Street View: 11
Address: 89 High Holborn
In 1821, Antoine Francois Jean Claudet married Julia Bourdelain at St. Mary Islington. In 1828, Antoine dissolves a partnership as glass warehouseman at Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, with Richard Hetley. A year later Claudet has moved to the Holborn area where Tallis was to find him. When, in October 1929, Claudet’s three children (Anne Mary, Justus Frederic and Henry) are all baptised at St. Andrew Holborn, the address for the Claudets is given as High Holborn, unfortunately without a number, so it is uncertain whether he already occupied number 89 where Tallis was to find him with another partner, George Houghton. Where the Claudets are at the time of the 1841 census is uncertain, but George Houghton and his family are definitely living above the shop at number 89, and they are still there in 1851. George is described as glass merchant in both censuses. Antoine Claudet and his family can be found at Park terrace, Islington in the 1851 census which shows the international background of the family. Antoine was born in France; his wife Julia in London; his mother-in-law, Ann Bourdelain, in Germany; his son (Justus) Frederick and his daughter (Anna) Maria both in France, but the younger son, Frank (Francis George), in London.
That Claudet and Houghton are not just average glass dealers, as one might assume, can be seen from their advertisements which not only list plate and shade glass, but also photographic materials. Claudet had acquired a licence to produce Daguerrotype photographs and he set up a studio at the Adelaide Gallery. Over the years, he introduced numerous improvements in the photographic process, such as a reduction in exposure time, painted backgrounds, the use of red light in the dark room, the photographometer, the focimeter, and many more.(1) In 1853, Claudet registered a patent as “photographic artist, for the invention of ‘improvements in stereoscopes'”.(2) That same year, he successfully applied for the fellowship of the Royal Society and his application form lists his accomplishments regarding photography.(3) By then he had moved to Gloucester Road, Regent’s Park where he was to remain the rest of his life. He died in December 1867.(4)
Claudet was the author of a small brochure entitled ‘Du Stéréoscope et de ses applications à la Photographie’ (Paris, 1853) and of two Papers in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society; one on the effect of the chlorides of bromine and iodine in the Daguerreotype process, and the second on the deposit of mercury on the silver plate. He also wrote many papers in various other magazines, all on various aspects of the photography process.
An interesting article on Claudet’s photographic career and his successive studios, where his son Henry started his career as a photographer, can be found here (PDF at bottom of page). Unfortunately, the author relegates Houghton to a single mention in a footnote, which is a shame as he, and later his son, ran the High Holborn side of the business for many years. George Houghton seems to have been the man in the background, the one who quietly but successfully managed the shop at 89 High Holborn while Claudet invented and developed the photographic improvements. In 1852, George junior joined the business which was henceforth called Claudet, Houghton and Son. George junior obtained his freedom from the City of London by redemption in 1877, probably coinciding with his father’s retirement as the 1881 census lists George senior at Hampstead as a retired glass merchant and George junior as a glass merchant employing 16 men and 2 boys. Although George happens to be at an address at Hastings on the day the census is taken, it does not mean he has left London completely, as ten years later, he can be found at Willesden and is then listed as photographic dealer. He died in 1913 and from his probate record we learn that more members of the family were involved in photography as the three sons listed in the probate are all connected with the business: George Edwin is listed as a photographer and Edgar William and Charles Edward as photographic apparatus manufacturers.(5) More information on the further history of the Houghton business and (a very bad) picture of the shop can be found here. The shop itself was blitzed in 1940 and nothing now remains at Holborn to remind us of the photographic business.
Portraits done by Claudet can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery (here).
(1) Oxford Dictionary of Biography and Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography.
(2) The London Gazette, 8 April 1853.
(3) The application form can be seen on the Royal Society website (here).
(4) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1868. Probate went to his widow Julia and son Frederic. The estate was valued at under £6,000.
(5) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1913. The estate was valued at over £17,800.
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