William England (1830-1896) was a 19th century British photographer who was widely known for his travel images. He was an early adopter of photography, operating a studio in the late 1840s, less than ten years after the daguerreotype was created by French inventor Louis Daguerre. England’s 1859 trip through the United States, including a visit to the Catskills, and Canada gained widespread praise. His image of Charles Blondin tightrope walking across the Niagara Gorge is among the top selling stereoviews of all time. Although largely forgotten today, William England was considered one of the great photographers of his era.
Continued from Part 8, Conclusion.
Following in His Footsteps
“As Mr. England has for some little time been resting on his oars, the whole of these businesses is now carried on by his sons, under the firm of England Brothers . . .”
Several children of William England followed in their father’s footsteps by working in the photography industry. Louis William England, William’s oldest child, started in the photography business at a young age. “Mr. England is one of the few who have already introduced photography to a second generation: his eldest son, a youth of seventeen, has commenced his career as photographer, as a dry plate man, having produced some excellent dry plate negatives, before he has yet produced one by the wet process.”
According to UK census and marriage records, Louis William England worked as a photo landscape artist (1881 census), a publisher (1889 marriage record), a photographer (1891 census), a photographic printer (1901 census) and a photographer (1911 census). Louis, for a time, operated the L. W. England & Co. business, located at 25 Charles Street in Royal Crescent, Notting Hill, London, which offered photographic printing and enlarging. Louis was also a partner with his brothers in the England Bros. firm. Louis William England passed away in 1919.
Walter John England, William’s third child, and according to UK census records, was educated as a “Student of Arts” (1871 census). In 1877, according to the record of his first marriage, Walter was working as an “Artist.” In 1888, according to the record of his second marriage, Walter was working as a “publisher.” He later worked with an occupation of “Photo mount manufacturer and Lithograph” (1891 census), a “Manager Collotype printing” (1901 census), and as a printer (1911 census). Walter was also a partner with his brothers in the England Bros. firm. Walter John England passed away in 1914.
John Desire England, William’s youngest child, and according to his 1887 marriage record, at age 26, was working as a dry plate maker. According to UK census records, John then worked with photographic materials (1891 census), and worked as a photographic chemist (1901 census) and as a technical chemist in photographic paper manufacturing (1911 census). John worked with and then took over the dry plate manufacturing business of his father, with money invested by his father, operating at 21 to 24 Charles Street in Royal Crescent, Notting Hill, London. John was a Council Member of the West London Photographic Society and became a member of the Photographic Society of Great Britain, later the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, in 1884.
Like his father, John wrote detailed technical articles for the leading photographic industry publications.
Later John and his brothers combined efforts to form the England Bros. company, which offered plate-making, the production of lantern slides, gelatine dry plates, letterpress and lithographic printing, including the production of “photographic mounts in carte, cabinet, and every other size made use of in the profession,” books, magazines and photographic catalogs. The England Bros. firm later merged with Charles Tylor in the late 1890s to form the Chas. Tyler and England Bros. company. The Chas. Tyler and England Bros. company operated until 1907 when it was incorporated into the firm of W. Butcher and Sons, Limited. John Desire England passed away in 1931.
“The new Tourist’s Knapsack Tent. This tent was used by that eminent photographer Mr. England during the whole of his tour through Switzerland.”
The name of William England, given its prominence in the photographic industry, was widely used by companies in advertisements to promote their products. Examples of advertisements where England’s name was used include W. W. Rouch for their Tourist’s Knapsack Tent and their collodion plates, Newman’s Diamond Print Varnish, Dallmeyer’s assortment of lenses, the E. & H. T. Anthony Company, and various distributors of stereoscopic views and other photography prints, among many others.
Photographic Society of Great Britain
“The object of the Photographic Society is the promotion of the Art and Science of Photography, by the interchange of thought and experience among Photographers . . .”
William England was long associated with the Photographic Society of Great Britain, later the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, having joined the society in 1863. He made his debut at the society the year prior on March 4, 1862 “when he exhibited a series of lantern slides, consisting of ‘instantaneous street scenes in Paris, etc.’” England was elected as a Council Member in 1867, a position he held until his death. In 1886 and 1887 England served as the organization’s Vice President. The Royal Photographic Society, founded in 1853, continues to operate today. More information about the organization and their history can be found on their website at www.rps.org.
“Gentlemen in lux way.” – Solar Club.
William England was a founding member of the Solar Club, which was established in 1866. Although founded as a photographic professional society, the group functioned more as a gentleman’s social club, with a decided focus on dining.
“The prospectus of the club was as follows:
WHEREAS the object of this Club is Social Enjoyment, and WHEREAS we have the authority of many famous men that it is good to dine, videlicet, Dr. Johnson said, “Sir, let us dine;” Shakespeare recommends us to “dine and never fret;” he also says “Though should’st hazard they life for they dinner;” and authority, Prior, says:
“Thus of your heroes and brave boys
With whom old Homer makes such noise,
The greatest actions I can find
Are that they did their work – and dined.”
And WHEREAS it is clearly great and virtuous to dine, therefore BE IT ENACTED that we be great and virtuous.
