The Earliest Hertfordshire Photographers


David Simkin, who runs the Sussex Photohistory web site kindly drew my attention to the fact that P & C Monson had been taking pictures in Hertford as early as 1853. I decided to follow this up by using the British Newspaper Archive, via FindMyPast, to see if I could reconstruct the early history of commercial photography in Hertfordshire, using references in the Herts Mercury and the Hertfordshire Guardian, both of which have been digitised for the relevant period. The following is what I found, in date order of first reference.

Photographers in date order of first reference Link to image (if date coloured)

Mr Williams

The first record I could find of a commercial photographer at work was in December 1851 when a travelling photographer called Mr Williams stayed in Hertford. "We have this week had the opportunity of inspecting some very well-executed portraits, taken by Mr. Williams, a photographic artist temporarily resident in the town ... We understand that a note addressed to Mr Williams, at the Bull Inn will be promptly attended to."

Herts Mercury 6th December 1851

Philip and Charles Monson

In July 1853 Philip and Charles Monson announced that "They have pleasure in announcing a short professional visit to Hertford, and respectfully call attention to their  large Pictures, and to their facilities for taking groups and executing large orders." They set up "Photographic Portrait Rooms at Mr. Francis's, Hertford, Nurseries" and  were providing Daguerreotypes "First size, suitable for miniatures, lockets and brooches" for 10s 6.

There were 4 Monson brothers who all became photographers (see Fading Images).

  • Edward (1822-1907) was a photographer in Cambridge from 1853, travelled about as a photographer later in the decade and was in Ipswich in 1861 but is not recorded as a photographer after that.

  • Benjamin (1824-1901) was a photographer in Colchester by 1854 and was sill living in Colchester in 1901 when he was described as a retired photographer.

  • Philip (1829-1900?) was an "Artist and Portrait Painter" in 1851, was travelling around advertising as an "Artist in Daguerreotype, Collodion and Talbottype" in Newbury in 1855 (Reading Mercury 23 June) and in Yeovil in 1856 (Sherbourne Mercury, several issues).

  • Charles (1830-1904) was living in Northampton in 1861 when he was listed as an "artist and photographer," exhibited photographs of Northamptonshire in 1866 (Northampton Mercury 30 June), recorded as "photographer and oil and water colour painter" in 1871, as a "portrait painter and photographer" in 1881 and as a "portrait painter" in 1891.

Herts Mercury 9th July 1853

Edward Monson

In September 1853 "Edward Monson, Daguerretype Artist and Photographist, respectfully announced that his Portrait Rooms are now open at Wind Hill, Bishops Stortford ... For Two Weeks Only.""

Herts Guardian 3 September 1853

H F Cox

In 1856 H F Cox & Co are described as "Daguerreotypists and Photographic Artists at Mr. Hobbs, Fore Street, Hertford" producing "Miniatures for Broaches, Lockets &c. Prices commencing at 2s 6d."

A 1857 newspaper report suggest (surprisingly as photography was so novel) that "We have long had amongst us Mr Cox". In 1859 an unnamed photographer of Fore Street exhibited a picture of two young men who had not paid their bill! This would also appear to refer to H F Cox.

In 1861 James Hobbs was a hair dresser & perfumer living in the Fore Street, Hertford. I have been unable to identify H F Cox.

Herts Mercury 13th December 1856

Herts Guardian 14th May 1859

Hart & Craddock

"Messrs HART & Craddock's Photographic and Chromo-Photographic Institution, North Crescent, Hertford," was opened on August 26th 1857 when "they hope to secure the patronage of the Nobility, Clergy, and Gentry, of this town and County, for their superiorly finished Talbotype Photographs."

There were a number of adverts and in October they were advertising that they were "Still Open" and supplied "Larger Virgnette Portraits, in Indian Ink 21s, small ditto, 10s 6d., Portraits finished in Water  Colours, Stereoscopes and Views of any size."

I have been unable to identify Hart.

Herts Mercury 22nd August 1857

Herts Mercury 12th September 1857

Herts Mercury 10th October 1857

J(ames) Craddock

In December 1857 Hart's name disappeared from the adverts, which became more detailed and reported "The public are respectfully informed that fine weather is not essentially necessary for the production of good portraits. J. C. having a Glass House erected, he is enabled by a newly discovered process to produce as good portraits now as in the brightest days of summer." In addition he offers "Theoretical and Practical Instruction . Apparatus, Materials, &c., for all Branches of Photography." More is said of his way of working in a newspaper report in the same issue.

In June 1858 he was advertising "First-Class Collodiotype Portraits, in Morrocco Cases from 2s 6d." and "A large assortment of Views for the Stereoscope may be seen at Mr. Craddock's Establishment."

