The first successful photographic process was invented by Louis Daguerre (1787-1851). A daguerreotype is a single reversed image, made as a direct positive onto a silvered copper plate. The image is made of a combination of silver and mercury, resting on that plate. It is extremely vulnerable to damage, so, they were usually protected with a cover-glass. During the same period William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-77) had produced his first successful negative and patented his improved process, the calotype,  in February 1841. The calotype negative was made by projecting an image through a lens on to a piece of chemically sensitized paper fixed inside the camera, where it formed a latent image on the paper, unseen by human eye. When developed, this produced a negative image. In turn, this negative was placed in the printing frame with a second piece of sensitized paper beneath it and exposed to sunlight. This produced a positive image, which had to be fixed with chemicals.

Then in 1851 Frederick Scott Archer (1813-57) announced his new form of photography, the wet collodion process. This was easier and cheaper and  became the foundation of photography for the next 140 years. A glass plate is coated with the wet collodion solution containing light-sensitive silver salts and exposed whilst the plate is still wet. Photographs have to be taken within 15 minutes of coating the plate so a portable dark room is needed; however, the exposure time is less than for daguerreotypes and calotypes, making outdoor photography easier. A sharp glass negative image is created that captures microscopic detail. Positive copies can be made from this, usually of albumen prints on paper.

Also in 1851, the scientist Sir David Brewster (1781-1868) presented lenticular stereoscopy to the world for the first time, at the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace Two slightly differing images are presented separately to the left and right eye of the viewer. These two-dimensional images are then re-combined by the brain to give the viewer the perception of 3-D depth.Both stereo-viewers and images were an instant success with visitors, who were enchanted by the new three-dimensional effect. Hundreds of thousands of stereoscopic images were sold in a major craze which reached every middle-class Victorian drawing-room. Special cameras were developed to make the images, and a variety of viewers produced to keep up with demand. Portraits, scenery, comedic scenes and images of far flung places were all particularly popular.

Two photographers buried in the cemetery are Lawrence Peacock and Alfred Seaman.


Lawrence Peacock

Lawrence was active in the 1860s. He gained fame by taking photographs of the aftermath of the great flood of 1864. He travelled with a portable darkroom on the back of a cart pulled by an often uncooperative donkey and spoke amusingly of the practical difficulties of this:

All the bridges being washed away and the rivers had to be forded, now it is well known that donkeys as a rule have a way of their own and if they think won’t- they won’t, now our donkey was no exception to this rule and when he came to the water at Bradfield he thought he wouldn’t cross – and he wouldn’t. The water was three feet or three feet six inches deep and about 50 navvies were at work round about, some getting the foundations for the new bridge and others were building boundary walls. After having a good laugh at our predicament one of them came to me and offered along with his mates to carry the whole lot across for half a crown, donkey, cart, dark room and three passengers, they got some poles and putting one through both wheels and 2 under the donkey, a man on either end of each pole, that is 10 men carried the whole lot across then 3 of them returned for my boy, the driver and myself, we mounted their backs and were taken across the water (I think they carried 3 each for that job) and so we proceeded on our journey to the broken reservoir, this carrying procedure had to be repeated on the return home.

Information from Malcolm Nunn, Bradfield Archives She Sheffield Libraries Picture Sheffield

Alfred Seaman

Alfred Seaman established himself as a commercial photographer in the 1880s. The Derbyshire and Chesterfield Herald for 29 May 1886, has an article on ‘Mr A Seaman’s Photographic Establishment’ under the title ‘Chesterfield and its industries’. Alfred had premises in Brewery Street and Corporation Street.  According to the writer he ‘only came to Chesterfield in a small way in 1880’ but ‘now ranks amongst the first photographers in the county’.

He not only took portraits for framing and cartes visite,  formal groups, children and animals, but also hundreds of stereoscopic images of scenes of natural beauty not only in Derbyshire, but further afield,  and had been so successful that he had enlarged his premises more than once. There follows a detailed description of how  each of the room s in the two buildings were used. It is clear that the whole process of developing and printing was laborious and complicated, but also that Alfred was keenly interested and skilled. There are several references to innovations he had made to different stages of the process, since adopted by others, and the description of the photography studio indicates the scale of his aspirations. The studio has ‘all the necessary blinds etc to regulate the amount of light required’ and ‘around the studio are various objects used for the sake of giving effect to the photographs, namely balconies, cabinets, old oak, stones ornamental chairs etc’ There are also ‘ a large number of Seavey’s* celebrated backgrounds taken from photographs, and notably Chatsworth Gardens, with the Emperor Fountain playing…….and by these means the visitor may be taken so as to appear in almost any place he wishes…’  All his equipment was state of the art: he has ‘all the latest improvement in cameras, stands and photographic apparatus’, and a lot of space was needed for the chemicals and equipment needed to create the finished product.

It is clear that there was plenty of work; eight of his sons went on to make their living as photographers.  In 1886 Alfred became a founding member of the Photographic Convention of the United Kingdom, serving on the committee until his death. Further Seaman studios were established in Ilkeston, Alfreton, Matlock, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool, Hull and Brighton, manned by Alfred’s sons. It was however a competitive field and not all survived for long. Alfred himself, always popular, became wealthy and respected.