At each meeting of the Members they will dine together. The diner may consist of herps and of water from the spring, or –
To promote freedom and avoid formality, it is suggested that Members shall not appear in Regimentals, Court Dress, as Guys or in Disguise, in a Dress Coat, or any other than their ordinary costume, unless they wish their portraits, in such costume, to hang up during every meeting as a warning to others. Further, to fuse all elements into harmony, it is suggested that Smoking not be prohibited, but, on the contrary, strictly enforced.”
Members of the Solar Club were addressed as “Rays,” instead of the usual “Brothers”; for example, “Ray England will now propose a toast.” Members included writers and editors for trade magazines, studio proprietors and, generally, a who’s who of London photography. Other founding members included Francis Bedford (1816-1894), Valentine Blanchard (1831-1901), G. Bishop, John Henry Dallmeyer (1830-1883), Samuel Fry, Russell Manners Gordon (1829-1906), W. Holyoake, Frank Howard, Jabez Hughes (1819-1884), J. E. Mayall (1813-1901), William Mayland (1821-1907), W. F. Mills, Oscar Gustave Rejlander (1813-1875), George Wharton Simpson (1825-1880), M. Whiting, Jr., Walter Bentley Woodbury (1834-1885), and Thomas Richard Williams (1824-1871) and Henry Peach Robinson (1830-1901), Chancellor. Membership in the Solar Club was restricted to 25 people, with guests from the arts and the press often invited to the monthly dinners.
Members of the Solar Club, including England, were notably photographed in 1869 by O. G. Rejlander, and the picture was later enlarged by Jabez Hughes. The Photographic Journal noted that there was “special interest” in the photograph “from the circumstance of its being the only picture extant exhibiting so large a group of British photographers.” The photograph was exhibited in 1870 at the 15th Annual Exhibition of the Photographic Society of London. The photograph is now part of the Royal Photographic Society collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Edgar Yoxall Jones described the historic photograph in his 1973 biography of Rejlander. “In June, Rejlander invited his friends of the Solar Club to a house-warming, and the group photograph taken during the proceedings shows him in the company of some of the foremost figures in the photographic world. On the left sits William England of the London Stereoscopic Company, whose extensive tours opened up the continent and the United States to the British public. With his back to the camera sits Wharton Simpson, editor of Photographic News; and to his right is Jabez Hughes, whose lucrative business in the Isle of Wight enjoyed royal patronage. Leaning back into the window one catches the profile of Walter Woodbury, inventor of the Woodbury type, whose name is perpetuated in The Oxford Dictionary. H. P. Robinson sits near Rejlander, who smiles benignly upon the proceedings.”
Photographers’ Benevolent Association
“Some further effort has been made by a few earnest working photographers to establish a Benevolent Society, for the benefit of the unfortunate and needy amongst their body . . .”
Seeking to aid members of the photographic community in need, the Photographers’ Benevolent Association, sometimes referred to as the P. B. A., was founded in 1874. William England served as one of the association’s earliest trustees. The organization was supported by donations and subscriptions from those interested in the photographic trade, including employers, workers, amateurs and even those generally interested in photography. Professional photographers closely associated with the Photographers’ Benevolent Association also donated some of their completed photographs, which were then used to raise money via art shows and art sales. In June 1874 it was noted that “as a beginning, Mr. England has kindly promised a liberal donation.” The following January, in 1875, England again donated photographs, this time “a splendid collection of statuary.”
The charitable aims of the Photographers’ Benevolent Association were detailed in an advertisement in The Photographic Journal.
“The objects of the Association are – To receive Subscriptions and Donations, and by other means to raise funds, and to apply them to the following purposes:–
1.– The assistance, by grants or loans, of persons connected with Photography, their widowss and orphans, who are in neessitous circumstances arising from age, sickness, misfortune, or any other cause.
2.– The Grant of Annuities for life or for a term of years to such persons as are hereinafter indicated as qualified to receive such Annuities. Also,
3.– To aid unemployed Photographers in obtaining situations.”
Despite the laudable goals of the organization, it often faced challenging times given the lack of financial support from the photographic industry at large. Near its demise in the 1890s professional publications often wrote about how unfortunate it was that the Photographers’ Benevolent Association was not better supported.
Due to the lack of general interest and an absence of incoming financial support from subscriptions and donations, the Photographers’ Benevolent Association ceased operating in 1898. Any remaining funds were provided to the Royal Photographic Society on condition that the money be used for benevolent purposes.
Photographic Convention of the United Kingdom
“The object of the Convention . . . was an interchange of opinions and experiences on the subject of photography, combined with friendly intercourse amongst the charming Derbyshire scenery, and the general advancement of the photographic art.” – First annual convention in 1886.
In August 1886 England attended the inaugural meeting of the Photographic Convention of the United Kingdom held at the School of Art in Derby. “Its object was to afford facilities to photographers, professional and amateur, for an annual gathering at some suitable town, previously agreed upon, for the purpose of hearing and discussing papers of photographic interest; of holding exhibitions; excursions; a dinner; and other social gatherings. Conventions carried out on this model have for many years been popular amongst the photographers of the United States.”
