Portraits by Frederick Downer of Watford

Post Cards


Frederick Downer Biography

Once the art of photography had been established most of the surviving portraits from Victorian times were mounted on  card, the smaller size being called carte de visite (= visiting card) and the large ones were called cabinet cards. The cards were usually printed with the photographer's details, and there may be a negative number, and this information can help date the cards.

In general the quality of the image was very high and it is often possible to produce very satisfactory enlargements. (Click on the blue framed pictures below to see a larger image.)

The following are examples of CDV produced by Frederick Downer.


This tinted portrait, from a CDV with the same High Street back as the CDV below differs in that it has a name which looks like "Edith Wood" written in tiny script on the back, rather than a negative number, suggesting it may be even earlier perhaps 1862-5    MORE ...

CDV showing lady - by Frederick Downer, Watford - circa 1870s CDV showing lady - by Frederick Downer, Watford - circa 1870s

A Early pair of portraits (No 2034 & 2035) from Watford High Street address - circa 1870

Picture of Lady standing holding hat - no number - same back


Lady with Photoalbum - by Frederick Downer, Watford  

Lady seated holding a photograph album  -  Reference Number: 5431B


CDV in Frame

With Aunt Emily's love and best wishes

Boy is No 6028.c and Lady in frame 6026.c  - another card with same back 5726

Portrait of Lady - No 7193B [similar back seen but print in purple No.6532-B ]


Earliest card with this back seen numbered 7904C


Highest 22461C

Portrait of Oscar W. Wild by Frederick Downer dated 1879 (carte de visite)

The following carte de visite all have the same back as the above example. Most are numbered with a stylus, which simply leaves an slight impression in the surface of the card which can only be read if viewed at the right angle.



Laura  Attenborough & daughter

March 1877  -  No 10818C


Young girl

No 11974C


Young Lady

No 12261C



Old Lady

No 14021C


Young girl with basket

No 14681C


Young Lady

No  15733C



Bearded Man



Young Man

No 22461C


"M Y 1885"

No number


A young child - date unknown -but note reference to "Patronised by the Queen"

Sarah Huddle Grave, 1889 - cabinet card with same back - Negative number 37985



Boy with Boater

No 35476

Same back



Other cards with same back

No 35862


Boy on Chair



Suggested date c1888


Mother & Daughter, CDV by Downer, Watford, dated 1886  

Mother & Daughter?


CDV with gold-bevelled frame

but plain back

.No number.

Dated July 28th, 1886 - but not clear what date refers to - for instance could be date of photo or birthday of child.


Cabinet Cards


Alfred Stradling 1851-1902

Possibly circa 1890

Name embossed - plain back

No 41882


Two Young Girls (Sisters?)


Cabinet Card with gold-bevelled frame

Name embossed - plain back

No 44106

Portrait of Woman by Frederick Downer of Watford  
Portrait of unknown Lady by Frederick Downer taken after 1893 (cabinet card)

Ellen (Archer) Potten (1848-1906)

by Fred Downer & Sons of Watford

The Picture shows her in "Widow's Weeds" with a jet necklace and was almost certainly taken after her husband died in 1901.



This press cutting, from the Hertford Mercury of 18th February, 1865, refers to a Sarah Rowbottom, aged over 100, living at Stanmore, and who is said to have lived at Bushey at one time. [Genealogy]

The article reports "We have before us a portrait of this centenarian, taken by Mr. Frederick Downer, of Watford, an accomplished photographer, whose skill in the art he cultivates has seldom been surpassed. ...

This would seem to be one on the earliest portrait photographs taken by Frederick Downer.

Do you know if the original portrait survives - and if so where is it?


 July 2011    Page Created
August 2012   CDV of young child
April 2014   CDV of mother & daughter
June 2014   Boy on chair added
July 2015   Cabinet card with sisters? and tinted portrait
August 2016   Additional CDV image plus minor edit