Early Norfolk Photographs
1840 - 1860
J Stewart Photographer

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J Stewart (dates unknown)
          Photographer, Member of the Norwich Photographic Society

Although minutes of the monthly meetings Norwich Photographic Society [published occasionally elsewhere in photographic journals] show J. Stewart to be an active member during 1855 and 1856, his true identity remains a mystery. The Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service collection includes several photographs bearing the ‘JS’ monogram of J. Stewart in the negatives and the NPS 1856 exhibition catalogue lists the prints he showed.

  Subject Negative
4 Carrow Staithe   Wax
15 In Bracondale Nursery Collodion
20 Peace and War, after Landseer Collodion
62 L’Allegro, after Frost Collodion
82 Sabrina, after Frost   Collodion
99 Bylaugh Hall, N. Approach Wax
145 St. Luke’s Chapel  Wax
187 Wellington Statue, Norwich Wax
198 Nelson Monument, Norwich Wax
234 Bylaugh Hall, Norfolk Wax
240 Carrow Gardens, Norwich Wax
331 “Coming of Age,” after Frith     Collodion
337 Cottage at Bracondale 1. Collodion  2. Wax

In December 1855, the Norfolk News, reporting the Society’s monthly meeting says ‘Some excellent collodion pictures, many of which were stereoscopic, were exhibited by Mr. Stewart, a member of the Society’s Committee.’ During 1856, while remaining a committee member, he showed his brethren photographs of Holkham Hall, flowers and snow scenes. The snow scenes, taken in December 1856, ‘much admired’ and ‘exceedingly fine’ , were quickly added to the Society’s exhibition which had just opened. The Fourth and Concluding Notice of the exhibition published in the Norfolk News, 3rd January 1857 says:
‘There are two pictures of “Trees laden with Snow,” which were done since the room opened, by Mr. J. Stewart. They are not numbered but will be found upon the screen, near Mr. Hennah’s sea-pieces. These snow scenes are as beautiful as they are unique. Mr. Stewart has at least one other picture printed from glass, “In Bracondale Nursery,” 15, which, like the great French picture of Paris, was made in two parts subsequently joined together. His companion to it, “Carrow Bridge,” 42, from waxed paper is nearly as sharp in definition and equally fine as a landscape.’
It seems reasonable to assume that Stewart, a committee member of the Society, lived in Norfolk, and White’s 1854 Directory does list a John Stewart, nurseryman, resident in Bracondale, Norwich. In addition, Mason’s Directory lists Mackie & Stewart at 10 & 11 Exchange Street (just off the Market Place), Norwich, with a horticultural establishment at Bracondale and a nursery on the Ipswich Road. So this John Stewart was a partner with Arthur Mackie in a successful business employing 46 men and 5 boys. The 1856 Norwich photograph exhibition catalogue lists two photographs taken by J. Stewart titled ‘In Bracondale Nursery’ and ‘Cottage at Bracondale’. Again, the Library collection includes two splendid early photographs, one bearing the ‘JS’ monogram, of the corn mill at Bracondale (See Gallery) and the other of a nursery directly adjacent to the corn mill. Is it possible that this J. Stewart is our photographer?
It has been suggested that the photographer was John Stewart (1813-1867), born in Stranraer, educated at Edinburgh University, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries in Scotland, a member of the Edinburgh Calotype Club and a founder member of the Photographic Society of Scotland. It seems unlikely that an antiquarian, active in the upper echelons of Scottish society might also have been resident in Norwich and yet not made any recorded impact on the local society in some way other than through photography.
The true identity of J. Stewart awaits authentication.

Sources and Notes

The photographs reproduced in the Gallery are all in the collection of the Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service.