Idyllic summer days in Cheshire, England (1891)

This post features seven photographs.  The first five were taken on August 1, 1891, in a small area of Cheshire, England, called Middlewood.  Just southeast of Middlewood is Lyme Park, which is now part of the Peak District National Park (created in 1951).  Less than ten miles west of Middlewood is Manchester Airport.

In these five photographs we see a group of people picnicking, boating, and standing on an embankment.  The images were made by two different photographers.

Middlewood (1 Aug. 1891) 1aMiddlewood (1 Aug. 1891) 2aMiddlewood (1 Aug. 1891) 3aMiddlewood (1 Aug. 1891) 4aMiddlewood (1 Aug. 1891) 5a


On the mount below the first image, the owner wrote the names of everyone in the group.  I think the names are Mrs. LeMare, E. LeMare, J. Winser, W. Thomson, Mrs. Dobson, Miss Helene Traun (Hamburg), Mrs. J. Winser, Miss Rose Winser, and Miss H. Maud Cooper.

Middlewood (1 Aug. 1891) 8


The man who took the photo above isn’t identified, but we see him standing at the back of the group in this detail from the second photo:

Middlewood (1 Aug. 1891) 2c


The photo above was taken by Miss H. Maud Cooper, who appears with her camera in the last three photos (and without it in the first one).  Here she is in two of them:

Middlewood (1 Aug. 1891) 3b
Detail from the featured photo at the top of the post

Middlewood (1 Aug. 1891) 5d small


The sixth photo in the set is dated August 3, 1891.  The location and photographer aren’t identified.

Middlewood (3 Aug. 1891) 6a


The seventh and last photo shows a different group of people with this annotation above it:

Peak Forest Canal — near Bollington — “After the Rain”  Tue. 29 September 1891

Peak Forest Canal near Bollington (29 Sept. 1891) 1a

The town of Bollington is about eight miles (13 km) south of the Peak Forest Canal.  The Macclesfield Canal runs through Bollington and Middlewood before it meets the Peak Forest Canal.  Perhaps the writer visited Bollington and associated it with the whole area.

Under the photo are the names Mrs. Rothera, Mrs. LeMare, Mrs. Cooper, Miss Clara E. Whetstone, Mr. Rothera, Harry Nuttall, and J. Hugh Penman.

Peak Forest Canal near Bollington (29 Sept. 1891) 14


In the gallery below, you can see larger scans of all seven photos, along with a detail image of the group being photographed by Miss Cooper in the third photo.  In the first photo, lines and dark spots at upper right indicate that the glass negative was broken before the print was made:


In this next gallery, you can see the photos mounted on stiff paper, along with annotations:


In other news, this is my 200th blog post!  I started blogging in April 2017 and it continues to be great fun.  I hope you enjoyed this trip through time to the summer of 1891!



65 thoughts on “Idyllic summer days in Cheshire, England (1891)

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  1. Congratulations! And here’s yet another wonderful series of photos. I can’t wait to read all the comments. Hopefully we’ll hear from some locals 🙂 I love the photos on the water and the reflections are so dreamy in sepia. And, of course the photographs of Miss Maud herself!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I so enjoy group photographs like this from the days before digital when getting together with friends for a picnic and memorialzing the day with photographs was very special indeed. Congratualtions on reaching your 200-post milestone! Your blog is evocative, thought-provoking, and a lot of fun. Here’s to the next 200 posts!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was more challenging to photograph an outing with friends in 1891, but I think the challenge must have been part of the appeal. Sometimes we don’t bother to do things that are easy–such as take a picture with a digital camera–but when a task is more difficult, we tackle it with determination, the way Miss Maud and her fellow photographer did.

      Thank you so much for your kind words about my blog, Liz. WordPress should give you an award for Most Supportive and Encouraging Reader. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Possible identifications:

    Edwin LeMare (1840, Guildford – 1929, Isle of Wight) – Professor of Music (given on 1891 census, but reality may have been different). His son, also Edwin, is a known composer with a Wikipedia page.
    Margaret LeMare neé Wicker (1838?, Isle of Wight? – 1915, Isle of Wight)

    Mr Rothera & Mrs Rothera ? Possibly Charles Lambert Rothera and Alice Cass nee Dickinson – Charles is listed as a solicitor in Nottingham on the 1891 census. There are two other possibilities, but the man in the photograph looks older: Charles is 40, the other men are 34 and 30.

