The Photographer

This is my ninth post in the Guild of One-name Studies (GOONS) blog challenge 2020.

A post by fellow GOONS member Vivienne Dunstan was the inspiration for today’s post. She reported on a photograph she found on eBay that showed someone with her surname of interest. I was curious whether I could do the same so I logged into eBay and typed in “Casbon.” The search mainly turned up a few books (not mine!) and marketing items such as t-shirts with “Casbon” printed on them. However, one item of particular interest turned up—a photograph taken by Charles Casbon of Hornsey, London, England. The owner of the photograph was kind enough to let me use the images.

Carte de visité (front and back), portrait of two young girls, taken by “Chas. Casbon,” undated
(courtesy of Helen Flavin, Black Cat Books & Ephemera, Wiltshire, United Kingdom)

The little girls are cute, but I was interested in the photographer, not his subjects. We see that Chas. Casbon was a professional photographer with a studio located at 6 Alexandra Road, Hornsey. The picture on the back of the card depicts a camera on a stand in front of a screen. The information given about the photograph on the eBay site says that the original size is 4 by 2.5 inches.

A website dedicated to London photographers says that Charles Casbon had his studio on Alexandra Road from 1888 to 1892,[1] while another source says he was located there until 1896.[2] Thus we can date the photograph to this range of dates.

This kind of photograph is known as a carte de visité. They consisted of small photographs mounted on card stock measuring about 4 by 2.5 inches, and usually containing printed information about the photographers on the back. Cartes de visité were immensely popular in the late 1800s and early 20th century. People collected and kept them in albums.[3]

Charles Wheeley Casbon received brief mention in an earlier blog post about his father, Thomas, who was suspected of jumping into the Thames in an unsuccessful suicide attempt. (See also “Lost Man, Found”) Charles was descended from the “Peterborough Casbons,” a family that settled in the vicinity of Peterborough, Northamptonshire, in the mid 1800s. I have never been able to connect this family to my own. The earlier generations, including Charles’s father, were all gardeners (see “How doth your garden grow?“). Charles was probably the namesake for the “Charley Casbon” flower I discovered in an 1871 Washington, D.C., gardening catalog a few years ago.

Advertisement for “Charley Casbon”; John Saul, Descriptive catalogue of new, rare and beautiful plants, dahlias, chrysanthemums, geraniums, fuchsias, carnations, verbenas, phloxes, &c. for spring, 1871 (Philadelphia: Horticultural Book & Job Print, 1871), p. 30; Internet Archive

Charles was born in Peterborough on 18 June 1866.[4] His given name on the Peterborough St. Mary’s parish baptismal register was Charles Thomas Casbon.[5]

Detail from Peterborough St. Mary’s parish register, 1866; note the father’s occupation: “Nurseryman”

His mother, Emily (Cantrill) filed for divorce when Charles was 2 years old, and it appears that he lived with her after the divorce. Her dislike of her former husband must have been intense, because at some point Charles’s middle name was changed from Thomas to Wheeley, the middle name of Emily’s father, Samuel W. Cantrill.

Charles, his mother, and his sister were enumerated at Samuel’s residence for the 1871 and 1881 censuses. In the 1891 census, we find Charles as the head of household, residing at
6 Alexandra Rd. in Hornsey, a district in North London. This is the same address as that given for his studio. His occupation is recorded as “photographic artist.” His mother and sister are also in the household, along with a visitor, a boarder, and one servant.[6]

Detail from 1891 England census for Hornsey, Middlesex; Ancestry (Click on image to enlarge)

In the 1901 census, he is listed as a visitor in a different Hornsey household; his occupation is given as “photographer’s draughtsman.” This seems like a step down from having his own studio.

I haven’t found Charles in the 1911 census, but he does appear in 1910 and 1912 London city directories, still living in Hornsey, but now living at Rathcoole Gardens (road). It is unknown whether he was still in the photography business at the time. The only other record I have is a copy of a French death certificate from Levallois-Perret, a suburb of Paris, showing that Charles had been residing in Paris. He died at the age of 63 on 6 August 1930.[7] The death certificate includes the word “artiste,” so this probably explains what he was doing in France.

There is no record of a marriage or of children being fathered by Charles; therefore no descendants to preserve his memory.

[1] PhotoLondon website (https://www.photolondon.org.uk/).
[2] Photographers of Great Britain & Ireland website (http://www.victorianphotographers.co.uk/).
[3] Richard Davies, “The First Great Photography Craze: Cartes de Visites,” 14 Mar 2019, PetaPixel (https://petapixel.com/2019/03/14/the-first-great-photography-craze-cartes-de-visites/ : accessed 4 Feb 2020).
[4] “Casbon vs. Casbon,” Court Minutes, Her Majesty’s Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes, no. 787 JS; image copy, “England & Wales., Civil Divorce Records, 1858-1915”, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/2465/ : accessed 19 Feb 2017); citing The National Archives; Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes, later Supreme Court of Judicature: Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Files; Class: J 77; Piece: 84; Item: 787.
[5] Peterborough (Northamptonshire) parish register, baptisms 1866, no. 494; image copy, “Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912”, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/9200/).
[6] 1891 England census, Hornsey, Edmonton, Middlesex; image copy, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/6598/); citing The National Archives, RG 12, piece 1059, folio 130, p. 51.
[7] “UK, Foreign and Overseas Registers of British Subjects, 1628-1969,” image copy, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1993 : accessed 18 September 2018) ; citing The National Archives, RG 32/16.

1 thought on “The Photographer”

  1. I have had mixed success on eBay, much to my hubby’s horror! My most recent find was a postcard for the surname Dwerryhouse, the surname in my latest Family Tree Mag (UK) article. Once scanned the postcard will be on its way to someone whose family includes a Dwerryhouse.

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