Brickmaker and son in Southborough, Kent

This carte-de-visite may have been made at High Brooms Brick and Tile Company, founded in 1885 in Southborough, Kent, England.  It’s hard to tell what the father is sitting on, but we can see he’s wearing gaiters of some sort below the knees, probably to keep his legs dry or clean.

The photographer is identified on the reverse as H.L. Mills, but I found no record of a studio under that name.  The design on the back is quite complex–a scene within a scene–and the dragonfly near the top is an unusual element.  The castle looks like an architectural fantasy rather than a real building.

Brickmaker and son 3

The CDV was in a large box of portraits I bought a couple of years ago at an auction in Boston, Massachusetts.  The portraits had belonged to a dealer, who had written a price and an inventory number on the back of each one in pencil, occasionally adding notes about the subject, sitter or photographer.  I almost never write on photographs myself, except to add the identity of a sitter or an important date.  Since the dealer always wrote in pencil, it would be possible to erase the prices.  I’ve decided to leave them, as a record of what one owner felt the portraits to be worth.  In a way, the valuations are now part of the history of the photographs.

Some Highbrooms Brickworks buildings remain.  One now houses a pub called The Brick Works Freehouse.  It was formerly the High Brooms Tavern.

Brickmaker and son 2


23 thoughts on “Brickmaker and son in Southborough, Kent

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  1. I think it’s miraculous to have the price of the photo, and I agree that it seems quite expensive, but compared to a painted portrait it must have been quite a bargain. What a charming image! The castle on the back reminded me immediately of the tower that remains of Sissinghurst castle, also in Kent, and built, I think, of brick. That was, of course, the home of Vita Sackville-West, and her beautiful garden is still one of the most famous in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How fabulous, Carol! The tower has a slightly different look, but I noticed right away that the gazebo at Sissinghurst looks exactly like the one in the drawing on the back of the photo. About the price, it wasn’t the original, unfortunately. The owner before me (a dealer) simply chose that spot to write because it was convenient. Thanks so much for your comment!

      Here’s the gazebo at Sissinghurst:


  2. Right at the bottom on the back there is ‘Manufactured (?by) Jonathan Fallowfield, London. I don’t know if its the same one, but if it is, theres soime info about him here (and sorry about horribly long link!):

    The castle may be fanciful but I wonder if it’s possibly a Folly or similar that no longer exists… also it’d be good to know what the flower is on the back, I thought it was honeysuckle but the leves are wrong.

    The father is probably sitting on a workbench or similar.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the link! According to your source, Jonathan Fallowfield (the company) was at 146 Charing Cross Road in London from 1890 to 1923. My guess for the date of the CDV would be 1900-1910. That’s late for a CDV, but the quality is very high.

      I know you hate typing on your tablet, but I’m glad that hasn’t deterred you!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a fantastic photograph… the little boy is just so cute, contrasting so well with the man’s rugged features. The bricks provide the perfect backdrop, don’t you think? It has the feel of a street photo, capturing a moment, rather than fully posed (as it would be in a studio).

    I’ve searched for the photographer, but like you, came up empty handed. Perhaps it was a fledgling business that didn’t get very far, which would make the CDV even rarer :).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think I found the photographer!

        On the 1891 UK census there’s Herbert Mills age 20, photographer, living with parents Albert and Elizabeth Mills in Elm Road, Tunbridge Wells. He was born in Sandhurst (Kent). In 1881 the family are in Springfield Rd, Tunbridge Wells, and his name is given as Herbert L Thatcher (age 10).

        Tracing him forwards to 1901, he’s married (age 30), still in Tunbridge Wells but with occupation ‘colparteur {of} books’ which means ‘carries on neck’ (I learned something!).

        A little more delving (there are family trees) found his middle name was Louis, and that Thatcher was his mother’s name.

        I think his photographic career must have been 1890s and possibly short-lived, which gives you a date for your photo. Interestingly, his father was general labourer… 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. When I say father, I mean Albert Mills (c1849), who probably wasn’t his biological father but raised him. Makes me wonder if that’s a photo of Albert?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Wow, have you considered doing this professionally? 😀

        Do you think Albert might not have been Herbert’s biological father because Herbert appears in the 1881 census under his mother’s name (Thatcher)?

