MISS CUMBER - PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER
Her father, Henry Cumber, was born in Devonshire House (the residence of the Society of Friends) Aldgate London where his father, William, was a member of the livery of Painters and Stainers and held the freedom of the city of London.
Miss Cumber's father, Henry became a druggist and moved to Guernsey where in 1817 he married a local girl, Mary Gallienne; Mary's parents were Thomas and Mary.
The first recorded residence in Guernsey for Sarah's parents was Fountain Street in Saint Peter Port, which is probably where Sarah Louisa was born.
Sarah was one of seven children having three sisters and three brothers. Her elder sister, Mary, and younger brother, Henry, remained in Guernsey.
Sarah's sister, Mary married William Sharshaw, from a family of Guernsey butchers, and they had one daughter also called Mary. Their daughter, Mary married James Gardner and they ran The Royal Hotel in Saint Peter Port.
Sarah's brother, Henry followed into his father’s profession and trained to be a Druggist alongside his father in Fountain Street Saint Peter Port. By 1851 Henry senior had died and his wife Mary and Henry junior continued the business, but now based at Number 3 Pollet Street. Sarah was still living with her mother and brother, her profession was listed as school teacher.
By 1861 the family is still living at 3 Pollet Street but their mother had died.
Henry continued as a Chemist and Druggist and had married Julia Davis. Mary Sharshaw had been widowed and had also become a Chemist and Druggist practicing with her brother. Please see The Priaulx library article for more information on Mary Sharshaw CLICK HERE...
In the 1861 census Sarah had changed her earlier profession as that of a teacher to a Photographic Artist. At this time photography was a burgeoning profession and was usually linked to Chemists and Druggists.
Sarah became well respected in the world of photography for about thirty years specialising in portraiture for the well to do members of the Guernsey society. The fashion of the 1860’s was for people to have a carte de visite (cdv), similar to a visiting card with the bearer’s portrait thereon which was left when calling on friends or business associates. Cdv's of fdamily friends and famous people were also collected and placed in special albums - It became quite a collecting craze.
In an advertisement in the local paper 'The Star' in 1860, Sarah highlights her tuition by Hardwich. Please see the following for an article by Rose Teanby on Thomas Frederick Hardwich.CLICK HERE...
It is presumed that Sarah Louisa Cumber worked as a photographer at 5 Le Pollet address and lived at 3 Le Pollet, but information has been given by a descendant that at the end of her life (and confirmed by the 1881 Census) she later moved opposite the road to 2 Le Pollet with Mary Esther Sharshaw (Head of the Household). Hannah Horner (a servant from Alderney) was also registered in the 1881 census there.
As previously mentioned, Sarah Louisa Cumber died on January 5th 1882, but it is not known at what time she personally stopped operating her business due to her illness prior to that date, but it has been confirmed that in the 1881 Census that Henry Gayton, also a photographer was a a lodger at 3 le Pollet and maybe took over photographic duties at No 5 before her death.
Henry Gayton certainly made cdv's marked 'Henry Gayton 5 Pollet Street Guernsey' as the author has copies, but how long he stayed before James Burnside arrived circa 1886 at the premises is unknown.
From previous research it was understood that Sarah Louisa had operated from 3 Pollet Street as this was the Census address plus also being the families druggist shop, (she never gave the street number on her cdv's), but as the adjoining property which is No 5 had been a photo studio from c 1858, this is unlikely. These two properties were still operating together into the latter half of the 20th century when the 'Grut' name was over the door.
Amongst the cdv images owned by the author and contributors to the website are some photographs of Sarah Cumber's relations plus one of Victor Hugo and one of Madame Hugo. The Hugo ones appear to copies of known images from other photographers and not taken by herself - As the cdv collecting craze gathered pace this was a normal occurrence by some establishments to sell images of famous people of the day. It is possible that she was asked to market them.
Research on the family and the permission to use the family cdv images on the website has been given by Sylvia French and her cousin Susan Hawkins. They came into possession of the photographs as the album was created by Sarah Louisa for her sister in law Fanny Cumber (married to her brother William). The album was eventually passed to Edith Knight who was Fanny's niece and Sylvia's and Edith's grandmother. Unfortunately no image of Sarah herself has been found.
To date the author has found eight style variations of cdv backs; there maybe more - All that are known are shown in the guessed order sequence. They have been designated as Style 1. Style 2. Style 3. Style 4. Style 5. Style 6. Style 6a. and Style 6b. There is a Miss Cumber cdv with a Style 3. back in 'The Royal Society Collection' at the V&A, contemporarily dated to 1868.
The earliest carte de visite's from Miss Cumber do not have her name on the front, only on the back logo. It is worth mentioning that as with other photographers of the period very early portraits normally showed the full figure only - it was only later did the fashion of a head or head and upper body pose become popular.
The author's collection of Miss Cumber's cdv's consist of more women than men; this could be due to the fact that being a woman, Miss Cumber may have attracted a larger female clientele than a male photographer - I am sure they would have felt an affinity and understanding with her and vice versa.
Sarah Louisa Cumber's Death Notice appeared in 'The Star' on the same day as her passing (Thursday January 5th 1882), and is shown below:-
On the 5th instant at the residence of her sister, 3 Pollet Street after a long and painful illness, borne with patient resignation, Sarah Louisa Cumber, aged 61 years.
Sarah's Death Certificate lists the cause of death as 'Atrophy'
THE INSCRIPTION ON THE COMBINED GRAVE OF THOMAS SHARSHAW AND SARAH LOUISA CUMBER IS SHOWN HERE
to the memory of
THOMAS SHARSHAW Esquire
late of Stratford on Avon
who departed this life on the
XXII December MDCCCXLVII
aged LXVII years
His end was peace
this stone was erected by
his only surviving son WILLIAM
in remembrance of him as a most
affectionate and truly kind parent
to the memory of
SARAH LOUISA CUMBER
who fell asleep
January 5 1882
aged 61 years
S L C
Many thanks must go to the Family History Section of La Societe Guernesiase for confirming the grave site and transcribing the inscription.
There have been a number of photographers mentioned as being based at 5 the Pollet over the years.
J. Warner (formerly of Regent Street, London) - from c1858 uncorroborated
Bailey - from c1861 (Later his wife) uncorroborated
Sarah Louisa Cumber - from c1865 (died Jan 5th 1882)
Henry Gayton - 1881 or before
James Burnside - c1886
TA Grut - c1894
There is also reports of a Mrs Alier undertaking photographic work in the Pollet from 1866, but the author has no information on her.