Alfred and Hannah Wright of 18 Kensington Place

Photo:A portrait of Alfred Joseph Charles Wright (1854-1922), the proprietor of the photographic portrait studio at 18 Kensington Place, Brighton.

A portrait of Alfred Joseph Charles Wright (1854-1922), the proprietor of the photographic portrait studio at 18 Kensington Place, Brighton.

Photo:A portrait of Mrs Hannah Wright (1854-1932), the wife of Alfred Wright. Hannah worked as a photographer at her husband's photographic studio throughout the 1890s.

A portrait of Mrs Hannah Wright (1854-1932), the wife of Alfred Wright. Hannah worked as a photographer at her husband's photographic studio throughout the 1890s.

Thanks to Cris Van Hal and Jeanette Holm for providing the above pictures

Photo:The trade plate of Alfred Wright, Photographer, 18 Kensington Place, Brighton, as rubber-stamped on the reverse of a carte-de-visite portrait.

The trade plate of Alfred Wright, Photographer, 18 Kensington Place, Brighton, as rubber-stamped on the reverse of a carte-de-visite portrait.

David Simkin, Sussex PhotoHistory

Photo:A carte-de-visite portrait of an unknown woman taken at the Wright studio in Kensington place around 1892.

A carte-de-visite portrait of an unknown woman taken at the Wright studio in Kensington place around 1892.

David Simkin, Sussex PhotoHistory

Photo:A cabinet portrait of a young man, photographed at the Wright studio in Kensington Place around 1890.

A cabinet portrait of a young man, photographed at the Wright studio in Kensington Place around 1890.

Brighton History Centre

Photo:The trade card of Alfred Wright, Photographer of 18 Kensington Place, Brighton (c1890).

The trade card of Alfred Wright, Photographer of 18 Kensington Place, Brighton (c1890).

Cris Van Hal

Victorian and Edwardian photographers in North Laine, Part 1

By David Simkin

Over a period of 24 years Alfred Wright, a Brighton brewery worker, and his wife Hannah operated a photographic portrait studio at 18 Kensington Place.

Moved to Kensington Place in 1890

Alfred Joseph Charles Wright, who was originally from the Hollingbury district of Brighton, had married Hannah Dudley, the youngest daughter of a Bedfordshire farm labourer, in 1873, when they were both living and working in London. Around 1875 the couple moved down to Brighton, where Alfred Wright found work as a 'brewer's scalder' at a Kemptown brewery. In 1889 Alfred and his wife set up a photographic studio at their home in Islingword Road. The following year Alfred and Hannah, together with their seven children, moved to No 18 Kensington Place, where the Wrights constructed a photographic studio in the back garden.

Hannah managed the studio

For a number of years, Alfred Wright continued to work at Smither's Brewery, leaving his wife at home to manage the photographic studio and raise a total of ten children. The 1891 census records the Wright family at 18 Kensington Place. Hannah Wright is entered on the census return as a 36 year old, self-employed photographer working at home. At the time of the 1891 census Alfred Wright, the Head of Household, gave his occupation as "Cellarman". Alfred was employed by the Smither's Brewery in Brighton's Kemptown. Alfred later quit his job at the brewery to concentrate on his photography business. When the 1901 census was taken, Alfred J C Wright was recorded as a "Photographer (own account)", aged 46.

They lived there until 1922

Alfred and Hannah Wright ran the photographic studio at 18 Kensington Place until about 1913. Shortly after closing it, Alfred Wright returned to work in the brewery. In 1917 Alfred Wright gave his occupation as "Brewer's Foreman". Alfred and Hannah Wright carried on living at 18 Kensington Place until Alfred's death on 2nd October 1922. Mrs Hannah Wright passed away ten years later on 12th October 1932, aged 78.

Two basic formats

Alfred and Hannah Wright, like most photographers in the Victorian period, produced photographic portraits in two basic formats - the small 'carte-de-visite' portrait and the larger 'cabinet' portrait.

The carte-de-visite was a small photograph mounted on a card roughly the same size as a conventional visiting card (approximately two and a half inches by four and a quarter inches or 6.3 cm x 10.5 cm) This photographic format had been introduced from France and so these small photographs were generally known as 'carte-de-visite' - the French term for 'visiting card'. These small carte-de-visite portraits were often kept in leather-bound photographic albums.

The larger cabinet format had been introduced in 1866, a dozen years after the invention of the carte-de-visite. The cabinet portrait was a photographic print mounted on a sturdy card measuring approximately four and a quarter inches by six and a half inches (roughly 11 cm x 17cm). The larger format of portrait photograph could be displayed on top of items of furniture, such as a wooden cabinet, so presumably this is why they were known as "cabinet portraits".

Scale of charges

A trade card for Alfred Wright's studio in Kensington Place, dating from the 1890s, provides the scale of charges for his photographic portraits (see the illustration at bottom right). A single carte-de-visite portrait would cost one shilling (5p). Further multiple copies could be ordered by the customer, reducing the unit price of the photograph. Six copies of the original carte-de-visite portrait would cost 2s 6d (12.5 p), while a dozen further copies could be had for 4 shillings (20p). The larger cabinet portrait was more expensive. The first cabinet portrait would cost 2 shillings (10p), but the unit price would be reduced if the customer ordered six or more copies. Six copies of the cabinet portrait taken from the original photographic negative would cost 6 shillings (30p), bringing the unit price down to one shilling (5p). A customer could order 12 copies of the original cabinet portrait at a cost of 10 shillings (50p). Ten shillings (50p) for a dozen cabinet portraits does not seem very expensive in today's money, but it should be remembered that in the 1890s, ten shillings was equivalent to the weekly wage of an ordinary working person. (In 1895, a young woman working as a housemaid in domestic service could expect annual earnings of £16 2s - which works out at just over 6 shillings a week.)

Further information

A more detailed account of the lives and working careers of Alfred and Hannah Wright of Kensington Place can be found on the webpage devoted to Alfred Wright's photographic studio at the website Brighton Photographers - 1841-1910

This page was added on 03/11/2008.

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