Henry Bown 1841 – 1921
In the 1871 census Henry described himself as a picture frame maker living at 52 Parker’s Row, Dockhead, Bermondsey. He is known to have produced photographic portraits with this address printed on his carte de visite mounts (see the Gallery at the end of this biography). Henry’s career as a photographer, therefore, began after 1871 but prior to 1876 when he opened a different studio at 14 Jamaica Road, Bermondsey.
Eventually, Henry had various other studios in London and had five sons involved in the business.
In 1919 he was succeeded by his son Charles Bown.
Henry died in 1921 at the age of 79.
1851 – age 10 – living in Lambeth, London with parents John Bown and Sophia Bown and three siblings
1861 – age 20 – his father’s census return does not include Henry
1871 – age 30 – a picture frame maker, living in Bermondsey, London
1881 – age 39 – a frame maker, living in Bermondsey, London with his family
1891 – age 50 – a photographer, living in Camberwell, London with his wife, five children and a servant
1901 – age 60 – a photographer, living in Lewisham, London.
1911 – age 69 – a photographer, living in Brixton with second wife Annie Mary Bown and a servant
Henry Bown was born on the 20th. February 1841 in Lambeth, London SE to John Bown who was born in 1813 and his wife Sophia Bown (nee Stanyon). Henry had one older brother, John Bown who was born on the 4 July 1839. His younger brother Charles Bown was born on the 28th. June 1843 and William Bown was added to the family on the 9th. April 1849.
1849 In April 1849, Henry, Charles and William were all baptised together at St. John the Evangelist church in Lambeth.
1851 Henry, aged 10, was living at 8 Pear Tree Street in Lambeth, London with his parents John Bown, a tailor journeyman, and Sophia Bown and his brothers John, Charles and William.
1860 In 1860, Henry, when he was about 19 years old, married Anne Maria Hill (born 1840), a local girl of his own age who had also been born in Lambeth. By the time of the 1861 census relating to Henry’s father, Henry had left home.
1861 In 1861, Henry and Anne had a son and named him after his father – he was called Henry Bown junior. Henry junior was born in Clerkenwell, Islington, London. Henry Bown junior was christened on April 20th 1862 in Holborn. Henry junior went on to be a prolific photographer like his father.
1864 (c.) Henry was presented with a little sister called Anne Maria Bown. She was born in Lambeth, London.
1865 (c.) About a year later, Elizabeth Bown was born in Lambeth, London. In 1884 she married Albert Victor Ranford (1864 – 1941); she was described as a photographer and he was a 20 year old gas fitter. He later took up photography professionally and had two studios in London in the 1900s – no doubt benefiting from his wife’s expertise.
1870 By 1870, another son, William Charles Bown was born in Bermondsey, London. William also became a photographer.
1871 In the census of 1871, Henry, who was aged 30, is recorded as a picture frame maker living at 52 Parker’s Row, Dockhead, Bermondsey. He is known to have produced portraits with this address printed on his carte de visite mounts (see the Gallery at the end of this biography). His photographic career, therefore, appears to have begun sometime after 1871 and prior to 1876 as he opened a new studio at a different address in 1876. It is assumed, therefore, that he started in photography between 1871 and 1875.
1873 By 1873, son number three was born in Bermondsey and was called Samuel. Samuel Bown later became a photographer and had a studio at 116 Walworth Road. To date, no trade directory advertisements have been found for Samuel at this address but the photograph below has been professionally dated by Jayne Shrimpton www.jayneshrimpton.co.uk to circa 1912. The pose is very artistic/stylish – not typical of ordinary family photographs from this era – and it is thought that the lady in the photograph could be a photographer’s model, or perhaps even a member of the Bown family.
A painting from 1912 by William Strang shows a similar, fashionable hat from the period – see below
Samuel was living at his father’s studio at 63 Spa Road, Bermondsey in 1891 where he was stated to be the brother in law of the head of household, Albert Victor Ranford, who was also named as a photographer.
1876 In 1876, Henry Bown senior moved to a new studio at 14 Jamaica Road, Bermondsey. This was a further step in a long and successful photographic business which employed him and, in due course, his five sons as well. Henry was also a carver, gilder and picture framer so provided a rounded and complementary service for his customers. No cartes de visite have yet been found with this address on.
