yeovil PEOPLE

James Singleton



James Singleton was born in 1831 at Chillington, Somerset (between Crewkerne and Chard). He was the third of the eight children of agricultural labourer William Singleton (1802-1869) and Jane née Earnshaw (1803-1879). In the 1841 census he was listed living with his parents and siblings at Chillington. The 1851 census listed him in service in Marylebone, London. By the time of the 1861 census, James was back in Chillington and gave his occupation as a photographic artist.

By 1865, James had a photographic studio at 51 South Street, Dorchester, placing a series of advertisements in the Sherborne Mercury during the summer of 1865; “Photography : Singleton’s Photographic Studio, 51 South Street, Dorchester: cartes de visite… Portraits taken daily from 9am till dusk”. This was followed during the summer of 1866 with the following advertisement; “Photography – 51 South Street, Dorchester – J Singleton begs to acquaint the inhabitants of Dorchester and its neighbourhood, that at the request of many of his former patrons, he has re-opened the above establishment, where, as heretofore, faithful portraits may be obtained. Carte de visites, 7s 6d per dozen. Portraits on glass, in neat frames, from 1s upwards”.

In the 27 May 1870 edition of the Western Gazette, it was reported that "Mr Singleton, of High West Street [Dorchester] was appointed photographer to the county, for the purpose of taking likenesses of habitual criminals".

On 31 October 1870, at St Peter's church, Dorchester, James married Frances Elizabeth Burford (1840-1916). They were to have a son, James Burford Singleton, born at Chillington. The 1871 census recorded James and Frances at a boarding house at 19 High Street, West Dorchester. James gave his occupation as a photographer.

During the 1870s James and Frances moved back to Chillington, where their son James Jnr was born in 1880. In the 1881 census, the family were recorded at Cottage, Chillington. James again gave his occupation as a photographer.

Other than the logo on the back of the photographs and carte de visite shown below, there is little evidence that James and his family ever lived in Yeovil. Therefore, many thanks to Phil Nichols for the following information - "The Admission Register of Reckleford School, Yeovil, has been used for this identification. This records the admission to the school of James Singleton, son of James Singleton of Reckleford, Yeovil. The child’s birth date given in the Register was November 1880 [precise date not given], and it is known that James, the son of James and Frances Singleton was born on 17th November 1880. [In addition to the notice in the newspaper, this birth was registered as James Burford Singleton in Chard in 1880, Oct-Dec]. James and Frances’ son was the only James Singleton whose birth was registered in Somerset between 1879-1881. James was recorded at Reckleford School from 31st October 1887 to 6th February 1891. Presumably the Singleton family moved to Bridport in February 1891, and were recorded there in the Census on 5th April 1891. The Admission Register has a further piece of evidence to support this hypothesis: a boy named Sidney Burford (born 15 November 1880), son of John Burford, of Reckleford, was admitted to the school on the same day as James Singleton, junior. John James Louis Burford, born in Dorchester in 1855, was the son of John Burford, carpenter, and his wife Mary Ann, and so he was the younger brother of Frances (or Fanny) Burford, as seen in (for example) the 1861 census. This means that, not only were James Singleton (junior) and Sidney Burford cousins, but they had been born two days apart. The conclusion drawn therefore is that when James and Frances Singleton, with their son James, moved to Yeovil they may have shared a house (42 Reckleford, Yeovil) with the Burford family."

The 1891 census recorded 59-year-old James, 51-year-old Frances and 10-year-old James Jnr living in rooms at the Dolphin Inn, East Street, Bridport. No longer a photographer, James gave his occupation as a baker's assistant. The 1901 census recorded James and Frances at 5 Church View, Bridport. 69-year-old James was recorded as a pedlar.

James Singleton died at Bridport in 1905, aged 74. Frances died in Bridport in 1916, aged 76.




From my collection

Dating to the 1880s, this is the front and back of a photograph of an unknown family, taken by James Singleton. The writing reads "This was taken when first showed signs of failing health the other one 2 years before when in good health as far as we knew" - presumably referring to the seated lady of the first photograph.

The photograph measures 65mm x 105mm and is mounted on card measuring 114mm x 165mm. It dates to between 1889 and 1891.


From my collection

A photograph of an unknown house, with a lady standing by the wall. This is presumably the lady referred to on the back of the photograph above, and taken two years before.

The photograph measures 65mm x 105mm and is mounted on card measuring 105mm x 143mm. It dates to between 1889 and 1891.


From “Secure the Shadow, Somerset Photographers 1839-1939“
courtesy of Robin Ansell, Allan Collier and Phil Nichols.


This carte de visite is by James Singleton during his stay as a photographer in Yeovil. The location of his studio is unknown. This carte de visite dates to between 1889 and 1891.