Below is a photograph from the album of my great grandfather Thomas Anslow Hitchcox. The album was given to Thomas by his mother (my 2nd great grandmother) whose maiden name was Emma Symons Treloar Billin on 5 Feb 1890 (his 22nd birthday).

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The photograph was near the back of the album in an area where a number of photos have an "X" written on them, meaning that my grandfather (son of the album owner) did not know who they were, and a number of others like this one having no markings. In the front of the album there tend to be labelled photographs of Thomas and his siblings and his wife but one of his mother is also near the back. Any labels in the album were by my grandfather (son of the album owner) and were probably added in the 1960s. This one was on the same page as the photographs discussed in Dating and identifying Penzance photos – are they of George and Fanny Wills?.

On 7 Feb 1894, at Angaston, South Australia, Thomas married Mary Ellen Nettell whose parents Matthew Nettell and Grace Martin Wills arrived at Port Adelaide, South Australia on 23 Dec 1865 (see Did uncle of Grace Martin Wills (or perhaps of Matthew Nettell) own the Gosforth?).

I do not think that this photo relates to Thomas' father's family because they came from Staffordshire. His mother's family, named Billin, came from Helston, but her father died in Adelaide in 1853 and her two grandfathers died in Helston in 1839 and 1840. I cannot rule out other members of her family because Helston is only about 10 miles from Redruth in Cornwall (where the photo was taken) but I think there are better candidates.

I suspect that these photos are of Matthew's parents Edward Nettell (1812-1879) and Maria Hocking (1811-1902) which would make them Thomas' wife's grandparents.

During his life Edward was recorded as having the occupations of Cooper or Wood Turner.

Both Edward and Maria appear to have lived their lives predominantly at Illogan (3 miles from Redruth) but I suspect that these may have been photographs taken shortly before Grace and Matthew left for Australia, and probably around the time they married on 23 Sep 1865, at Redruth.

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From the reverse of the photograph and something I found at http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/CORNISH-GEN/2000-02/0951179306 I think their photographer was only operating at that address (Bullers Row) in Redruth for a very short time which happened to be very near the time of that marriage.

James Chenhall was born at Redruth in 1845, son of James and Grace Chenhall. His photographic career probably started with his acting as an assistant to one of the older Redruth photographers, and he first appears in 1866, when he was aged 21, as 'photographic artist, Buller's Row, Redruth'. A few years later, James Chenhall moved to No. 11 West End, a better address in the same town and an index of commercial success. He continued there until 1910, after which he is not mentioned, and had either retired or died.

Can anyone suggest whether the ages, dress, photo date/location, etc of these two people can be used to support/refute my theory that they might be Edward Nettell (1812-1879) and Maria Hocking (1811-1902)?

The size of the photo and some other requested information:

The 'texture' of the photograph is matte

It appears to be glued onto the paper, and uniformly so.

No light passes through it i.e. if I hold it up to the sun and hold my finger behind it there is no shadow.

The smell is of old paper/cardboard.

The height of the card is 10.2 mm and the photo itself is 8.9 mm. The width of the card is 6.2 mm and the photo itself is 5.4 mm.

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2 Answers 2


This was fun and here is my current theory, which I believe supports your hypothesis.

The style of clothes are 1860s style per the vintage style guides listed further below and in the 1870s styles seemed to have moved significantly away from the style pictured. In particular away from the particulars of his frock coat, colors worn, as well as more patterns in their dress such as stripes, different collars and ties, and other such things; both male and female that are absent. I did not look at their hair/beard styles.

On him in particular of note is the long squareness of is coat, the sleeves of the jacket, and his bow tie with what looks like a starched collar that came into fashion apparently in the 1850s but changed dramatically with each decade on its style. I also tried to take into account a bit that his trousers are black, his vest is plain, and also they are an older couple so may not be up with the fashion trends but also may be able to afford to do so.

On her I tried looking at the style of her dress by looking at the corset formation and its loose sleeves with solid wrist endings. I also tried to look for the particular style of how the frills running vertically on her dress but slanting towards the center of her waste but could not find anything for that specific style or determine what it is called or if that was a covering of the main dress as an accessory. It did not have the more characteristic horizontal frills that came into use more later in the century. Item of note were also her lace collared bow, and her head covering.

I took at look at the physical characteristics of the physical photograph itself by utilizing primarily this photographer's guide to 19th Century photography, which in some cases if put under a microscope may even lead to where it was taken, as well as the physical characteristics of the mounting board and also attempted to find out what camera the photographer used at different times; which in some cases is documented.

So on the print this is what I found: The size of print implies it is a 1:1 print (or slighly cropped) and was not enlarged. I also attempted to date the photo based on changing film / camera technology but resulted in nothing definitive other than it was likely photographed on a field camera using plates (links film plate that fits time and era but I can't say it was this film), but not which became what is today known as Medium Format camera (120/620 film) vs. a Large format camera.

The board though was a good clue (especially the size) is looks like a Carte-de-visite seems to be which emerged in 1859 and was the standard style of photo from 1863-1877 and by 1883 (exact date varies based on source) was largely replaced by the Cabinet card. The use of red on the card and two lines (one thick/one thin) means the card itself was produced likely 1864-1869; but this is when the photographer was first starting up so he may have used the card stock for long after that period if he ordered in quantity, but not likely as he probably had limited funds for bulk orders, card stock aging, and also probably wanted to stay with what was in style.

Summary: I believe the photograph is likely from 1866 to probably no later than 1872.

FYI: I found this link also from a family in Australia looking to date photos from Chenhall with the same characteristics.

Note: Many of my guides use American references, but I would think that style between the 3 (US, England, & Australia) would at least be similar as America I would guess would be copying its European counterparts. There are also a lot of links for the purposes of being a guide for future reference.

Some of Reference Guides Used for Style:

  1. University of Vermont Guide to Dating Photos
  2. WalterNelson has an excellent guide to Men's fashion with many examples and
    detailed differences between each period.
  3. Forgotten Face Blog with many good examples.
  4. Victoriana
  5. WikiPedia Entry on 1860s Fashion, in particular see ref. image #3.

Some of the Reference Guides used for Photography:

  1. PhotoTree
  2. EarlyPhotography
  3. Antique Cameras
  4. cartedevisite.co.uk

I think your 1860s date is right - these would be 'best' clothes for a small market town community so of good quality to last for years especially for a staid middle-aged couple - the style of her dress is more 1850s, which would not be out of fashion in country areas even as late as the 1890s. They would be worn and put away till next high-dress occasion event - such as having one's portrait done. the style of the card is of that date too - I have another from Redruth for Row Photographic Artist of Redruth and his stamp claims a medal for 1867. The elderly lady sitter is wearing very similar costume the page is still accessible - https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Early-Victorian-CDV-Row-Redruth-Older-Lady-Woman-Crochet-Shawl-Crochet-Needle/303522135797?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649

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