Parlington Hall :: Background information on the stereo photos :: Page Two

The First Picture Viewed

The header picture above shows most of the image in the left frame of the stereo pair in the viewer, and this is my account of the unveiling of the collection when the stereo viewer arrived...

Brewster Viewer in hand and carefully sliding the first stereo picture into place through the slot on the right, eyes fixed to the eye pieces, looking towards the light with the top mirror aperture open for reflection to illuminate the picture... I don't see much, but then I haven't adjusted the eye pieces to focus on the card, turning the centre knurled screw to adjust the focal length, the image comes into focus, Wow! I'm there in the garden looking at the hall, in front of me is a small decorative clump of rocks with a statue of a fish, half immersed into the top [A Pike I imagine], it's rear fins curling back onto it's body. It's the decorative centre piece of a circular island in a pristine chipped stone garden path.

The path disappears off to the right, but to the left it curves round anti-clockwise in a graceful arc to the Conservatory. I step forward but my tread is silent and I get no closer to the Conservatory, I am not there, I'm in the office, excuse me Brian, what are you doing! Sorry! You should see this picture, it's like you're there! OK, let me see, you are so right, hey this is weird, when did you say these pictures were taken... 1860's staggering, were not half as clever as we think we are, if they could do this back then!

Below is a map of the area from 1908, two fountains are indicated the one described and shown here is the northern most, in the centre of the garden footpath, above the n in Parlington.

Map of Hall area 1908

So what makes me think the pictures are as early as the 1860's? Well there are a number of possible hints, amongst the collection are pictures from the Gascoigne's Scottish home, Craignish, in Argyleshire, these include a few pictures of servants and gardeners, their dress suggests the 1860's. Then there is the matter of the variance of the photographic records of Parlington, images thought to be from around 1880, which show the Picture Gallery and the plans by Fowler-Jones of 1885 also show this structure, so the stereoviews must be earlier. Then there is the Brewster viewer, if this has always been with the pictures it is of a type often recorded as early as the 1860's or 1870's, possibly French.

The date of the pictures is not as significant as the route they took to being re-united with Parlington today. None of the photographs bear any sign of production by a commercial photographer, the two sisters were known to be keen photographers. So are these pictures their own efforts? Well perhaps, the collection comprises images over a period of time covering the seasons of summer and winter, therefore it is unlikely that they were taken by a guest. Is it likely that they were experiments with stereographic photography, that became household items, left to show visitors. This their purpose for years, until both Isabella and Frederick Gascoigne had died and in 1905 the effects in the Hall were recorded for purposes of probate.

The first effort in trying to establish how the photographs had passed into the hands of John Davidson, the ancestor of the contributor Don Cathie, was to yield a fruitful result. Amazingly, the record of the house contents drawn up by Hollis & Webb, Valuers, Leeds, for probate following the death of Colonel Gascoigne in June 1905, lists in the Picture Gallery a stereoscopic viewer. The title page from the probate document, below.

Title by Hollis & Webb, Valuers, Leeds

The details from page seventeen, set out the information of the stereoviewer, last but one item in the Gallery listed below and listed before after the reference to the Geneva Organ; a large number of photos, [Possibly the Stereoviews]

Clipping from probate document June 1905

Whilst this evidence is far from conclusive, given the popularity of stereoviewers at the time, the second find, relates to the documents produced for sale by auction a month later in July 1905.

Parlington Sale Catalogue 1905

From page nineteen, items offered for sale on the second day of the sale, Tuesday 25th July 1905, lot 348, a stereoscope and mahogony box. Whilst the acompanying stereo picture cards are not mentioned, it would be reasonable to assume their lack of significance from an auctioneers perspective, particularly if they [The photographs] were not by a recognised professional photographer.

Sale Catalogue 1905

So did John Davidson visit Parlington on the occasion of the sale and purchase the stereoviewer and a collection of cards, we will never know for sure, but it fits together, so for now it seems reasonable to assume this is how they came to be in the family of Don Cathie.

Another factor in the story, is that amongst the pictures are a number of duplicates, not photographic masterpieces, just duplicates of ordinary images, typical of a private collection. Where the chaff has not been weeded out!

My email to Don Cathie on Discovering the documents.

Keeping you informed as promised, I may have discovered the link
in the mystery of how the photos came to be with John Davidson.

