Monday 6 October 2014

Winifred & Her Rough Collie

I have a number of photographs with children & their pet dogs in my collection, but I think these two photographs would win an award for the most charming.

In the first photograph Winifred's little hands are slightly blurred as she clutches onto the lead of her Rough Collie, who according to the annotation on the reverse might be called "Whit".

Winifred's portrait was taken by photographer William Coles. His Studio resided at 60 Queen's Road from approximately 1890 to 1908, during which time Coles photographed HRH Princess Eulalie of Spain as well as his more ordinary clients. Below is a postcard view of Queen's road from circa early 1900s.

Click on the image to enlarge

Winifred was certainly a lucky little girl to have such a beautiful Rough Collie as a pet. Take a look at the second photo of the pair in a slightly different pose. Doesn't the dog's fur look soft?

Click on the images to enlarge

Winifred was a very lucky little girl to have such a beautiful Collie as a pet. The origins of the Collie hail from Scotland were they were used for a variety of agricultural pursuits. The Collie is one of the most ancient breeds with more than a passing resemblance to the wolves from which it is descended.

Theo Marples, Victorian editor of Our Dogs magazine describes the breed thus:

"The modern rough-coated Scotch Collie is, without doubt, one of the handsomest examples of the canine species, his long, intelligent head, enormous coat and frill, proportionate frame and symmetry, and great buoyancy of disposition appealing to all dog lovers, and which account for his at once coming into popularity."

 Engraving of two champion Collies from Dogs of the British Isles, 1872

A Short Family History of Winifred Hutchings Larcombe

Winifred was the first daughter of Frances (nee Poulton) and Ernest Hutchings Larcombe. You can see their portraits below.

Click on the images to enlarge

 Frances & Ernest married on 30th June 1894 in St Albans.

Winifred was born in April 1895. The family lived comfortably, Ernest worked as a law clerk and the family was able to afford a domestic servant who lived with them in their home.

In 1911 when she was 16 Winifred was a Bridesmaid, but she herself would never marry. She died aged 60 in 1956.


Tuesday 3 June 2014

Curly Coat in the Snow

Here we have another first in my collection, a portrait of a young man and his dog taken outside in the snow... real snow not like the "studio snow" in this cabinet card. The young man stands and pretends to load his muzzle loading shotgun, obviously a prized possession and perhaps a tool of his trade.

It is likely this young lad used his shotgun for waterfowl hunting, his Curly Coat retriever is our clue to this, as this is what the breed was originally bred for.

It is thought that the origin of the Curly Coat is earlier than his flat-coated relative, although the curly is most likely of less pure decent.  At some point it the Curly Coat's breed history the "gentleman from France" (the poodle) was very likely to have been introduced into the breed. Author Robert Leighton writes of the breed in 1907:

"Such a cross [of the Retriever & Poodle] may conceivably have been resorted to by early breeders, and there was little to lose...for the poodle is well known to be by nature, if not by systematic training, and excellent water dog, capable of being taught anything that the canine mind can comprehend."

Engraving of a Curly-Coated Retriever from Breaking & Training Dogs, by Pathfinder & Hugh Dalziel, 1885

The photograph of the young man & his Curly Coat was taken in Hitchin, Hertfordshire by Thomas Benwell Latchmore. (1832-1908) Latchmore was the eldest son of a Quaker family who ran a grocery shop in the High Street, Hitchin. An interest in chemistry led him to study photography. About 1865 he built a studio in Bancroft Street, Hitchin and set up in business. 

Latchmore's photograph of The Trooper Public House at the end of Bancroft Street c1860

We can date the portrait to between 1865 and c1870 as it was taken at Bancroft Street. Latchmore bought other property in Brand Street, Hitchin in 1870 which had belonged to another earlier photographer George Avery, he moved his business there, living there until his death in 1908.

The reverse of the photo mount

Click here for more Curly Coat's from my collection.

  • The Latchmore Collection of North Hertfordshire District Council
  • Breaking & Training Dogs, by Pathfinder & Hugh Dalziel, 1885
  • Cassell's New Book of The Dog, Vol. II, by Robert Leighton, 1907
  • Thomas Latchmore on Hertford Geneology

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Mela Ram's Miltary Dogs

Two young gents pose for a photograph in an exotic location with their dogs, perhaps this was intended as a gift for loved ones at home?

The two dogs are or indeterminate breed, but certainly both of Jack Russell type, one being wire haired and the other smooth coated.

Both men wear British/Home Establishment pattern Khaki cotton uniforms. The seated Corporal also has a medal ribbon, possibly a South African Campaign medal, so he was certainly well travelled.

When I bought this photograph for my collection, it also came with a second image featuring the smooth coated Jack Russell:

The two soldiers have had their dog posed with a Military swagger stick, cap and selection of medals, as well as glasses and a pipe! What a well trained and well behaved little dog he must have been.
It is unclear as to whether the photographer of the more formal group portrait, Mela Ram, also took this fun image, as there are no photographers details on the mount.

