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Old Photographs - Cambridgeshire Photographers - T.H.Ely

Photographers are listed alphabetically by surname on the following pages.

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Name:  ELY, T.H.            b. n/k      d.n/k
Address: A Semi itinerant photographer who may have visited Wisbech
Working Dates: 1843-1846
Subjects, styles, advertising, other relevant information:

T.H.Ely is a photographer about whom very little is known. It is by no means certain that he warrants inclusion on a site relating to Cambridgeshire Photographers. He did express an interest in setting up a studio in Wisbech in 1844 and the local press recorded that, at about this time, a photographer visited Theatre Yard Wisbech to show his work. We have therefore included Ely here in the hope that further information about him may be discovered.

In the Norfolk Chronicle Sat 22 July 1843 p3 an advertisement appeared "CERTAIN GAIN. —Mr. Beard, Sole Patentee of the Daguerreotype Portraiture, (so generally admired for its astonishing fidelity), still continues to Grant Licences to use the Patent in Provincial Towns. To those who are desirous of increasing their capital, the above offers an admirable opportunity, particularly as the Apparatus is small and light, and the method of using it may be taught in one or two Lessons. Photographic Portraiture is now coloured by a simple process of the Art, and extended to an infinite variety of purposes. Among others it is the only medium of giving an exact miniature reflection of Noblemen and Gentlemen's Country Houses; rare and curious Paintings; Sculpture articles of virtue. Part of the purchase money to paid down, remainder to be secured upon profits, Apply to Mr. Beard, Royal Polytechnic Institution,' Regent-street, 34 Parliament Street, Westminster, and 85, King William Street, City." Following this T.H.Ely purchased a licence from Richard Beard to use the Daguerreotype process in the County of Norfolk, including Wisbech. He set up a Studio in Norwich, advertising the opening of his studio in the Norfolk Chronicle on Saturday 02 December 1843 p1: "Beard's Patent Life-like likenesses taken by the action of light in a few seconds. an establishment is about to be opened on Friday next (December 8th) in the upper part of the Norwich Bazaar, known as the Museum, for the purpose of taking portraits by this wonderful process; which has been so extensively patronised in London and other parts of the Kingdom. The likenesses cannot fail to be correct, and the new process of colouring adds greatly to the beauty of the picture. They are elegantly got up so as to make either a handsome present or an ornament for the boudoir. Specimens will be shewn on the premises. Inspection courted." Further advertisements for the studio at the Bazaar appeared in the local press.

By January 1844 Ely was contemplating opening further studios in February at Kings Lynn and Wisbech. He advertised in the Norwich Mercury Saturday 13 and 20 January 1844 page 1: "Her Majesty's Royal Letters Patent. Beard's Photographic Portraits, with al the recent improvements. These truly astonishing likenesses continue to be taken from ten till dusk, at the Royal Bazaar, Saint Andrew’s, Norwich. The Proprietor begs to return his most sincere thanks to the numerous Friends who have honoured him with their Visits, and also to inform the Public generally, he is about to open Establishments in the Towns of LYNN and WISBECH in the month of February, prior to which he hopes to see many more of the smiling Faces of the Inhabitants of the City of Norwich. The Proprietor pledges himself to send out none but faithful and pleasing Likenesses. N. B.—Rooms are wanted in the Towns of Lynn and Wisbech for the purpose of taking these Portraits.— It is necessary there should be a Sky and Side Light. A Green-house would be suitable. Address Photographic Rooms, Bazaar, Norwich." By 17th February Ely was advertising studios at the Norwich address and at the New Market Room, Market Place, Lynn. The Kings Lynn and Norwich addresses were advertised until March 1844 at which point Ely was intimating an imminent close down. The Kings Lynn address no longer appeared in Ely's advertisements, but in June 1844 he notified the public that his Norwich studio would remain open for a while and that he was shortly opening a studio in Yarmouth.

By September 1844 Ely was in the process of closing down both his Norwich and Yarmouth studios. The Norwich Mercury on Saturday 14 September 1844 p4 announced: PHOTOGRAPHIC, PORTRAIT ROOMS, Bazaar, Saint Andrew’s, Norwich, WILL REMAIN OPEN BUT A SHORT TIME LONGER: PERSONS desirous of possessing their PORTRAITS, on this unerring, expeditious and cheap principle will oblige by an early application. Those who have had their Portraits, and dislike them from the effects of dress or other causes, may have them exchanged on payment of 5s for the small and 7s 6d for the large size. None but faithful and pleasing likenesses are sent out.—Specimens, shown at the Rooms. Open nine till five. NB the Photographic Establishment, adjoining the Victoria Parade, Yarmouth, will shortly close."