I have recently looked through a transcript of the probate
record for the effects at Parlington after the death in
June 1905 of Col F.C. Trench-Gascoigne. I still need to
check out the auction of the effects in the weeks following
the probate document. But interestingly in the room described
as a picture gallery is mention of photographs and a stereoscope.
It is possible that your relative could have attended the
auction and obtained the items in the sale!

Obviously it is pure conjecture at this point, but who knows,
I may come across some reference which can prove the theory one
way or the other....

One further interest in respect of the auction of July 1905, and a matter which relates to the lost Aberford Railway, the auction catalogue, provides for the potential bidders at the house sale to take advantage of the High Flyer to get to the Hall from Garforth Station. A page inserted in the auction document gives details of the Service of Trains between Leeds and Garforth. A short paragraph at the foot of the page states: Arrangements have been made for the 'High Flyer' to run to and from Aberford in connection with the trains marked with an asterisk, at a small charge.

Thus the inbound 10:28am from Leeds, and the outbounds at 4:48pm, 5:19pm, 5:25pm from Garforth were synchronized with the local Aberford line to suit the main line services of the day. I might add that the train services between Leeds and Garforth were slightly slower than the modern day equivalents in 1905 the 10:28am arrived Garforth 10:47am a duration of 19 minutes; whereas today the 10:15am from Leeds reaches Garforth at 10:27am, a gain of 5 minutes in the intervening 100 years. In the opposite direction [Although I might add generally downhill] the 4:48pm from Garforth arrived at Leeds 5:04pm some 16 minutes later, whereas today the 16:35 gets to Leeds at 16:49 14 minutes journey time, only 2 minutes better. However experience tells me that it would be advisable to factor in the No Show trains of todays service. The number of No Show trains from that era is beyond the scope of this site! But I know that if I were going to an auction, and I were keen to bid on an early item, I would go by car, so as to get a chance to make my bid.

A Further Twist in the Stereo Photos Mystery, Solved?

The mystery surrounding the photographs, was solved in part by the sister of Don Cathie, Irene. She had researched her family history and was able to provide some information about the life of John Shelton, the father of John Davidson's wife, Harriet, in the 1850's and beyond. In fact her research uncovered the fact that the butler at Parlington was a John Shelton as shown on the census of 1861. This earlier date had thrown me as I had looked through my records for the years from the 1880's, also I had not noticed that my record for the 1861 census was not amongst the file, so was not checked.

The record clearly gave a link between the photographs, John Shelton and Parlington, but did the photos leave with the butler, who was later living at Tickhill (Nr Doncaster) in 1868 [Harriet Florence Shelton was born in Doncaster in 1868 her birth was registered in the April - June quarter] or did he years later in 1905, whilst he was living in Perth (Scotland) learn of the death of his former employer Colonel Gascoigne and attend the auction, purchasing the stereo photos as a keep sake! John Shelton was recorded as 33 years of age in 1861 making him 77 years old by the time of the auction in 1905 and Perth is a considerable journey, even with the train taking up the bulk of the route.

So exactly how and why the cards and stereoviewer came into the possession of John Shelton will never be known for sure, but at least we have two scenarios which may give the answer.

One final thought about this puzzle, taking a stereo photograph in the 1860's was no mean feat, not something you would expect a butler to be doing, as the skills required were generally not attainable to the vast majority of people working in service, if only because of the cost of the equipment and the expense of processing. I like to imagine that they were given to John when he left the Gascoignes employment, perhaps shortly before he married and went on to have his daughter Harriet. Who knows?
Stereos Three

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Other Stereoviews
[From the collection used to determine an approximate date of the photographs.]
Amongst the pictures were a few taken in Seville, Spain, which are similar to the work of a french photographer named Louis Constantine Henri Francois Xavier De Clercq. Having discovered other images published by him and an Albumen print from waxed paper negative size 219mm x 286mm shown above (this was taken in 1860), is very similar to one in the collectiion.
Click on the notes icon below for the De Clercq collection details.

If the photographs that form part of the Parlington Collection were not by De Clercq, then his work may have inspired others to take photographs from the same locations, in any event all the images seem to be from around the 1860's.

There are also images of popular locations around Yorkshire, the North East and Scotland.

Some shots of Whitby and the famous Abbey rival the Sutcliffe collection. A great old picture of Church Street in Ilkley. A view of the Strid in Bolton Woods North Yorkshire, features a man in a Stove pipe hat and an inscription on the back Tom & I

All the pictures from this recent discovery will be added in due course, once the main theme of Parlington Hall is completed.

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