    Clara Elizabeth Whetstone (1857, Leicester – 1940, Bournemouth) – Visiting a Thomson family at the 1891 census (no W Thomson listed, though the head of the family was Robert Thomson a coalmaster, married to Eva Kathleen Hyde, both 29 years).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great detective work, Emma! I didn’t find the LeMares or Rotheras, so I look forward to following up on your leads. I did find Clara Elizabeth Whetstone, but not much information about her, so I’ll take another look. I also found a John Hugh Penman, born 1839 in Durham, died 1897 in Stockport. In the 1886 Slater’s Directory of Manchester and Salford, he’s listed as an engineer.

      I’ve added two galleries of larger scans to the end of the post, if there’s anything you’d like to look at more closely. How pretty and undeveloped the area looks in 1891, despite so much industrial activity.


    2. I also found a Helen Maud Cooper, born about 1865, baptised in Marple on the same day in 1870 as her older sister Mary Beatrice, whose birth was registered in 1858 by the Society of Friends – Hardshaw East Monthly Meeting. Their parents were Frederick and Mary Anne Cooper.


    3. According to biographer Nelson Barden, Edwin Henry Lemare (1865-1934) was organist at the parish church in Sheffield (~30 miles away) at the time these photos were taken. In August 1891 he and Marian Broomhead Colton-Fox weren’t yet married (not until June 1892), but the names could have been written under the photo after that date. There’s certainly a resemblance:

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So interesting to see both photographers photographing the other photographer with their cameras along with the group. One wonders how that was negotiated, or if this was a group of friends with amateur photographers among them, out for a fun day of experimenting.

    Also interesting to see the various backdrops. The boat/water scene is obvious for its appeal, and the group sitting on blankets with trees behind them is nice, but the backdrop where most of the group is standing is so much less appealing it makes one wonder why they chose that spot?

    As always, fascinating and fun to see! Congrats on 200 posts, and here’s to many more to come!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Rebecca! I suspect the two photographers were both amateurs, although it’s impossible to say for sure. If the male photographer were a professional, I think he would have identified himself in some way. You’re right about the embankment not being very appealing as a backdrop. The backdrop in Miss Cooper’s picture was probably more scenic! The boating pictures would have required substantially more effort. When I think about getting in and out of a boat and setting up a tripod on wet or uneven ground, I’m even more impressed by the images.


  5. There’s a world of difference between bloggers who provide quality postings and those who simply pile up numbers for the sake of bragging rights. Your posts always are quality: interesting, sometimes provocative, and worthy of second or third reads (as well as a lot of close examination!) One of the things I like most is the way you involve your readers, and encourage their contributions, too. I’m always happy to see another of your posts; here’s to many more!

    I’ve never been tempted to carry a tripod with me, but these folks had no choice. It’s not only fun to see the settings they’ve chosen — and those clothes! my goodness! — it’s also interesting to ponder the effort that went into making their images. Thank goodness they made that effort, and left us a record of their lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s high praise, Linda, and very kind of you to say! I’ve noticed that your blogs receive a large number of comments, which you always respond to thoughtfully. It takes a lot of time to do that, but it’s also rewarding. One of the more challenging aspects of blogging for me has been to strike a balance between creating my own posts and reading and commenting on other blogs. Sometimes I feel I get the balance right and sometimes not quite. Maintaining that balance is a key part of enjoying the whole experience, I think.


      1. Congratulations on your 200th post! I love your posts and always enjoy the comments as well. Your curiosity and enthusiasm shine through.. so here’s to the next 200!
        I think that the scene for the first photograph maybe the embankment of the canal where other photos were taken, as you can see a pair of oars lying on the ridge.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Great eye, Louise! I hadn’t recognized the oars. I didn’t examine them closely. The pole must have been for telegraph wires.

        Thank you so much for your kind words. I feel the same way about Albert’s letters. They provide unique insights into a time that was very different, even if it wasn’t so long ago.


  6. Congrats on your 200th post, and here’s to many more (I hope)! Your blog is one of my faves.

    As for these photos, I immediately liked Miss Cooper, Photographer-at-Large, and became an instant fan.

    And the women’s hats! So beautiful, but what a pain to keep them anchored in place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also took an immediate liking to Miss Cooper. Maybe because of her classy outfit? But then, they all look classy! It was probably also because of the serious way she went about documenting the day’s adventures, instead of just relaxing, which is probably what I would have done. Thank you for your nice comments, Ruth!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Congratulations on your milestone post, Brad! I love this group of shots. I’m trying to figure out what the woman with the umbrella and the man in the back of the feature image could be sitting on. I notice one woman wearing a cape and a the man with the top hat with two coats AND a waistcoat seem dressed awfully warm for a summer day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They were wearing far too many layers! It must have been quite warm on the first of August, even in the North. I get hot very easily, so I wouldn’t have fared well in those days (haha). Thank you for your kind words, Eilene. I’ll come visit your blog soon and see what interesting things you’ve been up to!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Congratulations on your 200th post! I always enjoy the photos as well as your research. And I have fun guessing what the people are thinking about. So much planning and posing went into all the old photos. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve always had a fascination for Victorian era. These photographs provide a fascinating glimpse of a very different way of life.
    The photos were taken on 1 August, so I suppose the weather was still hot and humid. However, the gentlemen and ladies look quite presentable with suits, voluminous dresses and hats. They seem to be having a really lovely time.
    Congratulations on 200 posts, Brad. What a great accomplishment! 🤗✨

