Saturday, 26 September 2015

A Famous Victorian Photographer

From 1890 to 1896 Joe Parkin Mayall had a photographic studio at 209 Kilburn High Road. Today this is Hillman’s butchers shop near the corner with Willesden Lane. The Hillman family has had a shop here since 1922.

Hillman's, 209 Kilburn High Road,2015

John Jabez Edwin Mayall (1813 to 1901)
Joe was the second son of famous photographer, John Jabez Edwin Mayall, mistakenly referred to as an American in some books. But he was actually born in the UK, in Oldham, as Jabez Meal. After a move to West Yorkshire where his father worked as a dyer, the family emigrated to the States.

In 1842 Jabez Meal traveled to Philadelphia where he changed his name to Mayall and became an early daguerreotype photographer. With a partner he set up a successful studio at 140 Chestnut Street and their photographs were awarded prizes. 

Self portrait by John Jabez Mayall, Daguerrotype, Philadelphia 1842

In 1846 Mayall sold up and returned to England where he established a studio in London in 1847 at 433 West Strand. The painter Turner was a regular visitor from 1847 to 1849, as he was fascinated by the effects of light captured by the camera. Mayall took portraits of many famous people including the poet Tennyson and the astronomer Herschel (both are now in the National Portrait Gallery).

Lord Alfred Tennyson, 1864 (NPG)

In May 1851, The Great Exhibition opened at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park London. It attracted over six million visitors during the six months it remained open. Mayall produced a series of large plates of the Crystal Palace and the Exhibition. Thirty-one of his daguerreotype views of the Great Exhibition were copied and engraved for publication in John Tallis’s History and Description of the Crystal Palace and the Exhibition of the World's Industry.

In 1852 Mayall opened a second studio in a prime location at 224 Regent Street. He became the most successful photographer in London and made a lot of money. In 1861 his carte de visites earned him £12,000 a year and the royalties from his portraits of the Royal family, including the Queen, exceeded an astonishing £35,000 (today equivalent to almost £3 million).

Victoria and Albert, 1861

In 1864, leaving his eldest son Edwin to run his London studios, Mayall moved to fashionable Brighton with his wife and two younger sons. He opened his new photographic portrait studio at 90-91 Kings Road, close to the recently built Grand Hotel.

Joe Parkin Mayall
His second son, Joseph Parkin Mayall was born in Winchcombe Glouchestershire in 1839.  He didn’t immediately follow in his father’s footsteps. On 15 April 1861 he married Ann Toye at St Pancras Church, when the register describes him as an artist, living at Bolton Terrace. Ann is shown at the same address.

By 1870 they had moved to Australia and in 1872 their daughter Amy was born in Melbourne. The family returned to England and from 1877 to 1880 Joe ran a photographic studio at 6 North Street Quadrant, Brighton, located at the bottom of Queens Road, and near his father’s studio. On the 1881 census Joe was working as accounts clerk in Brighton and the family was sharing a house on West Hill.

But he reverted to photography and from 1883 to 1889, had a studio at 548 Oxford Street in London. Then in January 1890 he moved to Kilburn as this advert in 10 January Middlesex Courier shows:

Park Lane Studio, High Road, Kilburn. Mr. J. P. Mayall begs to announce that he has removed from 548, Oxford Street, Marble Arch, and opened a new studio at 209, High Road, Kilburn (One door from Willesden Lane).
High-class Portraiture at moderate prices. Rembrandt Portraits and Permanent Enamels a Speciality.

Artists at Home
In 1884 Joe Mayall was commissioned to undertake a series of photographs of 24 eminent artists in their studios. This was an important piece of work and was published in six monthly installments with four artists in each at a cost of 5 shillings. 

The last installment also included a portrait of W.E. Gladstone who was the Prime Minister and also the Professor of Ancient History at the Royal Academy.

WE Gladstone at Harwarden Castle, North Wales

Subscribers were particularly interested in seeing inside the studios of the artists. But reviews of the photographs thought they were highly posed and this clearly seems to have been the case as can be seen below.

GA Storey, 19 St John’s Wood Road, 1884. The following year Storey moved to ‘Hougoumont’ Broadhurst Gardens.
On 25 February 1891, both the Daily Mail and Pall Mall Gazette reported that,
J.P. Mayall, photographer, Kilburn, has submitted to the Queen and the Prince of Wales, two enlarged photographs of the late Sir Edgar Boehm in his studio. This was part of series of photographs ‘Artists at Home’ (Sampson Low, Marston and Co).

In the 1891 census Joe Parkin Mayall, photographer, is shown at 209 High Road, Kilburn. His two daughters, Marian and Amy, are listed as photographic assistants.
Amy Margaret Mayall was baptized on 25 March 1895, at Christ Church Brondesbury but she was born twenty three years earlier, on 29 Nov 1872. Her parents are shown as Ann and Joe Parkin Mayall, photographer, High Road, Kilburn. Presumably Amy was baptized so that she could marry Aroldo Valentini Christiani later that same year. Their son John was born about 1897, in West Hampstead. A second son Harold was born in 1900.

In December 1895 and April 1896 Joe Parkin Mayall was renting and living in part of 67 Gascony Avenue when he deposited six of his artist photographs with the National Archive, these included Millais, GF Watts and Alma Tadema.

67 Gascony Ave, 2015

The family left Kilburn for south London and were living at 10 Rye Hill Park Camberwell by 1899. The 1901 census shows that his two daughters were still working in the business. Amy and her two young children were sharing the house with her parents.

By the 1911 census, Ann and Joe had moved to 109 Underhill Road, East Dulwich. They occupied three rooms on the lower part of the premises. Aged 71, he gave his occupation as ‘photographic operator’. They said they had been married for 48 years with three children all living. Joe Parkin Mayall died there in 1922, aged 83. His wife Ann died seven years later, aged 96.


  1. Hello,
    I am currently working on a webpage documenting Mayall's Artists at Home and I was wondering if I could trouble you for some sources. Most biographies list Mayall's life dates as 1839-1906, claiming he died in Epsom in 1906. I was wondering what your source is for placing his death in 1922.
    Thank you!

  2. The information about JP Mayall's death comes from the England and Wales Death Registers:
    Name: Joe P Mayall
    Birth Date: abt 1839
    Date of Registration: Jun 1922
    Age at Death: 83
    Registration district: Camberwell
    Inferred County: London
    Volume: 1d
    Page: 891

    Hope this helps you,
    Best wishes,
    Dick Weindling

  3. Dear Mr. Weindliing: Thank you for responding to the question about Mayall's death date, which came from a student in my seminar: we are preparing a website on "Artists at Home." You mention above the six artist photographs that Mayall deposited with the National Archive in 1895 and 1896 and name three of them--Millais, Watts, and Alma Tadema. Do you by any chance know what the other three were? This is important as a possible indication of the photographs he most prized. I have been to the National Archives site but got nowhere,and a trip to Kew is, unfortunately, not in my future, so I would be most grateful for any help you might provide--which will, of course, be duly acknowledged. With sincere thank, Linda Merrill, Emory University