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Directory of Early Photographers in Cambridgeshire, Studio Notes, The Monson Brothers

The Monson family produced four brothers, each of whom took up the occupation of photographer, and each of whom appears in one or more of the county directories on this website. These notes represent a preliminary attempt to outline the brothers’ careers. They make use of information supplied by David Gobbitt, and they draw on the following printed sources:

Appleby, David & John, The Magic Boxes (Essex Record Office, 1992)

Heathcote, Bernard & Pauline, A Faithful Likeness (Heathcote, 2002).

The Monson family

James and Susannah Monson of Colchester, Essex, had four sons who became photographers:

  • Edward, born 1821/2,
  • Benjamin, born 1824,
  • Philip, born 1829,
  • Charles, born 1830.

Edward Monson

1848. Was working as land surveyor in Ipswich, Suffolk.

1849-1853. Ran a photographic studio (and taught handwriting) in Falcon Street, Ipswich. His daguerreotype licence covered Essex and part of Suffolk.

1851. Temporary studios in Colchester (Crouch Street), and Walton-on-the-Naze (The Crescent).

1852. Temporary studios in Stowmarket (near the Market Place), Sudbury and Braintree (Bank Street).

1853. Temporary studios in Colchester (25 Queen Street), Chelmsford (New London Road), Maldon (High Street), Saffron Walden (High Street), and Cambridge (2 Addenbrooke Place). In Cambridge he added portraits on glass and paper to his repertoire.

1854. Temporary studios in Northampton (Bridge Street), and Coventry (Warwick Row).

1854-5. Ran a studio in Birmingham (117 New Street), where he began manufacturing plates for the decreasingly popular daguerreotype process.

1855. Temporary studios in Wolverhampton (Mr Warr’s, Darlington Street), Bilston (9 Oxford Street), Walsall (Lichfield Street), and Lichfield (Mr Welch’s, Market Place).

1858-9 (and possibly longer). Period of residence at 57 Regent Street, Cambridge, where he took photographs and drew and published a plan of the town.

1859. Sued Eardley Eardley of Trinity College, Cambridge. (See Monson v Eardley.)

1861. Returned to Ipswich, with the intention of settling in the town, and set up a carte de visite studio in Friars Street. But at some stage during the 1860s he gave up photography and moved to Acton, Middlesex.

1871/1881/1891. Recorded in census returns as surveyor, civil engineer and printer.

Benjamin Monson

1851. His occupation was writing master, but he also acted as contact for his brother Edward’s temporary Colchester studio.

1854. Was running a photographic studio at 14 Crouch Street, Colchester, using the wet collodion process.

1855. A temporary studio was set up during August in the premises of Mr A Ruthers of Cornhill, Bury St Edmunds. (This was run in addition to his Colchester studio.) Other temporary studios also seem likely in the mid-1850s.

1859. Described in Kelly’s Directory as ‘tobacconist and photographic artist’.

1861. Described in census as ‘photographer, seedsman and printer’.

1870. Running a new studio at 7 East Hill, Colchester.

1902. Last trade directory entry for his studio.

Philip Monson

1853. Shifted the main focus of his activity from portrait and miniature painting to photography and set up a temporary studio at Mr Francis’ Nurseries in Hertford, in partnership with his brother Charles.

1855. Was practising alone in Hertford as a daguerreotypist. Later set up temporary studios in Reading (161 Friar Street), and Winchester (7 Jewry Street).

1856. Temporary studio in Salisbury.

1859. Trade directory record of a studio at 40 Newland, Northampton.

Charles Monson

1853. Shifted the main focus of his activity from portrait and miniature painting to photography and set up a temporary studio at Mr Francis’ Nurseries in Hertford, in partnership with his brother Philip.

1855 or earlier. Left the partnership with Philip.

1859. Trade directory record of a studio at 53 Leicester Road, Northampton.

1861-1872. Regular trade directory entries for a studio at 12 Bridge Street, Northampton.

1881. Shown in census as portrait painter and photographer, widower, living in Belgrave, Leicestershire.

1891. Living in Northampton at time of census, but not described as a photographer.

1893. Trade directory entry for a studio at 39 Overstone Road, Northampton.

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www.earlyphotostudios.uk is a non-commercial web site for local and family historians, listing photographers operating 1840-1916, in Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Leicestershire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Rutland and Suffolk. The original site was researched and written in 2011 by the late Robert Pols, photo historian and author, and this re-constructed site is dedicated to his memory.

This page was last modified: 13 September 2022, 13:03

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