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think of the Victorian era as a time of social and moral constraints, when people of all classes had to obey rules that we no longer have to worry about. It was also a time of class stratification. I’m curious about the ways Victorians used photography, both to document their world and also to make personal statements. Photography wasn’t necessarily viewed as an art, but it gave people a new way to express themselves creatively.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Congratulations on your 200th post! My own blogs are pretty much dormant I’m afraid, somehow it’s always more fun to start a blog than to maintain it. Besides, I’ve taken charge of a museum blog where I work, so that absorbs most of my writing energy.
    I love the pictures – photographs of people taking photographs, how very meta! I was surprised that in a small group like that there must have been two lugging those cameras around.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s unusual to see the photographic process documented this way in the 19th century. Cameras would sometimes appear as studio props, especially in photographers’ self-portraits, but less often in the field. Another meta phenomenon in studio portraits is the PIP (picture in picture), where a sitter holds a portrait of a loved one.

      I was intrigued by the presence above of “Miss Helene Traun (Hamburg).” I should see if her name appears in the local papers.

      Have fun with the museum blog! You may or may not be pleased to hear that I saw a magnificent garden spider yesterday and thought of you. 😉


      1. Haha! I think on balance I am rather pleased than otherwise. There hasn’t been much spider activity in my house recently, but I’ve just visited my parents, and they have a number of splendid specimens hanging outside their windows. On the fourth floor, too!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Great photos, Brad. I can imagine them having their picnic by the river then going boating afterwards (or, more likely, before – so they wouldn’t be so full of food they couldn’t move!) By the way, they’re probably not overdressed for August, it can get quite cold here even at that time of the year. And it looks like they might have been somewhere else first that maybe needed more formal clothing than a picnic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wondered whether they might have eaten beforehand or afterward. If I were planning an outing, I’d plan to eat first so as not to have to carry the food in the boat … unless I had a picnic destination in mind which could only be reached by water. Interesting to hear that it can be cool there in early August. Here in northern New England, the nights can be cool in the summer but the days are usually hot and humid from mid-June until September.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Our weather in the UK fluctuates on a day to day basis, regardless of season. I’ve experienced snow in August, and we get hail all seasons. People dress – and probably always have – as though they’re expecting the worst, that way they’re usually prepared!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. It is very hard to imagine how warm it must be to wear those clothes in the middle of summer. But the photos are interesting, so many lives that came before us, so many questions about this day: what did they eat, how green is the grass, how cold is the river – stuff we will never know. Oh, and congratulations on your 200th post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. With the groups in these photos, I wonder how they interacted with each other. Were they very formal? Did they know each other well enough to relax? Did the men crack bad jokes? Was there much flirting? As you say, we can’t know the answers, and that’s OK. Thank you for your very thoughtful comments!


  13. Congratulations on 200 posts! Loved the peaceful stroll in this summer of 1891. We need peace in this summer of 2020. Loved the ladies hats and the fact that there are photos of the photographer. Sometimes it would be good to know who has taken the photographs we take. Often the photographer never gets in family photos. Husband is the one who takes photos in our family. Thankfully, he has a tripod with timer for camera so he can get into photos.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Bravo ! pour ce 200 ème et bonne route pour les 200 suivants 😉

    J’aime beaucoup cette série , j’admire le soin avec lequel la ( le ) photographe a composé ses ” tableaux ”
    Merci pour ce partage . Bonne soirée .

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Really great group of images with so much to think about from the human interest POV, but so atmospheric and nicely composed and toned as well (I’m guessing they’re albumen prints)? I really like visiting your earlier posts from before I found your site; this one is perhaps my favorite yet–glad I stopped by.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks John, this is one of my favorite posts. It took a long time to prepare the scans. Plus I had to research the people, towns and canals! The images are fun, and I love the fact that two photographers were present, so they could capture each other in action.

      I think these are gelatin silver prints. I should really make more of an effort to learn how to identify the various processes.

      Liked by 1 person

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