Parlington Hall :: Pictures & Videos George Fowler Jones

Before Christmas [2008] I stated in an email to regular readers that a collection of over 2,000 photographs by the architect George Fowler Jones, an early amateur Victorian photographer, had been discovered and were in the photo archive at the National Media Museum in Bradford. I was keen to look at the collection and can now report that following two visits to the Museum I have catalogued those images I believe are relevant to my research and have on the second visit photographed most of them. The process of recording the pictures, in a digital form, was as follows, but first a small piece of history.

The images he took are generally negatives called Calotypes, that is paper negatives, a process invented by Fox Talbot in 1841. Essentially the paper is brushed with a weak salt solution, dried and then further coated with a weak solution of silver nitrate, creating silver chloride in the paper, when dry. The paper could be processed in a "lab", and then taken to the photographic location and exposed in the camera, returned to a suitable sleeve and developed back at the "lab", making the system an ideal method for travel photography. The method was useful because you could make more than one positive from a single negative unlike the Dageurreotype, however the process of creating a positive was essentially a contact process of placing additional photo-sensitive paper on the negative and producing a print, by exposure to light. The finished print would be the same size as the negative, generally around 7" x 5" but the size was not in any way standardized, purely to suite the camera optics. The level of detail availble by this process was not as good as that of Dageurreotype or the later Collodiol process (Glass Plate), lacking in detail by comparison, but still capable of some excellent results.

The Fowler Jones collection are mainly of the delicate paper negative, each held in a plastic sleeve for protection. To obtain a photographic positive I employed a similar process to that used by the original photographer, but instead of using daylight, engaged the use of a light-box. Placing the negative on the light-box and allowing the transmission of light through the paper, including the protective sleeve. In lieu of a light sensitive paper to develop on top of the negative, I used copy stand with a digital camera, to capture the light coming through the negative, masking the perimeter of the paper negative to reduce extraneous light affecting the camera pick-up. The resultant image was captured by my digital SLR as a raw format negative.

My post production process used Adobe PhotoShop to invert the image, along with a certain amount of tweaking, using curves and levels to get the best dynamic range, also the data captured was in full colour, so the negative was reduced to monochrome, again with a certain amount of adjustment.

The end result is a collection of around 100 photographs which when viewed on my 24" LCD Computer Monitor are better than George Fowler Jones would have ever seen! However there is usually a downside to every situation and with these photographs there is no exception, to publish them on the Parlington web site entails a fee of £30.00 + VAT each for five or less reduced to £20.00 + VAT each for more than that, so sadly the full number will probably never see the light of day. I am disappointed (to put it mildly) that the Science & Society Picture Library, at the Science Museum in London is taking such commercial approach for a free public service web site. I will have to decide which pictures to include on the site, but it is likely that number will be around six or perhaps seven.

The images now captured digitally include Parlington Hall, the extensive gardens, usually featuring the then magnificent specimen trees, the former lake and folly and the Triumphal Arch. Aberford Church, the Almshouses and the old Windmill on the road to Lotherton, various churches; Sherburn, Garforth, Barwick in Elmet, Ledsham, along with the Paladian house at Grimston Park. Then the Gascoigne Houses: Castle Oliver, Co Limerick, and Craignish, Argyleshire and the home of Baron Ashtown (husband of Elizabeth Gascoigne), Woodlawn, prior to it being replaced by a new or re-modelled house in the 1850's.

Although it may not be possible to include the full extent of pictures on the site due to the expense, the information uncovered will help in analyzing what used to exist at Parlington. The few pictures which will be included will undoubtedly be worth the wait, so expect some additions in the near future.

If you reached this far down the page, I can tell you that the header image is a small piece of one of the photographs, which shows the fish pond, still extant on the north side of Parlington Lane behind the estate wall just before the Dark Arch. The Ordnance Map from 1908 shows a footbridge over the pond at the kidney shaped eastern end, if you look closely in the red box on the right of the image you can see the vertical railings of the bridge handrail!

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