For his career after Hertford see James Craddock

Herts Mercury 19th December 1857


Herts Mercury 26th June 1858


"Photography - There seems to be a rage for photography in Hertford. We have long had amongst us Mr Cox, who has produced some very beautiful glass pictures; and we have several amateurs, the most successful of whom is Mr. Marks. The finest specimens we have seen of portraits on paper are those taken by Mr. Craddock, who has a crystal studio in the North-road. ..."

Herts Mercury 19th December 1857

Evan Marks

Evan Marks was a long established watchmaker, silversmith and jeweller in Fore Street, Hertford. He was initially an amateur  photographer but in 1858 his lengthy adverts ended with the words "Photographic Likenesses taken and mounted in brooches, lockets, and rings, etc."

Herts Mercury 2nd January 1858

Arthur Elsden

The evidence all points to him continuing J. Craddock's business at North Crescent, Hertford. The earliest advert I have found is from 1859 where he describes himself as a "photographist & stereographist" and "Portraits of one shilling taken daily on paper, plate or glass. Special fiews taked for the Stereoscope; and families attended at their own houses at a reasonable charge."

In the 1861 census he was described as a photographist at North Cresent. Adverts occurred in following years, sometimes every week, and for example in 1862 he was "Photographist, North Crescent, Hertford, (established 1857)" and "Patronised by the Marquess Townshend, Earl Cowper, and the principal Gentry and inhabitants of the neighbourhood."

In 1864 a conversazione was held at Hertford Town Hall which was opened by Mr J. Marchant, Junior, reading ag paper on "The Magic Lantern among the Sciences." Others showed lantern slides and "a series of photographic negatives, executed by Mr. Elsden, and including portraits of Sir Minto Farquhar (who was very heartily received) and of Mr. Marchant's little boy; and views of Panshanger, Goldings, Ball's Park, and the Castle were afterwards exhibited. They were very effective, and demonstrated in the most satisfactory manner that the accurate pictures of objects taken by means of photography may be advantageously projected by the magic lantern."

See page on Arthur Elsden

Herts Mercury 30th April 1859



Herts Mercury 26th April 1862



Herts Mercury 23rd January 1864

Charles Forscutt

In 1851 Charles Forscutt (various spelling in records consulted) was a shoe maker in Port Vale, Bengeo, Hertford. In 1859 the paper reported a court case "Foskett v Barnett. - The plaintiff is a photographic artist at Hertford, and his wife keeps a school. ..."  The 1861 census records him as a photographer at Old Cross, Hertford. The first advert I could find indirectly mentions his photographic interests - "For Sale. Harmoniums & Pianofortes at Charles Forscutt's Photographic Rooms, Old Cross, Hertford."

In 1864 there was an advertising war between the photographers and an advert records "C. Forscutt now takes carte de visite portraits at the following low prices:- For the first one 2s ... ..." In 1865 he offered "Portraits 1s per dozen. Send your carte de visite with addressed envelope and 13 stamps, and in a few days you will receive 12 adhesive postage stamp portraits ..."

Probate records show he was a photographer at Hertford when he died on 1st November 1879, and his wife was still running the school at Old Cross at the time of the 1881 census.

See Charles Forscutt for examples of his work

Herts Mercury 27th August 1859

Herts Mercury 16th March, 1861


Herts Guardian 2nd July 1864

Herts Guardian 2nd December 1865

Thomas Vipond

.There were still mobile photographers visiting Hertford. In November 1859 "Mr. Vipond is taking photographic portraits at the Victoria Inn, Market Place, [Hertford] on an improved principle, in good style, and at moderate prices."  In March 1860 a photographer based at the Victoria  (possibly Thomas was still there) was witness to a trial involving the theft of cigars from Mr Raw's shop in Honey Lane, while in the 1861 census Thomas was in a van parked on the Edgeware Road, Hendon.

For more about his career see Thomas Vipond (1831-1918)

Herts Guardian 8th November 1859

Herts Mercury 24th March 1860

See Stephen Austin of Hertford

Herts Mercury 27th June, 1863

John Charles Garrood

He was an established plumber in Hertford who went bankrupt in 1863, but had been taking photographs for seven years when in 1864 he opened as a photographer  in Ware Road, Hertford, at prices which undercut Charles Forscutt. He was listed as a photographer at Railway Place, Hertford, in the 1871 census. By 1881 he was back to plumbing - where he was lodging in Norfolk, his wife living in Kent.

Herts Guardian 20th August 1864


In collecting the information I scanned the Herts Mercury and Herts Guardian for words related to photography, and the names of known photographers, up to 1865, the aim being to identify everyone who could have been taking photographs up to and including 1860. Apart from one reference to Bishops Stortford all relate to Hertford, which is where the papers were published. This reflects the coverage of digitised newspapers, and photographers may have been active in St Albans and elsewhere.


In addition most photographers did not advertise frequently, and while Charles Forscutt apparently had Photographic Rooms at the Old Cross before 1861 he did not not start to advertise his photographic services until 1864, when an advertising war broke out when John Charles Garrood entered the market.

August 2013   Page Created