An occasional series of tasty morsels that cross my desk



More on Kensal Green

Long time readers of this blog will know that we are trying to put together the bits and pieces of the history of Nicolaas Henneman’s printing works at Kensal Green, just outside London towards the site of Eastman Kodak’s later (and now defunct) factory complex at Harrow.  Henneman sought larger space and less interference from air pollution than he suffered at his Regent Street studio in London, so in the early 1850s he set up a new printing establishment, about which little is known.  About a year ago reader Gerry Mellett made a major contribution.  He had grown up in the area and combined that experience with the very modern Google ‘magic carpet’ to pinpoint the exact building.


Another reader has responded with some more recent information on the fate of Henneman’s works.  Amanda Lee  was intrigued by my recent hasty snapshot of the tiled entry outside 818 Harrow Road, once the home of Nicolaas Henneman.  She is the great-great niece of Edwin John & Charles Oliver Cooper, tile and mosaic workers.  In 1894, they purchased ‘The Limes’, as the house was then called, and re-named it ‘Tile House.’  Sadly, in spite of financial support from their older brothers, the business did not thrive and by 1907 they were forced to sell the building.  It was noted at the time that “The house appears to be in a very bad state of repair and will cost a substantial sum to put it in letting order”  (from external appearances, the same might be said today).
Fortunately, the Lee family archives preserves a copy of the auctioneer’s catalogue for the sale that took place on Halloween, 1907.
The sale went ahead but brought in only the reserve price of £800.  The plot included in the auction catalogue is of particular interest.  Talbot had plans drawn up for a building extension that would have made Henneman’s work more practical.  It is not clear if this extension was ever built.  In an 1852 letter, the architect, George Godwin, estimated that a “Glass House, of Galvanized Iron on brick foundation, would probably cost from £200 to £250.”
The 1907 catalogue makes it clear that if indeed the extension had been erected in 1852 that by 1907 it succumbed to progress, cut through by one of the numerous new roads feeding this growing suburb.

More on the Reading Establishment


Nicolaas Henneman very bravely left Talbot’s service in late 1843, believing so much in the new art of photography he had helped his master to perfect that he moved to the nearby market town of Reading.  Popularly known today as the Reading Establishment and often credited to Talbot, it in fact started out as Henneman’s own business.  When he opened it in 1843, there was little local competition for taking photographic portraits and he had planned to make his fortune producing large runs of photographic prints for publications such as The Pencil of Nature.  Like most of his plans, this fell short of expectations and in 1846 he started to wind down the Reading business and set up at 122 Regent Street in London.  Our Advisory Board member Dr Anthony Hamber spotted an advertisement that might have a bearing on this.


In September 1847, two advertisements appeared a week apart in The Times.  The first announced the services of Henneman’s new London studio.  However, just days later the bookseller George Lovejoy advertised a Glass House for sale “built for portrait taking.”  Lovejoy had worked closely with Henneman, supplying him papers for coating and window space for exhibiting his photographs.  Had Lovejoy planned to go into the business of photography himself?  Or had he financed a new glass house for Henneman, one that became redundant when Henneman left Reading?

SC4232_1937-3127-1Judging by this photograph, the glass house that Henneman used at Reading just might have been eighteen feet long but in any case could hardly be described as “newly made.”  But perhaps it was.  I have always assumed that Henneman’s documentary photograph had been taken early in his time at Reading and that its more grand cousin had been taken in 1846.  But what if it dated to closer to the end of the operation, when Benjamin Cowderoy had been appointed business manager and was actively trying to build the business?  Talbot had been forced to take over the Reading operation and in May 1847 had written to an accountant that “I intend to close the Reading Establishment but not to [part] with the house at present, because I have no place to which I could remove the glass house, & [the] bookcases, shelves, & other fixtures.”  Did Lovejoy have a stake in this as well?

Mousetrap Redux

Some time ago we looked into Talbot’s mousetrap cameras. It is an engaging label for  his early apple-size boxes with an inspection hole plugged by a cork and one that modern writers cannot resist.  Talbot never called them that and in fact the only time that I know of that it appears is in an 1835 letter from his wife Constance.  She had gone rowing in the moonlight on the River Medina and observed that the silhouettes “reminded me a good deal of some of your shadows.”  While he understood the practical basis of prints at this time, Henry saw no need for them and was content with his negatives – shadows, as Constance creatively saw them.  She went on to ask, “Shall you take any of your mousetraps with you into Wales? – it would be charming for you to bring home some views,”  thus forever infusing the terminology of photography with this word.

But now there is a new mousetrap camera in town, courtesy of the playful mind of Edward Durrill.  I hope that he has put it to good use trapping new images.


Larry J Schaaf


• Questions or Comments? Please contact Prof Schaaf directly at larry.schaaf@bodleian.ox.ac.uk   •  George Godwin, jnr to WHFT, 20 January 1852, Talbot Correspondence Project Document no. 06555. •  Letter, WHFT to Alfred Harrison, 5 May 1847,  Document no. 05937 .  •  Henneman’s calling card kindly supplied by Hans P Kraus, Jr, Inc, New York.  •  Nicolaas Henneman, Boy with Printing Frames Outside the Glass House at Reading, salted paper print from a calotype negative, National Science and Media Museum, 1937-3127/1; Schaaf 4232.   •  Letter, Constance to WHFT, Monday evening 7 September 1835, Document no. 03132.