Early Norfolk Photographs
1840 - 1860
Samuel Oglesby Photographer
Samuel Oglesby (1823-1879)
Child convict, itinerant Daguerreotypist and photographer

In 1833, when Samuel was 10 years old, he and his 12-year-old brother were found guilty of stealing a jacket, a waistcoat and 48 brass hinges from a house in Paddington, London. They were sentenced to seven years in a penal colony and, in 1835, they were transported to Australia1. Having served their time they were granted Certificates of Freedom and, by the late 1840s, Samuel advertised his Daguerreotype Establishment in Adelaide. In 1849 he attracted editorial promotion in the local press2 and soon afterwards advertised hand-coloured Daguerreotypes, possibly being the first to offer this service in southern Australia.

He returned to England in the early 1850s and continued as an itinerant Daguerreotypist. In addition to working in Norfolk towns, he is known to have had studios in Peterborough, Bury St. Edmunds, Lincoln, Boston, Louth, Stockton-on-Tees, Preston and Llandudno. In 1854 he was in Thetford, Norfolk and again succeeded in getting editorial promotion in the local press. Under the ‘Thetford’ heading in the Norfolk News dated 28th July 1854 this notice appeared:


We have had the pleasure of witnessing in this town, the productions of Mr. Oglesby, after Daguerre’s process of portraits, views, still life, &c., and must admit that we never yet fell in with any specimens excelling them, and very few indeed to be considered equal to them. There is an ease of position in the figures, and a pleasing expression of countenance, totally differing from the heavy overcast expressions which generally accompanies works of this kind. Some of the subjects, prepared of course for the purpose, under the power of the stereoscope are complete marvels, and the mind can scarcely comprehend any plain surface could be so acted upon by light, as to represent by means of this instrument miniature solids of the things poutrayed [sic]. Mr. Oglesby has, we understand, been long practising his art in Australia, and with much success.’

He soon moved on to Norwich and advertised in the Norfolk News on 12th August 1854. 

‘PHOTOGRAPHY. Will open in a few days,
Oglesby’s Daguerreotype Establishment. Saint Stephen’s Road.

Next door but one to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.
"S.O. WILL be prepared to take Likenesses in the
first style of the above art, from 5s. 6d. upward.
The following newspapers have spoken highly of S.O.’s
productions: - The “Observer,” March 7th, 1851;  “Regi-
ster,”   April 5th, 1851; “Sporting Chronicle,” August 10th,
1851; “Times,” May 7th 1852; the “Norfolk News,”
July 28th 1854,  S. OGLESBY, Artist in Daguerreotype,
Collodion and Talbotype.’  


Although he advertised his “Daguerreotype Establishment”, Oglesby makes it clear he’s also offering photographs printed from glass or paper negatives. Once again, he succeeded in obtaining editorial promotion in The Norfolk News3


We have at all times great pleasure in referring our readers to successful achievements in the fine arts, especially in those departments in which the public are likely to be generally interested. Portrait-taking by Photography, is, we believe, one of these branches, for a good likeness of a relative or friend is a precious treasure. Mr Oglesby, whose rooms have been open now for some months near the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, is practising the art with great success, and may, we are induced to think from the specimens we have seen, be safely relied upon for a faithful and life like production.’

It seems clear that Oglesby was a talented photographer but, as yet, the author has not seen examples made by him in Norfolk.


Sources and Notes

  1. I gratefully acknowledge kind permission from the author of the website www.amounderness.co.uk to quote from his research on Oglesby. The website follows Oglesby’s career to Llandudno, where he died.
    The Heathcotes established the locations of Oglesby’s studios in southern England, see: Heathcote, Bernard & Pauline. A Faithful Likeness - The First Photographic Portrait Studios in the British Isles, 1841 to 1855. (Lowdham: Published by the authors: 2002.)

  2. Mercury & Sporting Chronicle, Australia, 14th July 1849.

  3. The Norfolk News , Eastern Counties Journal, and Norwich, Yarmouth and Lynn
    Commercial Gazettte. June 2, 1855, p 5, col 2.