yeovil People

John & Thomas Swatridge

Early Yeovil Photographers


John Swatridge was born on 7 January 1810 at Beaminster, Dorset, the son of baker William Swatridge (b1781) and his wife Sarah (b1791). John was baptised at Beaminster on 28 January 1810. Nothing is known of John's early life but on 9 February 1836 he married Harriet Loring at Yeovil. In the announcement of their wedding in the Sherborne Mercury, both John and Harriet were noted as 'both of Yeovil'. Harriet, born in Axminster in 1816, was the daughter of William Loring and Kezia née Pierce. John and Harriet were to have three sons; Thomas Sydenham (1841-1909), Richard Waygood (1846-1879) and William (1848-1911).

John was a member of the Yeovil Vestry during the late 1830s and was first listed in a Yeovil trade directory in 1840 when he was listed as a Marble & Stone Mason of Cattle Market (today's Princes Street) and again in Middle Street, both in the Somerset Gazette's Directory of 1840.

John was, however, an influential Yeovilian since in March 1846 he was appointed Overseer at the Annual Vestry, together with Thomas Busby, George Wellington and John Newman Berkeley. As a complete sidenote, in November 1847 John was summoned to be a member of the jury on the inquest of the death of Yeovil chemist George Wellington, his fellow Overseer, in which it was determined that Wellington was 'found drowned'.

In the 1841 census John and Harriet and three-month old Thomas were living in Hendford (at the time this was the west side of today's Princes Street, near the corner of today's Westminster Street). Thirty year old John listed his occupation as a 'Carver & Gilder'. Living with them was a young carver's apprentice, a domestic servant and a nurse.

In March 1846 at the Annual Vestry John, together with John Newman Berkeley, Thomas Busby, John Swatridge and George Wellington, were appointed Overseers.

In 1850 John was listed twice in Hunt & Co's Directory of 1850; once as a 'Mason, Stone & Marble & Carver of Hendford' and also as a 'Stone & Marble Mason, Gilder of Hendford'. In all the above cases the Cattle Market and Hendford addresses were undoubtedly the same building shown in the gallery below.

In the following 1851 census it becomes clear that John's shop, which he lived above with his family, was situated in today's Princes Street (the western side between today's Westminster Street and Park Road was called Hendford). Now 5 and 7 Princes Street, the shop displays small carved faces - to denote John's skill in carving. In the census John and Harriet, together with their three sons and a domestic servant, were living above the shop premises. John gave his occupation as 'Carver & Gilder & Statuary Mason employing 6 men, 1 apprentice and 3 boys'.

John was listed as a Stone and Marble Mason & Gilder of Hendford twice in Slater's Directory of 1852 and the Churchwardens' Accounts refer to him as a Marble Mason in 1855. These were the last listings of him in this trade although he undoubtedly carried on in this profession. However, it must have been around this time that he became interested in photography and set up a photographic studio in his shop premises. There is no doubt that he considered himself a professional photographer as evidenced by the photographs illustrated below, which carry a professional logo on the reverse. At the same time, however, his son Thomas was also working as a photographer as seen by the advertisements of 1858 and 1860 below. Cartes de visite (also known as cartes or CDVs), were only introduced in Britain in 1859 but it appears that John Swatridge was using them within months of their intruduction.

The 1861 census shows John and Harriet, together with Thomas and a domestic servant living at Princes Street (this was still the same property previously described as being in Hendford, but the new name of Princes Street became commonly used at this time). At this time John gave his occupation as a Carver & Gilder, Stone Mason employing 5 men & 2 boys' with no mention of photography, while 20-year old Thomas gave his occupation as a Photographer.

On 9 November 1863 Thomas married Emma Rosetta Mary Verrals (Venables) in Westminster, London. They lived in Bristol between 1863 and 1867 where Thomas traded as a 'Hat and Cap Dealer, Photographer, Dealer & Chapman'. Unfortunately he was made bankrupt in 1868.

By the time of the 1871 census Thomas and Emma, together with their 4-year old daughter Rosalina and Emma's widowed mother Elizabeth Venables, were living at 35 Balls Pond Road, Hackney. Thomas gave his occupation as Photographer and he is known to have had his studio at this address until 1877.

Harriett died in Yeovil in the spring of 1874 aged 59. John Swatridge died on 7 October 1876 in Chicago, Illinois, USA, aged 66. His statuary and monumental masons business was taken over by Cole & Son who were advertising in Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser from 1878 as 'late Swatridge'.

Thomas' later photographic studios were at 66 Church Street, Camberwell and also 50 Dalston Lane, Hackney (1877-1881) before moving to 3 Alfred Terrace, Holloway Road, Islington (1883-4). By the time of the 1901 census Thomas had retired and he died in Lambeth in 1909. 


John Swatridge's signature against the Vestry minutes of 8 September 1836.




The notice of John Swatridge's appointment as Overseer in the 28 March 1846 edition of the Western Flying Post.


A postcard of Princes Street, dating to around 1905, published by printer William Beale Collins and showing his premises at left. The premises had earlier been those of Cole & Son and, prior to that, of John Swatridge.


This carved head, one of three, adorns the front elevation of 5 Princes Street at eye level. They were almost certainly carved by John Swatridge as a demonstration of his stone carving skills.


From my collection

A carte de visite by John Swatridge dating to the very late 1850s (or at least before 1863, when he left Yeovil).


A sepia photograph by John Swatridge of John Perry, circa 1863, holding a file and a cogged wheel he had presumably made himself. A note on the back of the photograph recorded "John Perry, Technical Blacksmith of Yeovil".


John Swatridge's logo on the back of the John Perry portrait above, somewhat more elaborate than his earlier back design.


Courtesy of Bill & Audrey Robinson

A carte de visite by John Swatridge and, judging by the logo on the back, dating to the 1860s.


A Carte de Visite by John Swatridge, with the back logo shown by its side. The square corners of the CDV would suggest a date of the very early 1870s.


Courtesy of Deborah Eaton

Two cartes de visite by John Swatridge. The lady at left is thought to be Hester Gifford (1814-1896) and the younger woman may be her daughter. Again, the square corners of the CDVs would suggest a date of the very early 1870s.


John's son, Thomas Sydenham Swatridge, was just seventeen years old and clearly operating from his father's shop when he began his photographic career.


This advertisement appeared in the Yeovil edition of the Western Flying Post on 10 August 1858.


The announcement of the collaboration between Thomas Swatridge and artist Frederick Treble who would produce oil portraits based on Thomas' photographs ran in the Western Flying Post throughout May and June 1859. The partnership did not last long as the following year Thomas was collaborating with another artist - Mr Lawson (see below).


An advertisement in the 12 June 1860 edition of the Western Flying Post announcing the forthcoming collaboration between Thomas Swatridge and Mr Lawson.


An advertisement in the 3 July 1860 edition of the Western Flying Post .


Courtesy of Ali Salman

A carte de visite by Thomas Swatridge. The studio address of 50 Dalston Lane dates this carte to between 1877 and 1881.


An example of John Swatridge's carved marble work - the memorial to Captain Prowse in St John's church. The cost of the memorial was £81 (just over £8,000 at today's value).