IOW Photographers - Biggs-G


Photographer George St John Biggs
Active Period 1898-1911
Lifespan Born:  c1867  Ryde, IOW Died:  1932  New Zealand
Studio Addresses 2 Rose Villas, Upton Street, Ryde 1891
56 West Street, Ryde c1898
26 West Street, Ryde from c1906
Associates Kate Quinton (wife)
possibly Charles Biggs (brother)
Arthur Percival Biggs (possible relative)
Established 1892
Trade History 1898 Kelly's Directory IOW (page 226)
George St John Biggs, photographer, 56 West Street, Ryde

1899 Kelly's Directory of Hampshire & IOW (page 634)
George St John Biggs, photographer, 56 West Street, Ryde

1910 Kelly's Directory of IOW
George St John Biggs, photographer, 26 West Street, Ryde

Evidence Found
1898 - estimated date of photo - see below
1906 - estimated date of photo - see below
Examples of
Trade Cards,
Adverts, etc

Early example of a Biggs photo having the 56 West Street address c1898

My thanks to Ann Barrett for the above photo which shows a Charles Butt 3rd from the left.

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Example of a Biggs photo and back c1906

My thanks to Julian Baker (Fareham) for the above photo.

This photo is of Julian's grandfather William Argyle Daish (1898-1973) taken when William looks to be about 8 years old.

Biggs3.jpg (12008 bytes)
Close-up of Biggs' embossed logo on front of above photo

Family History George St John Biggs was born in 1868 in Ryde, the son of an admiralty clerk of the same name from Whitbourne, Hereford. George snr had married Henrietta Slack in London in 1852, but it is unlikely that she was George jnr's natural mother as his birth name was registered as George St John Biggs Rosson. Likewise, his older brother James St John Biggs Rosson born in 1866 (see later for reason).

At the time of the 1861 census, George snr, his wife Henrietta and their two daughters, Margaret & Jane, were living in Alverstoke, Hants. Interestingly, the older daughter Margaret had been born in South Australia c1853, and her sister Jane c1855 in Deptford, Kent; these places presumably reflecting George's naval career movements.

By the time of the 1871 census, George snr had moved to the IOW and was living in Upton Road, Ryde, described as 45 years old, married and head of the house. Living with him was a housekeeper, unmarried Rose J Rosson (32) from London and two sons, James & George (the future photographer), both sons having been born in Ryde. Since their births had been registered with the surname of Rosson, it rather suggests that Rose was their natural mother. Meanwhile, George's wife Henrietta and their two daughters Margaret & Jane were living in Cleveland, Somerset; Henrietta being described as the head of the house and wife of a naval officer.

At the time of the 1881 census, George snr and children were living at Rose Villa, Upton Road, Ryde, again with Rose J Rosson in place of George's wife. Amusingly, the enumerator had initially recorded her as George's wife and married, but then crossed both out to record unmarried! By this time, George jnr was a 13 year old scholar and, as well as his older brother James, now had three younger siblings, Charles, Rose & Violet. As with George and James, all three were registered with the surname of Rosson. Again, as in 1871, George snr's estranged wife Henrietta and their two daughters were still living in Somerset, this time in lodgings in Yatton.

George's estranged wife Henrietta died in 1885, and this left him clear to marry his 'housekeeper' Rose Rosson, which he did in 1887 at Lambeth, London. Although not conclusive proof, this act further demonstrates that Rose was the mother of George jnr and his siblings who were born in Ryde. George snr died in 1889 and his wife Rose in 1919; both being buried in Ryde Cemetery.

In the 1891 census, George jnr was recorded as being a photographer, as was his younger brother Charles, and still living at Rose Villa with his younger siblings and widowed mother. Also living in the same house as the Biggs' family, but listed as a separate 'head', was Kate Quinton - a 21 year old photographic retoucher from Newport. Kate was a sister of photographer Fred Quinton and, like George, was apprenticed to the eminent Royal photographer Charles Knight who was appointed to HM Queen Victoria.

On completion of his apprenticeship, in 1892 George opened his own studio in Ryde which developed into a successful business and, in turn, enjoyed Royal patronage. He married Kate (Kitty) Quinton at a non-conformist chapel in 1894, and the couple later had three daughters; Ivy Kathleen (c1894), Winifred Grace (c1896) and Marion. It is interesting to note that the marriage entry also gives George's name as George Rosson - possibly reflecting the fact that his parents were not actually married until after his birth.

According to the 1901 census, George and family were still living in Ryde, with George being recorded as a 31 year old photographer. His mother, Rose, was then living in St Helens and employed as a monthly nurse.

In 1911, George St John Biggs and family emigrated to Western Australia, where George managed studios in Perth until 1920. In 1921, after spending a year travelling, George opened the 'Falk Studios' in Auckland, New Zealand, which quickly gained a reputation for quality, especially in child studies and bridal work. When George died in 1932, the business was carried on by his wife and daughters until 1942, whereupon it was taken over by an Amy Harper. On the death of his daughter Grace St John Biggs in 1976, the large collection of negatives amassed over a lifetime was given to the Institute and Museum in Auckland.

An obituary for George St John Biggs appeared in the IW Times on 19th January 1933, in which it was stated that he was for many years in business as a photographer in West Street and was a member of the old Volunteers. It also stated he had left Ryde for Australia, but returned home for a few months before finally settling in Auckland where he established his well-known photographic business.

My thanks to Barbara Price (Australia) for contributing to these notes. Barbara (nee Biggs) is a great-niece of George St John Biggs and learnt about George's antipodean activities from a document written by his youngest daughter Marion sometime before her death in 1983.

Further Notes Arthur Percival Biggs (1880-1951)
Another Biggs photographer has been discovered who may be distantly related to George, though any possible connection awaits further research.


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