1876 In 1876, a new baby, Arthur Bown, arrived and the family was still living in Bermondsey. Arthur, later on in life, had a studio in his own name in Clapham, London.
1877 By 1877, another new baby girl, Esther Bown, was born whilst the family were still living in Bermondsey.
1877 Henry appears to have been a Freemason of the Harrow Lodge (Harrow Lodge 1310) and remained so until at least 1896. However, unlike many freemasons, he did not advertise the fact on his photographic mounts.
1879 Henry and Anne continued to add to the family and Charles Bown was born in 1879 in Bermondsey, London. Charles, when he grew up, also had a studio and likewise his son after him.
1881 The census shows Henry, aged 39, living at 52 Parkers Row, Bermondsey with his wife and seven children. Interestingly, both of the older girls, Anne Maria and Elizabeth, are shown as 17 and 15 year old daughters respectively – but are also described as ‘servants’.
1882 Henry and Anne had their last child, a daughter, Mary Ann Bown in 1882 in Bermondsey, London.
1883 Henry opened a new studio at 33 Jamaica Road (also advertised as 33 Jamaica Level), in Bermondsey in 1883 and stayed there until about 1911. It was variously advertised as no. 33, no.31 and as nos. 32 & 33.
An interesting and unusual example of one of his carte de visite portraits is shown below – interpret as you will.
1886 By 1886 Henry had opened an additional studio at 13 Rockingham Street, Newington Causeway, Southwark, London SE but this remained open for only two or three years. Again, no cartes de visite have yet been seen with this address on.
1888 By 1888 Henry had closed the Rockingham Street studio and opened one at 43 New Kent Road in Southwark. Interestingly, the studio was updated and electric light was installed in December 1890. This studio became one of the main studios in the business and stayed open until at least 1920 when it was taken over by Brown, Pruce & King sometime before 1922.
1888 Also in 1888, a studio at 31 Spa Road, Bermondsey was purchased from Charles John Cooper but by 1890 Henry had moved down the road to no. 63 where the studio remained until about 1894.
1890s In the early 1890s Henry operated out of Cold Norton and Purleigh, both in Essex, but it is not clear for how long as he did not appear to have advertised in trade directories. However, details on carte de visite mounts show that he could only have been operating at these locations between 1890 and 1894. The fashions of the sitters in various examples support these dates.
1891 In the census in 1891, Henry aged 50, was recorded as a photographer and living at 36 Avondale Square in Camberwell, London with his wife Anne and his children William Bown (21), Arthur Bown (15), Esther Bown (14), Charles Bown (12), Mary Ann Bown (9) and a 22 year old servant named Alice Langham who was born out in the countryside at Great Barton in Suffolk. William was described as a photographer and Arthur as an assistant photographer.
1893 Life was not without its ups and downs as Henry was sued by his assistant Frank Smith on October the 26th for £4 wages in lieu of notice – but the case was lost.
1893 Henry senior appears to have made a big move in 1893 when he opened a new studio at 14 Wisteria Road, Eastdown Park, Lewisham SE in London. The date of 1893 is deduced only from the design of and details on Henry’s carte de visite mounts as he does not appear to have advertised it as a studio. The address was described as a studio and as a copying and photo printing works and its main purpose may well have been to service all of Henry’s studios at that time.
Henry Bown moved in and left Henry Bown junior, Arthur, Samuel, Charles & William to run the remaining studios (according to www.ericeames.com/genes/Bown.html).
Henry was involved in at least sixteen studios between the 1870s and the early 1900s.
1896 In 1869 David Rees had opened a studio at 298 Clapham Road, Lambeth and it was subsequently run by Rees Brothers & Sons and then Rees & Pitcher until about 1896. This well established studio was then bought by Henry Bown and run at that address until the early 1920s when it was handed over to Charles Bown.
1897 Another studio was opened in 1897 at 29 Stockwell Park Road, Brixton, Lambeth and it ran until at least 1909.
1898 Henry’s wife Anne died in 1898 at the age of 58 and was buried at Ladywell & Brockley Cemetary, Lewisham.
1901 In the 1901 census Henry, aged 60, was listed as a photographer living at 14 Wisteria Road, Eastdown Park, Lewisham, London. This is the address of the studio, copying and photo printing works he opened in 1893.
