Early Norfolk Photographs
1840 - 1860
T. H. Ely Itinerant Daguerreotypist

T. H. Ely dates unknown

Itinerant Daguerreotypist
Active in Norwich 1843-1844

Louis Daguerre and Isadore Niépce (the son of Daguerre’s late partner Joseph Niépce) announced the discovery of the Daguerreotype process in 1839.  The very delicate photographic image was captured in a silver-mercury amalgam on a polished copper plate. Printed illustrations give no impression of the impact made by the first viewing of a Daguerreotype. Perception of the amazing high resolution is followed by the surprise that the image changes repeatedly from positive to negative when moved slowly around its vertical axis. 

Viewers of the ‘magic mirror’ images were utterly astonished and although Daguerre sold the process to the French government for unrestricted use in France, he shrewdly patented its use in some foreign territories, England included. In 1841 Richard Beard, a successful London coal merchant and speculator in patents, bought the rights to the patent in England, Wales and the Colonies. One of Beard’s licensees was T. H. Ely1 about whom little seems to be known. However, advertisements appeared in the Norwich local press2 for a Daguerreotype studio opening on 8th December 1843. Ely, an itinerant photographer, operated at the Bazaar in St. Andrew’s Street until August 1844 having advertised that he would be opening in [King’s] Lynn and Wisbech. As yet just one image by Ely has been identified by Nick Burnett at the National Media Museum.’ The date in ink on the verso is March 1844.

T H Ely recto T H Ely verso

On 2nd December 1843, Ely announced the forthcoming opening of his studio at the Bazaar in the local press.

Ely’s advertisements became increasingly alluring as time went by

One wonders how many prospective sitters believed that their Likeness would last to infinity.

Sources and Notes

  1. Linkman, Audrey. The Victorians. Photographic Portraits. London & New York: Tauris Parke Books, 1993. p139.

  2. Norwich Chronicle and Norwich Mercury, weekly from 2 Dec 1843 to 17 February 1844.

    See also:  
    Heathcote, Bernard & Pauline. A Faithful Likeness - The First Photographic Portrait Studios in the British Isles, 1841 to 1855. Published by the authors: Lowdham, 2002.

    Adamson, K.P. More Early Studios (2). The Photographic Journal, July 1988.

    Robert Pols in his website <www.earlyphotographers.org.uk> provides this additional information on other studios opened by Ely in Norfolk.

Ely was the first Norfolk licensee of the daguerreotype process, and a picture of his activities can be built up by combining information given by Adamson and Heathcote. He opened a studio at Royal Bazaar, St Andrew’s Street, Norwich, on 8th December 1843. This studio was retained until August 1844, but during that time he also made forays into other towns. For a while in February 1844 he had a studio in the New Market Rooms, Market Place, King’s Lynn, and from June or July until September 1844 he put his name to a Yarmouth studio in Victoria Road, near Victoria Parade. A second Norwich studio was established at 1 Exchange Street from 11th July 1845 until some time in October. He also worked briefly in Swaffham during 1845.