Mela Ram was a pioneering war photographer based in Peshawar. From the 16th century until the mid 1880s, Peshawar was controlled by Afghanistan. But following the Second Anglo-Sikh war in 1849, Peshawar became part of British India.

Mela Ram marched with the British army, taking photographs of British military expeditions including those into into Kohat & Wazirsitan. Some other fantastic examples of his Solider portraits can be seen here and here.

Mela Ram’s eldest son Labindranath and his three sons - Roshan Lall, Hiral Lall and Kishan Lall migrated to Dehradun with a battalion of the 5th Gorkha Rifles and set up a studio in 1947. The very same year Peshawar became part of the newly created Pakistan.


Wednesday 26 February 2014

Minos the Wonderful Performing Dog

In Switzerland, c1875 a very special little dog had his photograph taken. His name was Minos and he belonged to Madame Hager. I could write at length about this little dog, but he is best summed up by detailed descriptions of him that appeared is newspapers of the time - from Spectator in London to as far afield as Christchurch, New Zealand's Star.

"Minos" is like a Skye of the long-haired, silky kind, only that he turns his little feathered fore-paws out in an odd way, which reminds one of the hands of certain lecturers when they are emphatic ; his large brown eyes are inquiring, serious, and closely attentive ; his little black nose twitches with a variety of expressions very curious to observe, as the several problems of his arithmetical examination are presented to him ; and to see him lift his head with a sharp air of questioning, and slightly shake it when be has been answered to his satisfaction, is the prettiest and quaintest sight possible. 

He was deposited on a large table by his mistress, and mildly regarded so many of the company as were within easy reach, but he betrayed no vulgar curiosity, while he waited until Madame Hager's preparations were complete. She conversed with him cheerfully, as she arranged a number of cards bearing the numerals 1, 2, 3, and so on, and several double figures. With a gentle shake of one paw, the little creature began his "exercises." He picked out a dozen cards in succession, named by various persons among the audience, the number being distinctly repeated to him by his mistress, and then she asked any one present to name a sum in addition which "Minos," who had just brought the card marked 6 in his mouth to her, should work. A lady said, "Let him add 12 to it." " Ajoute dome, 'Minos,' cherche, apporte !" He gave his mistress a long look, twitched his nose, ambled gently over the spread cards, without displacing them, and presently returned, carrying in his mouth the card marked 18.

Every one wanted to know "how it was done," few were contented to receive Madame Hager's assurance that the feat is entirely one of memory, when "Minos" picks out an individual among the royal and princely personages of Europe (he even crosses the Line in favour of the Seyyid of Zanzibar) at the re- quest of any member of the audience. A favourite theory was that Madame Hager conveyed an indication to him by changes of voice in repeating the name after the chance nominator. But even if it were so, that would be a more surprising exercise of memory, because it would require its employment on count- less inflexions of one voice, and the connection of them with the pictures, of which he is said to recognise four hundred. He picked out twenty-five without any difficulty, and when the titles of the Queen of England and the Princess of Wales were changed to "the august mama" and the "august wife" of the Prince of Wales (who is a special patron of "Minos ;" indeed, he came to London at the express invitation of His Royal Highness), he found the portraits just as readily. The spectacle was a charming one, not only because of the extraordinary sagacity and memory of the little performer, but because of something exquisitely gentle, trustful, and loving in his look and movements which went to people's hearts.

Minos was born in Vienna in 1870, the weakest of three pups he was adopted by Madame Hager's only daughter Marie. She had a strong affinity for animals, and a peculiar talent for teaching dogs. 

He first tecnique was to perpetually talk to them, and she adopted it at once with Minos. From the very moment Marie took Minos under her wing it is said "she had no companion except the dog ; he was her doll, her play- fellow, her confidant ; she talked to him incessantly, and about everything ; she showed him everything, she took him everywhere ; her friends were his friends ; she educated him to his present pitch of erudition, and taught him one accomplishment which he has since lost, or perhaps declines to practise (who can tell the mystery of the doggish heart?)

Sadly Marie died of consumption. The despair of the dog when the girl's coffin was removed was terrible. He had not left her side for a moment, and no one had the heart to take him away, when, after desperate efforts to warm and waken her, he lay down by her, moaning, and cried himself to sleep. 

After a while, he came to love the girl's mother with something of the same intensity ; but it is an added, not a transferred, affection. 

Let us sum up Minos with the words of Madame Hager:
So many people ask me, What is your secret?' I have no secret, except that I love dogs, and they love me. Minos' never leaves me ; I tell him everything I think and feel, all joys and all troubles ; he knows my thoughts ; we are only two, in England, and I never hurt him by keeping silence. He never rehearses ; it is needless. He has no fear of any one or anything, for he never had a harsh word spoken or a finger raised to him in his life. There's no secret, except the truth that men will not see ; that you can do anything with a dog, if you only make him the friend and companion he wants to be.