1904 Henry re-married on the 4th of April 1904. He married Marion May Brokenbrow who was a 19 year old living in his home at 14 Wisteria Road. Ethel L Brokenbrow and C Brokenbrow signed as witnesses at the wedding which took place at the Baptist Chapel, College Park, Lewisham. Henry and Marion’s marriage certificate is shown below.
1906 Sadly, Marion died just two years after their marriage on the 26th April 1906 at home at the age of 21. She died of pulmonary tuberculosis and was buried near Henry’s previous wife at Ladywell & Brockley Cemetary in Lewisham.
1906 Henry was not in good health by 1906 and wanted to retire so he registered a limited company, H Bown Ltd. in December of that year with a Thomas Isaac Grimes to whom he lent £1,000 for the purpose. Henry’s intention was that the limited company would own the studios and some of his outlets certainly traded under the name of the limited company for a short time but reverted to trading as Henry Bown soon afterwards.
Thomas Grimes turned out to be a poor choice of associate.
1906 Henry junior, Henry Bown’s son appears to have left the business at this time and opened two studios of his own at 400 Evelyn Street, Deptford and 116 Walworth Road, Southwark. Confusingly, his carte de visite mounts named him as Henry Bown as well; as opposed to Henry Bown junior – perhaps understandable as he would have been about 45 at the time.
1908 Henry married another younger lady, Annie Mary Pendergast, in 1908. Annie Mary had been born in Castlemartyr, County Cork in Eire about 1884. She was 42 years younger than Henry.
1908 Thomas Grimes, Henry’s business partner, was declared bankrupt in March 1908.
1909 There was an interesting court case mentioning Henry Bown and Grimes on the 12th. January 1909 at the Old Bailey as follows:-
“JOSEPH STODDART, FREDERICK ERNEST CATLING, Deception > fraud,12th January 1909. Extract –
The Recorder. It seems to have been a wonderfully fortunate firm, this. Everybody who competed always won.
Witness. You do not take into consideration that one successful week out of 20 or 30 is not much.
Further cross-examined. Naylor and Co. are box manufacturers. The name of the firm at 29, Stockwell Park Road is Bown. That is a photographic firm. I bank with the Wallington branch of the London and South-Western Bank. I also used to have an account with the Economic Bank till it went into liquidation. Naylor and Co. used to bank at the Capital and Counties. Whether Reed had a banking account I do not know. I did not cash a cheque for £300 for Reed. I did not have a cheque for £150 from Beach. I know a man named Camm. If letters came addressed to Reed, Camm did not give them to me. Camm was one of the servants in the Stockwell firm I was secretary to at 29, Stockwell Park Road. That was also Reed’s address, and Reed asked me if I would ask Mr. Camm for any letter that came for Mr. Reed. That was sometime in July. I think he took letters in for him, as he was competing from that address, as he did not wish his wife to know what competitions he went in for. I have said before that I am not Reed. I do not know what you are insinuating, I am sure. You are making very serious allegations.
Mr. Abinger. I hope I make it clear; I am insinuating that you have been defrauding Mr. Stoddart.
Witness. You have to prove it. I know a man named Grimes. I know that Bown was approached by Grimes in 1907 with the view to turning this business into a limited company. I was concerned in the formation of the company. Reed was concerned in it; he was a director. Beach was concerned, but only as signatory, and had nothing to do with the management of the business. At that time I had not known Beach long. I had a good deal to do with the promotion and drafted the articles of association, etc. Reed, Beach, and myself were not putting our heads together to win these prizes. We had been competing in competitions for years, and it happened to be a coincidence that the prize was a big one that week. I did not see either Reed or Beach fill up their coupons. I have never been in Ramsgate in my life, and never passed myself off as D’Avyet. What next are you going to insinuate? I shall soon refuse to answer your questions if you make such insinuations as that. I have never competed in the name of D’Avyet nor sent in a coupon as from the yacht “Marque.” I have not competed in the name of Saunders. The offices at Great St. Helens consisted of two rooms, and were shared by Grimes and Reed. Reed’s name was never on the door. Grimes and myself paid the rent. It was the registered address of Bown and Co. and also the offices of Grimes and myself.
