photograph, and also I notice that he isn’t wearing a wedding ring.  What significance this has, I don’t know.  Perhaps not all married men wore wedding rings in those days?  Perhaps he was unmarried.

Victorian man.

The photograph of the woman is printed directly onto a kind of card, but the other two photographs are printed on something more akin to photographic paper, which makes me think the photograph of the woman is older than the other two.  On the back of the man’s photograph is a print of three boys, used as a backing.  The writing on the top says 27 Victoria St, and I can’t make out the word beginning with B.  I wondered if it might be Berryden, but there’s a t in the word, and also Victoria Street isn’t near the Berryden area of Aberdeen.  Perhaps it’s Victoria Street in another town altogether.

I really like the faces of these three boys.  Were they cousins, or brothers?  Is there a significance to the fact that the middle boy is sitting on a chair, and the other two standing?  The two either side are wearing sailor suits, and the one in the middle is wearing a different kind of suit.  Are the two in the sailor suits brothers, perhaps?  And does the one on the right not have eyes very like the man’s, rather hooded?  The boy in the middle seems very confident to me!

Print of a photograph of Victorian boys, used to back the frame of the photo of the Victorian man.

Well, I’m happy to tell you that these three photographs (four if you count the boys) now have a permanent home in the City Archives, who graciously accepted them.  Perhaps it was as well that I waited so long to contact the Archives, because as it turns out the Archivist is someone that I met a few years ago through work.  After I dropped off the photographs, we had lunch together, and it was quite a thrill to me to be having lunch in town, I’ll tell you!

I’m so pleased that this group of photographs has found the best home I think they could have.  They are somewhere that will value them, even if we will probably never know who the people in them are.  So I’ve crossed that one off my list!



  1. What a wonderful little collection, and how astonishing they are in size. Old photos like these must have stories and it’s fascinating to consider what they might be. They could inspire a novel, I think, these people, if you let your imagination wander and gave them names and characters. I agree with you about the woman at the top, a very striking picture. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone were to come across these portraits and recognise them?

  2. What lovely old photographs. What a story they could tell – if only they could. An excellent idea to give them to the City Archives. In a way that makes the never ending story live on – if you see what I mean!
    Thank you for your comments on my blog and the link to Frankie Brown’s Ten Stitch Blanket and Twist. Yes, I am a member of Ravelry – a wonderful site. I don’t often knit – I’m a bit slow! But I love that ten stitch blanket! Just finish this stripy bobble hat first!

  3. Oh Christine, what a wonderful photos…I love them, it’s such a shame you will probably never find out who they were.
    Here in Holland houses are registered , so sometimes you can find people…
    Hugs from a stormy Amsterdam

  4. What a fascinating story. The boy sitting would I think be the eldest of the family, hence his ‘grown up’ suit. How good you thought of the City Archives so they will be kept together, and who knows, perhaps their family will one day claim them.
    I remember my Father and his four brothers all had individual portraits done by a photographer, unfortunately they were at the age when young boys wore frocks! No idea what happened to the photographs. They too were huge things that hung in the parlour.

  5. how fascinating! I love old mysteries like this. the pictures are fantastic and I think it’s great how you have given them a home that will respect them and help their memories live on.

  6. What an exciting thing to find in your attic, Christine! I am sure it is true that ‘every picture tells a story’ and hopefully these will someday be reunited with their loved ones through your thoughtful efforts. Maybe the boy with the hooded eyes is a childhood portrait of the grown man in the same frame! It would be interesting in the future to see if anyone ever claims these. A good mystery! xx

  7. So big?! That’s the thing that surprises me most – that anyone would store away such large pictures. The woman reminds me of someone but I can’t think who. So glad you gave them to the archives.

  8. What an amazing find! I think I would have a hard time parting with them, but it sounds as though they are in very good hands and can be enjoyed by many generations to come!

  9. Yes, I have projects that are well over 11 years old so it’s not just you. About 20 years ago I manage to save a lot of my mum’s old photographs – some of them going back to Ireland in the 20s – it’s my plan to do something with them someday, but I have to admit that they are all still sitting in a plastic box in the loft. I love old photographs – in today’s age when we take photos non-stop, I love the fact that only one or two photographs are all that some people had taken of themselves in a lifetime.

  10. A mysterious treasure indeed! I am glad you found a place for the photos to be honored. We have old photos that have survived in our family, but some without identification which saddens me, but has also put me in a more than 11 year quandary: what to do with them? A few years ago we took pictures of some of our old family albums and my husband made CDs of them that we then gave to other members of the family…a digital legacy?
    So glad you had a good visit with your children and a nice lunch out and about:) xx from Gracie

  11. What an amazing story, Christine…I’m glad the photos have found a home in the archives. Perhaps, someday, someone will recognize the photos as their ancestors.

  12. How interesting! I think the woman in the first photo does look very kind, usually they look so strict on photographs like these.

  13. What an interesting post!….Interesting for what it says about you, mostly…the things you see in the photographs, as well as what you do with something you find and your persistence in following through. These things all add to the picture of you I have in my head; fill in a little corner of the image.

  14. Dear all,
    I’m so glad you liked hearing and seeing the story of our mystery Victorians. Mali, I agree that the woman’s expression is much softer than in most photographs of that era. Gracie and Poody, yes indeed old family photos are a responsibility that can go on much longer than 11 years, in fact, forever. oldblack, yes I suppose I’m pretty persistent!

    I do hope that someone may someday identify these photos, but it’s nice to enjoy them even if we don’t know the names of the people.

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