 The reverse of the photograph mount


Thursday 30 January 2014

The Sleepy Mastiff

How to get your dog to wait patiently to have his photograph taken? Perhaps simply wait for him to relax, close his eyes and have a little nap. This is certainly what has happened in the case of the handsome brindle Mastiff in this photograph.

Posed against a simple backdrop, the different shades of colour in the dogs coat can be easily picked out. The piece of dark furniture to the right of the image gives a sense of scale.

In 1887 John Henry Walsh wrote of the ideal colour of a Mastiff in his book The Dog in Health and Disease:

The colour is either stone-fawn with black points or brindled. No white should be permitted as a rule, but a white toe will occur occasionally.

The photograph was taken by Robert Slingsby. Born in 1839 Slingsby began his career in Lincoln in 1859, early in his photographic pratice he was also a stationer and dealer of artist supplies. His most important contribution to the world of photography was his research into the use of flash light for photography. As early as 1869 Slingsby had a photograph reproduced in Illustrated London News that had been created with artificial light. In 1890 Slingsby was granted a patent for a device that synchronized a flash lamp with a camera shutter. He died in Lincoln in 1895.

The pretty design on the reverse of the mount

The Mastiff along with the Greyhound is one of the most ancient of all dog breeds. Like many breeds, its original origins are uncertain. But it is most like to have been developed in the far eastern regions of Assyria. In many museums examples of Mastiff type dogs can be seen depicted on bas-reliefs that date back as far as 2200 B. C.


  • Robert Slingsby in the 1891 England Census
  • Robert Slingsby in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery
  • Royal Photographic Society Exhibitions featuring Robert Slingsby
  • Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, John Hannavy, 2007
  • The Dog in Health and Disease, John Henry Walsh, 1887
  • Dog Painting 1840-1940, William Second, 1992

Thursday 9 January 2014

Terriers of the Royal Artillery

After this website's first School Group & dog photograph, we kick off 2014 with another first - a Military group photograph with three dogs! Click on the image for a larger view.

This group contains Soldiers of the British Royal Garrison Artillery. Dressed in their pillbox hats and 'undress' frock jackets. If you compare these jackets to full dress uniform there are fewer buttons (only five) down the front and the sleeve decoration is trefoil instead of the more fancy Austrian knot.

If we compare one Soldier from the photograph with a 1880 watercolour by Richard Simkin, you can see the bright colours of his uniform, which are not visible in the monochrome photograph.

This Solider also has an additional chevron stripe on his arm above the cuff decoration, compared to the watercolour illustration. A single chevron denotes 2 years service of "good conduct". This chevron also helps to date the photograph, as before 1881 the chevrons were worn on the right sleeve. As this chevron is on the left sleeve we can say the photograph must have been taken after 1881.

Interestingly some of the other men in the photograph (such as the one in the brimmed hat and pale jacket above) are wearing "mufti" or civilian dress. Those I have spoken to in researching this photograph believe this indicates the photograph having been taken at a large Royal Garrison Artillery barracks.

This line of enquity lead to Shoeburyness, in Essex and the site of a large former Artillery Barracks. Disused since 1976, the barracks was sold off in 2000 and converted into Grade II listed housing, retaining many original features. In the photo below you can see one of these houses and what must have been the setting for my antique photograph taken all those years ago.

Artillery volunteers at Shoeburyness
Engraving from The Illustrated London News, 1871 - Click on the image for a larger view

And now we must talk about the dogs, there are three in the photograph. They appear to be Jack Russell type terriers, they would have proved useful at the Barracks, not just for companionship but also to kill rats in the horse stables.

The Jack Russell's that we know today, can be traced back to those bread by a man who gave them his name - the Reverend John Russell. Hunting with dogs in the early 1800's came with a problem -
difficulty in differentiating the dog from the animal it was pursuing, which could prove very dangerous. This brought the need for a mostly white dog. During Russell's final year of university in 1819, he purchased a small white & tan terrier female named Trump from a local milkman.

Painting of Trump

Davies, a friend of Russell's, wrote "Trump was such an animal as Russell had only seen in his dreams." Her colouring was described as "...white, with just a patch of dark tan over each eye and ear; whilst a similar dot, not larger than a penny piece, marks the root of the tail."

The only picture of Trump that exists was painted more than 50 years after the she had died. The painting was commissioned by the Prince of Wales (later King George VII) who came to consider the Reverend Russell a friend. Today the picture still hangs at Sandringham castle.

Trump became the basis for a Russell's breeding program in which he hoped to develop a special terrier with a high stamina for hunting and the courage to chase out foxes.

D. Brian Plumer writes in his book The Complete Jack Russell Terrier:

"Whether or not John Russell kept a strain of rough-coated fox terriers will continue to be debated for years to come. Many accuse the parson of having been simply a dealer, buying and breeding from any terrier that took his fancy, supplementing his meager income by wheeling and dealing in livestock. One thing is fairly certain, however: that he did much to popularize the wire-haired fox terrier - now one of the most popular breeds in Britain, but at that time a Cinderella, a poor relation of the smooth fox terrier. Russell was, in fact, one of the founder members of the Kennel Club."