To the Recorder. The Derby was one of the races included in the three. I was fortunate enough to win on that occasion. That was in the name of Naylor. I do not know whether Beach competed that week. It is quite possible that Reed did, but I do not know. I was put down as having selected winners in three different races. I was very much surprised that I won, as the horse I selected for the Derby was Signorinetta. It is a fact that Signorinetta was a 100 to 1 chance, and that practically nobody backed the horse. It was simply a matter of chance that it came off.
The Recorder. You know the suggestion made against you—
The suggestion is that you were in league with somebody over on the other side, and that after the race was won your coupon was put in as if it had been sent in before the race was won.”
1911 The census shows Henry Bown, aged 69, living in a seven room house at 29a Stockwell Park Road, Brixton, London SW with his 27 year old wife Annie Mary Bown and a 19 year old servant named Lizzie Hambelton who had been born nearby in Wimbledon. It is not clear if these premises were still used as a studio at that time as they do not appear to have been advertised then. The last time they were stated as being occupied by a ‘firm named Bown’ was in the 1909 court case mentioned above.
1912 By 1911/1912 Henry had rationalised his business and had closed all of his studios except for 43 Kent Road and 298 Clapham Road, these two important studios remaining open until the 1920s.
1912 On January 18th 1912, Henry’s debtor, Thomas Isaac Grimes; was due to be discharged from bankruptcy but his discharge was suspended for 10 years (Photographic Dealer February 1912). It would appear that Henry’s loan was lost and gone forever.
1921 Henry died of a cerebral haemorrhage at his home at 29a Stockwell Park Road, London on the 2nd. March 1921. His daughter Esther was with him. His occupation was given as a Master Photographer and his age noted as 79. See his death certificate below:-
Henry was buried at Ladywell & Brockley Cemetary, Lewisham alongside his first wife Anne Maria Bown and his second wife Marion May Bown (cemetery reference 846).
1921 Probate was granted and Henry left over £29,000, a the considerable sum of at the time.
A notification from Henry’s executors asking for claims against Henry’s estate appeared in the London Gazette on the 29th. April 1921.
Other photographers in the family
- Henry Bown junior (1861 – 1946), Henry’s son. An example of Henry junior’s studio photography is shown below
- William Charles Bown (1869 – 1931), Henry’s son
- Henry William Bown, William Charles son. According to Edmund Goldsbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org , Henry William’s grandson, it was Henry William Bown who took lots of photos in the 1940s of war damage in London – see http://www.dusty-files.co.uk/aia/2011/7/7/the-blitz-project.html & http://www.dusty-files.co.uk/aia/2011/7/30/blitz-first-results.html
- Samuel Bown (1873 – 1948), Henry’s son and brother-in-law of Albert Ranford (photographer)
- Arthur Bown (1876 – 1929), Henry’s son
- Charles Bown (1882 – 1944), Henry’s son
- Albert Ranford (brother in law).
Henry Bown’s Family
Father John Bown, born 1813
Mother Sophia Stanyon, born 1811
Born 1841 in Lambeth, London SE
Married 1 1860 to Anne Maria Hill born in Lambeth, London. Died 1898
Child 1 1861 Henry Bown junior born in London. Died 1946
Child 2 c.1864 Anne Maria Bown born in Lambeth, London
Child 3 c.1865 Elizabeth Bown born in Lambeth, London
Child 4 1870 William Charles Bown born in Bermondsey, London. Died 1931
Child 5 1873 Samuel Bown born in Bermondsey, London. Died 1948
Child 6 1876 Arthur Bown born in Bermondsey, London. Died 1929
Child 7 1877 Esther Bown born in Bermondsey, London
Child 8 1879 Charles Bown born in Bermondsey, London. Died 1944
Child 9 1882 Mary Ann Bown born in London
Married 2 1904 to Marion May Brokenbrow. Died 1906
Married 3 1908 to Annie Mary Pendergast, born Castlemartyr, Eire
Died 1921 in Stockwell Park Road, London SW.
Compiled by Ron Cosens © www.cartedevisite.co.uk
- Colin Williams email@example.com and Richard Woolston firstname.lastname@example.org – family historians
- Sandy Barrie for trade directory information
- Marcel Safier for invaluable additional research – email@example.com
- Ron Cosens for images from the Victorian Image Collection
- PhotoLondon website at http://www.photolondon.org.uk
Henry Bown senior – Gallery
Examples of Henry’s photography are shown below.
H Bown Ltd – Gallery
An example of H Bown Ltd’s photography is shown below.