IOW Photographers - Thomson


Photographer Frank M Thomson
Active Period 1911 - 1921
Lifespan Born:  1864  Walworth, London Died:  1921  Ryde, IOW
Studio Addresses 26 West Street, Ryde
Trade History

1899 Kelly's Directory of Hants & IOW (page 442)
Frank Marshall Emmons Thomson, photographer, 22 Avenue Road, Southampton

1915 Kelly's Directory of IOW (page 1090)
Frank M Thomson, photographer, 26 West Street, Ryde

1921-22 Kelly's Directory of IOW (page 729)
Frank M Thomson, photographer, 26 West Street, Ryde

Evidence Found
1916-20 - estimated date of photo
Examples of
Trade Cards,
Adverts, etc

Example of Thomson's local newspaper advertisement from 1912
Family History

Frank Thomson was born in 1864 at Walworth, London, the son of a commercial clerk Frank William Thomson and his wife Annie Alice (nee Thorp). His name was actually registered as Fletcher Marshall Emmens Thomson, but he was always known as Frank, the same as his father.

Little is known of his early family life, but in the 1871 census he is found as a 6 year old schoolboy living with a widowed school teacher and her family in Lambeth, London. Despite searching his variant names, his whereabouts and occupation in 1881 has not yet been established.

However, at the time of the 1891 census, 26 year old Frank was lodging in Southampton and occupied as a photographer. According to the 1912 advertisement above, he was probably working for Debenham's studio at the time.

In 1893, Frank married Christina Marie Weber at Southampton. Christina (aka Mary) was born in Whitechapel, London of German parentage and had a photographic background. The 1881 census records her as being a photographer living in Southampton, as was her younger sister Louisa. Also, in the 1891 census, she was recorded as being a photographic artist; still living in Southampton along with a younger brother Augustus who was occupied as a photographic printer. It is likely that they were also working for Debenham's studio, which is probably where she met Frank. This may be evidenced by the fact that the photo of Christina below was taken at Debenham & Smith's studio in Southampton.

At the time of the 1901 census, Frank was still living in Southampton and employed as a photographic operator; presumably still with Debenham's. By that time, Frank and Christina had two daughters: Estelle (3) and Irene (1). Sadly, Estelle died suddenly at the age of 21 on Christmas Day 1918 (see death announcement below).

Again, in the 1911 census, Frank and his family were still living in Southampton, with Frank still employed as a photographic operator. Also living with the family at that time was a Dorcas Witchell, a 28 year old unmarried woman from Gloucestershire who was employed as a photographic retoucher.

Sometime shortly after the 1911 census, Frank and family moved to the Isle of Wight where he set up his photographic business at 26 West Street, Ryde. He apparently took over the studio, if not the business, of George St John Biggs who had had a studio at that address since about 1903.

Frank Thomson died in 1921 and was buried at Ryde Cemetery, alongside his wife who had pre-deceased him in 1915 and daughter Estelle in 1918.

Frank & Christina's other daughter, Irene, married a Leonard Percival Street in 1922 at Ryde and had two daughters, and continued to live on the Island until her death in 1986.

Frank Thomson and his wife Christina Marie

Frank & Christina's children, Irene (left) & Estelle (right)

My thanks to Tom Dorman for supplying the above photos and contributing to the family history notes. Tom's wife is a great granddaughter of Frank & Christina.

Further Notes "TRADESMAN'S DEATH - The death of Mr. F. F. M. E. Thompson, photographer, of 26 West-street, took place, following a stroke, on Wednesday. He had resided in Ryde since 1911."
IW County Press, 10 Dec 1921, page 10

"SUDDEN DEATH - Miss Estelle Thomson, daughter of Mr. F. M. Thomson, photographer, West Street, had an epileptic seizure as she was about to attend the evening service at St. Michael's, Swanmore, on Christmas Day. She was taken to the vicarage but passed away before medical aid could arrive. The deceased was only 21 years of age and much sympathy has been expressed with the family."
IW Times, 2 Jan 1919

My thanks to Ann Barrett for supplying the above press cuttings.

Further information about Frank & Christina and details of their graves can be found on the Ryde Social Heritage Group website at 


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