IOW Photographers - James


Photographer Richard James
Active Period 1861 - c1875
Lifespan Born:  c1827  Southampton, Hants Died:  1899  Portsea, Hants
Studio Addresses
18 Union Street, Ryde
Royal Arcade, Ryde
9 Pier Street, Ryde from 1876
Associates William Cass (assistant)
Leonard James (son)
Percy James  (son)
possibly John G Plumtree & Jessie R Whyte - assistant photographers lodging with James' mother in 1881
Trade History  

1875 Kelly's Directory of IOW
Richard James, photographer, Royal Arcade, Ryde


Evidence Found
c1860's - photo of Freshwater Bay published in the IW County Press, 14 Sep 2007
Examples of
Trade Cards,
Adverts, etc

An advertisement from the IW Times dated 31 July 1862

A later advertisement from the IW Times dated 22 February 1866
Note how his business has seemingly expanded and cost of his cdv's halved

A later advertisement from the IW Observer dated 27 March 1869
announcing he had bought the effects of photographer John Symonds

A later advertisement from the IW Observer dated 3 June 1876
showing his new studio address

My thanks to Ann Barrett for locating the above advertisements.


Family History Richard James was born c1827 in Southampton, Hants, the son of Richard James, a china dealer  from Staffordshire. The family had moved to the Island prior to 1841, as the census of that year finds them living in Union Street, Ryde, with Richard senior being described as a china and glass dealer. The family comprised Richard snr (40), his wife Sarah (nee Living from Gosport, Hants) (35), Richard jnr (14) and his sister Caroline (15) who had also been born in Southampton. Also living in the household was a servant Jane Allen (15) and Sarah Rice (55) a woman of independent means.

Richard James senior was found to be occupied as a china dealer at 45 Union Street in the 1851, 1861 & 1871 censuses, and probably carried on until his death in 1878 (being buried at Ryde Cemetery). During the earlier years, Richard and Sarah had two further children while in Ryde - Robert George (c1843) and Thomas Edwin (c1845). Sadly, Thomas died from consumption (TB) in March 1861 at the age of 16, just a few days before the 1861 census (see below).

Richard James junior married Fanny Coombes Halsted on 11 March 1850 at All Saints Church, Newchurch. Fanny was from Bognor, Sussex, the daughter of a Thomas Halsted. Fanny's second name of Coombes is interesting, because in 1847 at St Marys Church, Cowes, Richard's sister Caroline had married a James Coombes, a smith from Shorwell. The name Coombes also crops up in later censuses associated with the James' family.

By the time of the 1851 census, Richard jnr and Fanny had moved to Lymington, Hants, where Richard was working as a china and glass dealer on the High Street. They had also had the addition of a 3-month old son, Richard Oliver (born in Lymington).

Their time on the mainland may have been short lived, because in 1852 they had another son, Leonard Albert, born at Ryde, followed by a daughter, Amy Eliza, in 1860. Of course, it is possible they continued to live in Lymington, and just came over to the Island to be in the company of other relatives for the births of their children. However, by the time of the 1861 census, the family was in residence at 18 Union Street, Ryde, close to Richard senior's china shop. In the census, Richard was described as a 32 year old photographic artist & estate agent, lodging house keeper & reporter(?). Living with Richard were his wife Fanny, children Leonard and Amy (firstborn Richard Oliver was not present, he may have died), servants Ann Lewis and Mary Farrell (both 15 and from the mainland), and 20 year old photographic assistant William Cass from Newport. Interestingly, just three houses away lived photographer John Symonds, while further along lived another early photographer William Hicks.

In 1866 Richard James purchased the photographic plates and cdv's of the bankrupt photographer John Symonds of 15 Union Street, Ryde (see announcement below and above 1869 advertisement).

The family was still living at 18 Union Street in 1871, and the census for that year confirms that Richard (43) was still operating as a photographer, though with no mention of his previous sideline activities! The family had increased with the addition of children Percy Edwin (7), Ellen Eliza (3) and William Halsted (1). Richard's wife Fanny (45) and eldest son Leonard (18), now described as a photographers assistant, completed the family (by this time daughter Amy had disappeared), and there was one servant, 17 year old Charlotte Eveny from Dorset.

