Charles Sheppard Smyth 1846 – 1925
Established in or by 1881. Charles advertised in his own name until 1919. The business eventually became Smyth & Sons. It was sold to Wrates, a local firm, in the 1930s.
Studios were operated at Skegness and Wainfleet and possibly Chapel Saint Leonards.
|1861||Back St, Aldeburgh, Suffolk – age 15 – apprentice|
|1871||East End, Alford, Lincolnshire – age 25 – joiner|
|with Emma Smyth – wife – age 26 – photographer|
|1881||6 Barkham Street, Northolme, Lincolnshire – age 35 – photographer|
|with Emma Smyth – wife – age 37 – photographer|
|1891||Lumley Road, Skegness – age 45 – photographer and joiner|
|with Emma Smyth – wife – age 46 – photographer|
|and John B. Starbuck – brother-in-law – age 39 – photographer|
|1901||32 Lumley Road, Skegness, Lincolnshire – age 55 – photographer|
Charles Sheppard Smyth was born in Aldeburgh in Suffolk in 1846 the son of carpenter Charles Smyth and Elizabeth.
In 1861, at the age of 15, he was living at Back Street, Aldeburgh and working as an apprentice (possibly as a joiner).
Later, Charles went to Alford in Lincolnshire and lived next door to John Starbuck and family, who was an early Lincolnshire photographer and who also originated from Suffolk. By the winter of 1870, Charles was learning about photography.
In 1870, at the age of 25 Charles married Emma Starbuck in Holbeach, Lincolnshire. Emma was one of John Starbuck’s daughters. She was born in 1845 and originally came from Conningsby in Lincolnshire; she was a year older than Charles.
In 1871, the census shows Emma Starbuck was a registered photographer by trade and Charles was a joiner. The census also shows that the next door neighbours were photographers called Starbuck. Emma came from this family and had obviously taken her trade from her father. It is likely that Charles learnt his new found photography skills from both John Starbuck and his daughter Emma.
In 1881, Charles (age 35) and Emma (age 37) were living at 6 Barkham Street, Northolme, Lincolnshire and both were listed as photographers.
Charles is registered as the postmaster of the Post Office, West Street, Alford, Lincolnshire in 1885 and was also the vestry clerk.
Charles and Emma established a good photography partnership within their marriage, unusual for the times, and set up various businesses in Skegness and Wainfleet – and possibly in Chapel Saint Leonards (still to be confirmed), all in Lincolnshire.
They were the first photographers in Skegness. Their original studio was in the High Street and then it was moved to 15 Lumley Road.
In 1891, the census shows Charles as a photographer and joiner and Emma as a photographer. They were at Lumley Road, Skegness and were with Walter (15), Harry (11) and Winifred (9) and brother in law John B. Starbuck, also a photographer.
By 1896, the main studio was at 32 Lumley Road where the family lived and had a shop until a house was purchased in Algaitha Road. The house was named Aldeburgh after the town in Suffolk where Charles originated from and is called that to this day – 2009 (it is now a solicitors business).
Charles’ studio was very popular for photographs with backdrops and quite often had a boat to one side which people sat on, with sand on the floor to complete the seaside effect. Unlike today, the beach came up to the Clock Tower area in those days.
Some photographs which depict the year in which Skegness Clock Tower was opened (1897 – Queen Victoria’s Jubilee), show one of Smyth’s Studio’s. This looks like a large wooden hut on the corner of Lumley Road and the Clock Tower, with ‘Smyth’s Studio’ written on the side (see below).
Charles and Emma had 3 children; Walter Smyth (born 1876), Harry Aldeburgh Smyth (born 1880) and Winifred Mary Smyth (born 1882). Harry Aldeburgh Smyth’s middle name was also taken from the name of the town where Charles came from. All of them, as well as Charles’ 21 year old niece Ada Nainby, were listed as photographers in the 1901 census.
Charles became the Choirmaster for the Wesleyan Church in Skegness (now the Methodist Church) and his daughter Winifred was the organist. They both have individual plaques located in the church in their honour – see below.
Harry Aldeburgh Smyth, Charles’ son, served in the Great War as an aerial photographer in the Royal Flying Corps, taking and processing early reconnaissance pictures of enemy trench locations and crashed aircraft. There are various pictures remaining in the family today of his work. The picture below shows Harry in the RFC and the wording on the miniature tripod in the picture says ‘Half size – for children and dogs’.
Harry Aldeburgh Smyth came back from WW1 to carry on photography and the photography business changed its name to ‘Smyth & Sons’ sometime after 1919. Harry eventually took over the business when Charles died on the 6th May 1925 at the age of 79.
The business of Smyth’s was believed to have been sold to Wrates photographers of Skegness by Harry in the 1930’s.
|Father||Charles Smyth – born c.1816 in Coldfair Green, Suffolk|
|Mother||Elizabeth – born c.1821 in Winston, Suffolk|
|Born||1846 in Aldeburgh, Suffolk|
|Married||1870 in Holbeach, Lincolnshire to Emma Starbuck – born 1845|
|Child 1||Walter Smyth – born 1876 in Spilsby district, Lincolnshire|
|Child 2||Harry Aldeburgh – born 1880 in Spilsby district, Lincolnshire|
|Child 3||Winifred Mary – born 1882 in Spilsby district, Lincolnshire|
|Died||1925 in Skegness, Lincolnshire|
- Martin Smyth (great great grandson of Charles Sheppard and Emma Smyth & great grandson of Harry Aldeburgh Smyth), family historian, who provided the information for the life story above
- Marcel Safier for additional research and census data
- Sandy Barrie for trade directory information
- Ron Cosens for images from the Victorian Image Collection
Charles Sheppard Smyth – Gallery
Smyth & Sons – Gallery