        If Albert is the man in the photo, the little boy could be Herbert’s younger brother, or his half-brother, if Albert wasn’t Herbert’s biological father. A very interesting possibility.

        I’ll look at Ancestry later today and see if I can turn up anything else. You’re a pro at this!!


      4. From

        In the 1881 census, Herbert L. Thatcher (age 10) is listed as a step son of Albert Mills (age 32).

        In the 1891 census, Herbert Mills (age 20) is listed as a son of Albert Mills (age 43). Among Herbert’s siblings are William (age 5), Frederick (age 4) and Frank (age 3).

        In 1892 Herbert Louis Thatcher marries Sophia Emily Wickenden in the Tonbridge registration district.

        In 1901 Herbert Thatcher is living in Tunbridge Wells with wife Emily (age 27) and Florence Thatcher (age 5). Herbert is working as a “colparteur {of} books.”

        in 1928 Herbert Louis Thatcher and Emily Sophia Thatcher are registered to vote in Auckland, New Zealand.

        Herbert Louis Thatcher dies in Auckland in 1951.

        Emily Sophia Thatcher dies in Auckland in 1960.


    1. Thank you so much for that link! May I ask how you landed on this page? When new visitors comment on an older post, it usually means they’re interested in something specific. If my question is intrusive, please ignore it. Thank you again for commenting!


      1. I’m actually just interested in cartes, particularly mounts. I saw your site and decided to browse the posts.

        The mount for this carte is quite interesting as it’s a blank frame/template which has been stamped with the photographer’s name. It’s suggestive that he was just starting out or doing it casually.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m very glad you found my site! Not long ago I encountered another example of this carte template, used by Robert J. Dubbin on Gibbon Road in Kingston-on-Thames. He chose to have his name and address stamped on the front, rather than the back, leaving the artwork on the back with an empty box. By the way, you might be interested to hear that this page has been visited more than any other on my site: 184 times as of today. The second-most-visited page is “Science class in the field, somewhere in Tsarist Russia” (142 times).


  4. The photographer Herbert Louis Thatcher Mills is the son of my gt gt grandparents Albert Mills and Elizabeth Thatcher. I am so excited to see this photo as I have.been looking for some of his work for several years. My father and his brother were keen photos as I am.myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you found this page, Jacqui! You might be interested to hear that I got in touch with a great-granddaughter of Herbert Louis Thatcher in New Zealand in 2018, after finding her family tree on Ancestry. Her name is Toni Thatcher. She knew he had been a photographer but didn’t mention having seen any other photos of his. Thanks so much for your comment! Cheers from Vermont, Brad


  5. Oh my goodness, I love this! The father and son have the exact same forthright and determined expression on their faces! This is my son and life is good! This is my father and life is good! The back is an artistic beauty all its own. What a treasure! ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Last week I received the following message from a visitor named Richard Salter, whose ancestor worked at High Brooms at the time this photo was taken:

    “I am researching my family history and believe the brickworker in High Brooms to be that (possibly) of John Charles Salter born in 1863 in Culmstock, Devonshire, England. On the 1881 census he is in 1 Sherwood View, Colebrook RD, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England with his father Charles & mother Elizabeth Gillard & 9 other children. He married Susannah Kate Winn a local girl in 1889 and proceeded to have 8 children with her. My Great Grandfather William Gillard his brother had 9 children and lived at No 9 then No 11 Stuart Rd High Brooms, houses built for their workers. They were previously experienced brick moulders from the Culmstock valley brick works in Devon.
    Other names include-
    Arthur Edwin Salter, 1902 Occupation Brick Moulder HW
    James Fredrick Salter 1904 Brickyard labourer
    James Salter Engine Fitter at Brick Works
    William Charles Henry Salter, 65. Colebrooke Road General Labourer brickworks (Incapacitated) and the list goes on. Of course I will never really know if it is one of them-Shame. Many regards & Thank you”

    Thank you, Richard!


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