In mid 1876, Richard James moved his studio from 18 Union Street to 9 Pier Street (opposite the Pier), previously occupied by the photographer Charles Oakeshott - see announcement below.

By the time of the 1881 census, the family had moved to Portsea, Hants, and Richard had apparently given up photography as his occupation was described as author & publisher of tracts, occasional preacher. Richard's wife Fanny and children Percy, Ellen and William were present, though eldest son Leonard had disappeared. Once again, the family enjoyed the benefits of a servant, and at this time it was a 23 year old unmarried Frances Coombes from Ryde - no doubt a relative.

The 1891 census shows that Richard had not given up photography entirely, as his occupation was described as a publisher of photographs etc (employer). Likewise, his son Percy was employed as a photographic printer. The family was still living in Portsea, and included Richard's wife Fanny and unmarried daughter Ellen (by this time William had disappeared!).

Richard James died at Portsea in 1899, and the 1901 census finds his widow Fanny (75) living back in Ryde as head of the house Lulworth in John Street. Also living with her were her widowed daughter Ellen Corney (33) and boarders widow Caroline Coombes (75) - Richard's sister - and unmarried Frances Coombes (43) - her old servant and probable relative. By this time, Percy James had married and was living in Portsmouth with his young family, working as a furniture warehouse porter.


Further Notes

"Mr. R. James, photographer, of Union-street, has photographed the yachts at their moorings, sailings, &c., at the Regatta of 1861; and 18 slides of the Flower Show and the beautiful grounds of Westfield."
  -  IW Observer, Saturday, 24 August 1861

"We find Mr. James, photographer, of Union-street, has purchased the large and valuable collection of negative plates (carte de visite, groups, and views) belonging to the studio of Mr. Symonds, bankrupt; and as it contained the fine series of views by Major Gordon, it is gratifying to know the plates will not be removed from the Island."
  -  IW Observer, 8 September 1866

"Several excellent photographic views of Haylands House and the surrounding grounds were taken on Tuesday last by Mr. James, Photographer, Union-street."
  -  IW Observer, 18 June 1870

"We find our townsman, Mr. James, has been engaged in the north of England for several months, and has been eulogised by the press for his portraits of 37 well known inhabitants of Kidderminster, forming a committee connected with the late election. We also announce his return to Ryde on the 1st June (see adv) to conduct his studio in Union-street for the season ---The Kidderminster Shuttle says: "During the evening's proceeding a remarkable well-executed photograph by Mr. James was produced, containing 37 medallion portraits of the Testimonial Committee; they were pronounced to be capital likenesses. The committee intend asking Mr. Lea to accept one in a massive gilt frame.""
  -  IW Observer, 23 May 1874

Mr JAMES, is publishing very excellent carte de visite portraits of the deceased sergeant, in uniform, which can be obtained at the studio, 18 Union-street."
  -  IW Observer, 20 November 1875, page 5

We refer our readers to Mr. JAMES advertisement, in which is announced a reduction to half price of his large and varied stock of Island views, Scrap Album Cabinets, and Stereoscopic sizes. Owing to the termination of the lease, the sale cannot be extended beyond the 24th December next."
  -  IW Observer, 20 November 1875

"We direct our readers' attention to an advertisement in another column [see above] announcing the re-opening of the photographic studio, 9, Pier-street, by Mr. R. James, who has removed from 18, Union-street"
  -  IW Observer, 3 June 1876

We regret to record the death of Mr. Richard JAMES, jun., who passed away on the 27th February, after a lingering illness of three years. Mr. JAMES was publisher of the "Ryde Fashionable Arrival List, Intelligencer and General Advertiser" about the year 1855, and was for many years with Messrs. E. and J. WALLIS of 22 Union-street. For about 20 years he was in business at 18 Union-street, as a photographer. He sold his business, we believe, to Mr. DEBENHAM, who still carries it on. Mr. JAMES was the means of getting a subscription from the Empress of the French and the Queen for a poor man who had his arm blown off while saluting the Emperor at the Club House, and with the help of others, built two cottages for him in Ryde.
  -  IW Observer, 11 March 1899

My thanks to Ann Barrett for locating the above articles.


Further information about Thomas Edwin James and details of his grave can be found on the Ryde Social Heritage Group website at 


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