The Yarmouth venture could not have been a great success. By January 1845 Ely was trying to recover his outlay by selling off his licence to practice there. In the Norfolk Chronicle on Saturday 11 January 1845 p3 and 18 January 1845 p3 he advertised: "Safe and profitable investment for a small capital. For sale. The exclusive right of taking photographic portraits in the town of Yarmouth, the art taught and every information given to the purchaser. For particulars apply to Mr. Dowson, Bank Street, Norwich". [Mr. J. W. Dowson was a solicitor practicing at Bank Street, Norwich.]

It is difficult to pin down exactly locations and dates but Ely's business continued in operation in 1845. The Norfolk Chronicle on Saturday 7 June 1845 p1 carried an advertisement for another Norfolk location - Swaffham. "BEARD'S PATENT. Photographic Portrait Rooms, At Mr. GOWING'S, BOOKSELLER, Swaffham. The Licensee begs to inform the Nobility, Gentry, Clergy, and the Inhabitants of Swaffham and its Neighbourhood, that he has been again induced to OPEN HIS PORTRAIT ROOMS FOR A FEW DAYS on his route to Norwich, and trusts those who have not already availed themselves of his former visit will not permit this opportunity to pass, in all probability it may be some years ere the patent will be again be brought into this town. Portraits of Departed Friends, Choice Pictures, / Works of Art, etc, correctly copied this process. Specimens may be seen at the Establishment, which will be opened on Thursday next, June 12th 1845". The mention of his route through Swaffham and on to Norwich suggests that Ely may have been returning from either Kings Lynn or possibly from Wisbech.

By July Ely was back in Norwich according to the Norfolk Chronicle Saturday 5 July 1845. " Beard's Patent life in portraiture, the Photographic Portrait Rooms will be opened on Friday July 11th 1845 at No 1 Exchange Street, Norwich. NB A great variety of specimens embracing all the recent improvements may be seen at the Rooms." There were further advertisements for the Exchange Street address in August 1845. By September 1845 Ely was again offering to sell part of his Norfolk licence, but not for Yarmouth or Norwich. Was he planning to keep both locations? Had he already sold the licence for Yarmouth? Had something as frivolous as photography been blighted following the terrible Yarmouth Suspension Bridge collapse in May 1845 which killed 79, including many children? Norfolk Chronicle, Saturday 13 September 1845 p2: " Safe Investment and Genteel Employment for Small Capital. The Licenser of Beard's Patent for taking Photographic Portraits in the County of Norfolk, including the town of Wisbech, is willing to grant a right to practice in any the towns in the county, Norwich and Yarmouth excepted. Persons purchasing a Licence will receive full Instructions in the Art, Gratis. Apply by letter pre-paid or personally, to the Photographic Portrait-room, 1, Exchange-street, Norwich."

Who was T.H.Ely? Most of his newspaper advertising did not mention his name, referring to himself instead as Richard Beard's licencee, or the Proprietor. This may have been through an unwillingness to court personal publicity or, perhaps either a condition of Beard's license or using helpful advertising templates provided by Beard. Ely's name does however appear in at least three places in the local press. His surname and initials appear Norfolk Chronicle Saturday 01 June 1844 p2 and his surname only appears in the Norwich Mercury, Saturday 27 January 1844 p3 and on Saturday 24 August 1844 p2. The three notices concerned are:

  • Norfolk Chronicle - Saturday 01 June 1844 p2
    Photography. We would recommend those of our readers who have not yet visited the establishment of T.H.Ely at The Bazaar to embrace the opportunity ere it closes. The recent productions far excel any we have seen, which may be attributed to his extensive practice, added to the suitable season of the year. This art by which portraiture in living likeness is won from the hand of Nature itself and which must rank amongst the most extraordinary discoveries of this era of scientific marvels, may be looked upon as clearly and satisfactorily brought into practice at this establishment.
  • Norwich Mercury - Saturday 27 January 1844 p3
    The Studio of Mr. Ely, who is the proprietor of Mr. Beard's process for taking photographic likenesses in this district, has been the resort of very many of the principal inhabitants this week. The portraits he produces must of course be accurate resemblances, precise transcripts of the features. The great difficulty is to avoid that stern or severe expression which we have too often seen in such pictures, and which is the almost necessary consequence of confining the countenance for the artist. This objection, we understand Mr. Ely overcomes by interesting the sitter in the contemplation of some work of art, which calls off attention from the more immediate idea of "sitting for one's picture". The portraits of The Bishop and other gentlemen and ladies certainly are strong recommendations for this simple short precisely accurate and cheap mode of delineation as exercised by Mr. Beard's representative.
  • Norwich Mercury - Saturday 24 August 1844 p2
    The Photographic Portrait Rooms, ROYAL BAZAAR. ST. ANDREW’S, NORWICH, Are Re-opencd for a Short Time, WITH ALL THE RECENT IMPROVEMENTS, Where Mr. Ely solicits the patronage he has hitherto enjoyed, and pledges himself to send out none but Faithful and Pleasing Likenesses. WORKS OF ART ACCURATELY COPIED. Open from nine to five. NB Portraits will continue to be taken for a short time longer at the Photographic Rooms adjoining the Victoria Parade, Yarmouth.

