Early Norfolk Photographs
1840 - 1860
Samuel Smith Photographer
Samuel Smith
E. Johnson [Wisbech]
Samuel Smith
Albumen print, late 19th century
[Wisbech & Fenland Museum]

arrow gallery linkSamuel Smith (1802-1892)

Collector, Numismatist, Scientific Instrument Maker, Palaeontologist and Photographer

Samuel Smith was a talented and very methodical early photographer who made a special contribution to the history of photography by documentingthe growth of Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, a market town and river port, during the 1850s and early 1860s. He also made some photographs of Norfolk when he travelled across the county and examples are illustrated in his gallery.

The son of a farmer, he grew up some five miles from Wisbech and in 1830 he became a timber merchant and mechanist at March, just ten miles distant. His financial progress was such that he retired in 1847. He was first married to Myra, by whom he had two children, and, following Myra’s death, he married Frances Dawbarn.

He was a director of the Wisbech Gas Light and Coke Company, a committee member of the Scientific Institution and Museum of Wisbech and a member of the Palaeontographical Society of London. The Reverend Winks referred to Smith as ‘my philosopher friend’.

His first dated photograph was made 1852. He made waxed-paper negatives, probably using the process devised by Gustave Le Gray, and from these negatives he usually made albumen prints. His first dated print was made in 1852. In 1853, nineteen rooms of Hunstanton Hall, the home of the Le Strange family and one of the great Tudor houses of Norfolk, were destroyed by fire and, not long after, Samuel Smith documented the ruins, some examples of which are illustrated in the gallery.