Early Norfolk Photographs
1840 - 1860
Caleb Rose Photographer
Caleb Rose (1790-1872)
Surgeon, geologist, archaeologist and, perhaps photographer

The photogenic drawing1 of the plants (see below) may have been made by Rose but no authentic documentary evidence for this has yet come to light. It is possibly the earliest known photographic image associated with Norfolk.

Caleb Burrell Rose2, born in Eye, Suffolk, studied surgery under his uncle in that town and at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ hospitals in London. He became an assistant surgeon in Derbyshire and took up full-time surgery at Botesdale in Suffolk. He moved to Swaffham, Norfolk in 1816 and practised there for 43 years. In 1836 became a member of both the Medical and Chirurgical Society and the Royal College of Surgeons. In 1846, by attaining a distinction in an examination, he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.

As a member of the Geological Society he published ‘Sketch of the Geology of West Norfolk’ in 1836 and the society’s president referred to it as ‘one of the best accounts of any county in our possession’. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geological Society in 1839. His collection of fossils is now in Norwich Castle Museum. He was elected a member of the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society in 1848.

Sources and Notes

  1. The Royal Society, Ms 223, Item No. 24. I am grateful to my friend Mike Ware for having advised me of this image which is laid down in the album. A photogenic drawing is made on paper by making it light sensitive, first coating it with salt solution and then silver nitrate. When objects are placed on it and exposed to sunlight the paper darkens in proportion to the translucency of the objects; areas of the paper completely exposed turn dark and areas covered or partially covered remain white or off-white. The image produced is fixed using a salt solution. Henry Talbot discovered this process in 1834.

    Seven photogenic drawings were shown in Norwich at the 1840 exhibition of the Society for the Promotion of Useful Knowledge. Neither the makers or the exhibitors are listed in the catalogue. 

  2. Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 49
Josiah Roope with a camera
Caleb B. Rose [Association]
“An early attempt at photography from Norwich”
Photogenic drawing, 1840s
[©The Royal Society]
Portrait of Josiah Roope
Photographer unidentified
Caleb Burrell Rose
Albumen print, 1850s
[Norwich Castle Museum]