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 Sepia photograph of unknown group at Emmanual College Cambridge



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Cambridgeshire Photographers - The Studio at Post Office Terrace, Cambridge, 1865-1985

Looking for a photograph of your Cambridgeshire ancestor ?
Read on....

Post Office Terrace is a narrow roadway off the West side of St Andrews Street Cambridge, opposite Christs Lane and beside what is now the West Entrance to the Grand Arcade. The road is accessed from St Andrews Street through an archway and formerly the terrace gave access to the rear of buildings on the West side of St Andrews Street, including the Post Office. The former photographer's studio is the first building on the North side after entering via the archway. The building is believed to be owned by Christs College, but was leased by them to Jesus College, who in turn leased the building to a series of photographers from 1865 to 1985.

The Studio at Post Office Terrace was occupied by a series of photographers as follows: (see individual entries in our main list of photographers by surname)

  • Arthur Nicholls 1865 - 1877. Thomas Cox, his brother in law, may have been involved in the business around 1877
  • John Edward Bliss  1878 - 1885, assisted for part of that time by his brother, Henry James Bliss
  • Valentine Louis Blanchard c.1885-7
  • Valentine Louis Blanchard and William Henry Lunn in partnership, trading as “Valentine Blanchard and Lunn”,  1887- 1889.
  • William Henry Lunn alone briefly in 1889
  • Colin Lunn 1889 -1893
  • J Palmer Clark 1893 - 1934. By 1901 Charles Goodrich  and Frederick Herbert Sanderson were running the business, still trading as Palmer Clarke.  Herbert Sanderson, son of FH Sanderson, may have been involved
  • Ramsey and Muspratt, 1934 - 1978, partners Lettice Ramsey and Helen Muspratt (and for some of that time plus Phillip Brunney)
  • Nicholas Lee 1978 - 1980
  • Peter Lofts 1980 - 1985

When Nicholas Lee took over the studio, every nook and cranny in the building contained tens of thousands of negatives of photographs taken by all of his predecessors. Many of the older boxes of negatives were acquired by the Cambridgeshire Collection. Peter Lofts was the final occupant of the Post Office Terrace Studio and the owner of the studio contents. He too has deposited most of the remaining negatives from the studio and the card index of Ramsey and Muspratt clients with the Cambridgeshire Collection.

Portrait of the son of Mrs Runciman - from a Post Office Terrace negativePortrait of the Baron Von Hugel - from a Post Office Terrace negative

Two example portraits from the collection of negatives from Post Office Terrace Studio, with permission of the Cambridgeshire Collection

Peter Lofts offers for sale prints of some of the older photographs of Cambridge and selected other images, via his website at http://www.loftyimages.co.uk . However, he has now deposited most of his collection with the Cambridgeshire Collection, Central Library, Cambridge. This is the largest photographic archive held by the Cambridgeshire Collection, estimated to contain over 300,000 individual images, and its size and range make it important in the national context. (Even this is by no means the whole output from this series of photographers. Many glass negatives were washed and re used over the years and others have been lost due to a variety of causes, including space limitations at the Studio, deterioration and breakages).

The massive task of cataloguing this collection has been undertaken by volunteers and staff at the Cambridgeshire Collection over a period of years. The resulting organisation and cataloguing is complex. Archives Assistant Mary Burgess and Webmaster Les Waters have prepared a guide explaining the catalogue, which you will find invaluable if searching for your ancestors among these images. You can download the guide here (a 13 page .pdf).

Recent cataloguing work by volunteers from the Cambridgeshire Family History Society has involved examining and recording details of individual glass negatives from over 900 wooden boxes from the J Palmer Clarke era now stored at the Central Library (other material is stored off site). The Cambridgeshire Family History Society will be integrating information they have recorded into their "Ancestor Finder" facility on their web site at www.cfhs.org.uk/. In the meantime, the Society has very kindly made available a spreadsheet listing the negatives examined, which you can download here. There are two versions of this:

  • Spreadsheet 1 is organised by box and negative order (Download Spreadsheet 1, a 6 MB Excel Spreadsheet with 46,000 lines of data).
  • Spreadsheet 2 is organised into customer surname order (Download Spreadsheet 2, a 6 MB Excel Spreadsheet with 46,000 lines of data)

Between 2017 and 2019 volunteers at the Cambridgeshire Collection undertook another project to catalogue a further batch of 400+ smaller boxes of glass negatives, dated between 1888 and 1896, mainly by Colin Lunn or from the early years of J Palmer Clark. The Cambridgeshire Collection has kindly made this information available here in two different forms:

  • Spreadsheet 3 is organised by box and negative order (Download Spreadsheet 3, a 700 KB Excel spreadsheet with 4963 lines of data)
  • Spreadsheet 4 is organised by customer name (Download Spreadsheet 4, a 700 KB Excel spreadsheet with 4963 lines of data)

Studio diaries and an order book from the early years of the firm Ramsey and Muspratt (1932-1935) have now been transcribed and can be downloaded here (a 134 page .pdf).

In 2020 work also started in transcribing the Ramsey and Muspratt studio card index 1938-1978, containing around 50,000 cards. This is a massive project being tackled by Cambridgeshire Collection staff. They have kindly agreed to allow us to add these records to our site as they are transcribed. So far surnames A-I have been transcribed, and more files will be added as transcription progresses. Most of the index cards will lead you to the original negatives in the Cambridgeshire Collection, from whom you can order scans.

Portrait of John Gunning Moore Dunlop - from a Post Office Terrace negative     Portrait of Miss B A  Clough - from a Post Office Terrace negative

Two example portraits from the collection of negatives from Post Office Terrace Studio, with permission of the Cambridgeshire Collection

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www.FadingImages.uk is a non-commercial web site for local and family historians, listing photographers in Cambridgeshire 1840-2000
This page was last modified: 26 March 2021, 15:00

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