A surname and initials alone do not help us to identify this, one of the first Norfolk photographers. We do not know where he lived or his occupation before he started practicing in Norwich, nor do we know exactly when he ceased to practice and where he then went and his next occupation.

Did T.H.Ely operate from Wisbech? This was certainly his stated intention in January 1844, but here is currently no proof that this occurred. However there is one contemporary reference to a daguerreotype practitioner being there. This comes from the Cambridge Independent Press on Saturday 01 March 1845 p3 which states: "Daguerreotype. The taking of portraits by this process is to be exhibited in the Theatre Yard next week according to notices distributed about the town".

By September 1846 it appears that T.H.Ely had moved on from being Beard's licencee. In the Norwich Mercury, Saturday 26 September 1846 P2 Beard re-advertised the Norfolk territory: "Daguerreotype Portraiture, Landscapes Etc. Mr Beard, Patentee begs to offer for sale an exclusive license for the exercise of the Daguerreotype invention for the County of Norfolk, in which would be combined the use of recent improvements which have added so considerably to the attraction which the production previously enjoyed. 85 King William Street, London."

As a footnote to what is currently known about T.H.Ely: could T.H.Ely, first Daguerreotypist in Norfolk have been one and the same person as the first Daguerreotypist in Cambridgeshire, whose identity never appeared in contemporary press reports, but who was named, years afterwards, as "Heeley"? The story of Heeley is told on our site here: www.fadingimages.uk/photoHe.asp . Despite similarities in name, occupation and location, it does appear from what is currently known that these were completely different people. Heeley had apparently fled from Cambridge to escape from Beard and his other creditors late in 1844 and had gone into hiding in Banbury, yet T.H.Ely was still advertising his presence in Norfolk for another year.

References: See the various newspaper references above.
Robert Pols gives an excellent account of T.H.Ely at: http://www.early-photographers.org.uk/Studio%20-%20T%20H%20Ely.html
John Benjafield has an excellent piece on his site on T.H.Ely, including an example of Ely's work at: http://www.earlynorfolkphotographs.co.uk/Photographers/T_H_Ely/T_H_Ely_photographer.html

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Photographers are listed alphabetically by surname on the following pages.

0 - 9 | Aa-Ak | Al-Ao | Ap-As | At-Az | Ba-Bak | Bal-Bam | Ban-Bd | Be-Bh | Bi-Bk | Bl-Bn | Bo-Bp | Br-Bt | Bu-Bz | Ca-Ck | Cl-Cn | Coa-Cor | Cos-Cz | Da-Dh | Di-Dq | Dr-Dz | Ea-Ec | Ed-Ez | Fa-Fh | Fi-Fz | Ga-Gd | Ge-Gq | Gr-Gz | Ha-Hd | He-Hh | Hi-Hn | Ho-Hz | Ia-Iz | Ja-Je | Jf-Jz | Ka-Kz | La-Ld | Le-Ln | Lo-Lz | Maa-Mad | Mae-Mar | Mas-Mb | Mc-Mi | Mj-Mz | Na-Nh | Ni-Nn | No-Nz | Oa-Oz | Pa-Pb | Pc-Ph | Pi-Po | Pr-Pz | Qa-Qz | Ra-Rd | Re-Rh | Ri-Rz | Sa-Sb | Sc-Sf | Sg-Sk | Sla-Slz | Sma-Ss | Sta-Std | Ste-Sth | Sti-Sy | Ta-Te | Tf-Ti | Tj-Tz | Ua-Uz | Va-Vz | Wa-We | Wf-Wh | Wi-Wz | XYZ