The first convention meeting, taking place over the course of three days from August 12 to 14, 1886, attracted approximately 46 well-to-do amateurs and successful professionals. Excursions were arranged to nearby destinations including Haddon Hall, Chatsworth, Dovedale and Matlock. Various papers were read including “Success” by H. P. Robinson, “Instantaneous Photography” by William Cobb, “Emulsion-making” by W. K. Burton and “Daylight Enlarging” by Andrew Pringle, among others.
Convention membership expanded to 193 photographers in 1887, 232 photographers in 1888 and 328 photographers by 1899. Each year the convention would be held in a different location, including Glasgow in 1887, Birmingham in 1888, London in 1889 and Chester in 1890. The challenging World War I years caused a drop in interest, which was followed by years with an ageing and declining membership. Despite the growing challenges the Photographic Convention of the United Kingdom managed to continue with its annual meeting until the 1930s.
West London Photographic Society
“The name of William England was so well known in the photographic world . . .”
England became the first president of the West London Photographic Society at its inaugural meeting on December 28, 1888 at Addison Hall in Kensington. The organization was considered “one of the most able of Metropolitan local photographic organizations.” The West London Photographic Society later moved locations to Broadway, Hammersmith, and then again to the School of Arts and Crafts in Bedford Park. At some point it absorbed the Chiswick Camera Club, another local photographic organization.
Upon the founding of the West London Photographic Society, “John A. Hodges said that it was his pleasing duty to propose the election of William England as President of the new Society. He felt that the name of William England was so well known in the photographic world, that it would be conceded on all hands that anything beyond the mere mention of his name was unnecessary. The motion was carried with acclimation.” England served as president of the organization for less than one year, announcing his resignation in October 1889.
“No name is better known in London circles in connexion with photography than that of Mr. William England, who has practised [sic] in succession every branch and process of photography from the Daguerreotype onwards, and has done so with a high degree of success, both technically and financially.” – The British Journal of Photography, 1887.
William England died on a street near his home on August 13, 1896 at the age of 66. The sudden cause of death was heart disease. His death was a shock to many: “Although one of our oldest workers, Mr. England had always seemed so healthy and active that his death could not be expected by anyone who knew him personally.” He is buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in the west of London, although his tombstone was destroyed during the bombings of World War II.
England helped establish the London Stereoscopic Company as a leader in the stereoview market. He shot the photograph that became perhaps the top selling stereoview of all time. He invented the focal plane shutter, an idea that was ahead of its time.
William England undertook numerous photographic journeys, all to picturesque locations, including Wales, Ireland, the United States, Canada, Paris, Switzerland, Savoy, Tyrol, the Rhine, and others. For every journey his photographic work was reviewed by the leading industry artists of the era, and in each case his work was accorded nothing but the highest of praise, for both their artistic and technical merits.
After establishing his own business, he would become perhaps the largest publisher of European views. His work won countless awards and he juried important competitions. He published numerous technical articles in highly respected photographic journals. England was a long-standing member of the leading photography associations of the day.
John Hannavy, a noted photographer and historian, wrote of England’s legacy. “At his peak, England was regarded as one of the leading landscape photographers in Europe. . . [He was considered] “perhaps one of an elite band of photographers who spanned the whole evolution of photography from the daguerreotype to the roll-film and seemingly adapted to each phase with relative ease. Throughout his career his advice was much sought after and he was a member of several photographic societies.”
Comments and Corrections
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 “Visits to Noteworthy Studios. Mr. England’s Establishment at Notting Hill.” The Photographic News. Vol. 12, No. 502. April 17, 1868. pp. 184-185.
 “Editorial Notes.” The Photographic Times. Vol. 28, No. 5. May 1896. pp. 240-241.
 “Photographic Society.” The Photographic Journal, Containing the Transactions of the Photographic Society. Vol. 15, No. 219. November 8, 1870. p. 34.
 Jones, Edgar Yoxall. Father of Photography: O. G. Rejlander 1813-1875. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, LTD, 1973. pp. 36-37.
 “Photographers’ Benevolent Association.” The Photographic News. Vol. 18, No. 823. June 12, 1874. p. 286.
 “Photographers’ Benevolent Association.” The Photographic News. Vol. 19, No. 854. January 15, 1875. London: Piper and Carter, 1875. pp. 35-36.
 “The Photographers’ Benevolent Association.” Advertisement. The Photographic Journal. Vol. 21. London: The Royal Photographic Society, 1897. December 21, 1896.
 “The Gloucester Convention.” The British Journal of Photography. Vol. 46. March 10, 1899. London: Henry Greenwood & Co., 1899. p. 150.
 “Spirit of the Times.” Photography, The Journal of The Amateur, The Profession, and the Trade. Vol. 6, No. 270. January 11, 1894. p. 20.
 “West London Photographic Society.” The Photographic News. Vol. 32, No. 1581. December 21, 1888. London: Piper and Carter, 1888. p. 815.
 “Current Topics.” The Photogram. Vol. 3, No. 34. October 1896. pp. 253-254.
 Hannavy, John. Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography. New York: Taylor & Francis Group, 2008. p. 489.