MARION & Co and a new Honeywood Museum exhibit
Museum's Marion 'Perfection' Full-Plate Camera
In the mid nineteenth century the science of photography
was taking huge steps forward and beginning to have an impact on
One of the great pioneers in the field of imaging was the firm of Marion
& Co. founded by Augustin Marion in the early 1840s. From 1846 their
premises were in Regent Street before moving to much larger facilities
in Soho Square, where a long association saw 22 & 23 Soho Square evolve
into the home of modern photography.
In the twentieth century, amalgamations and the development of the
business saw Marion evolve into the Ilford photographic empire and
first ventures of Marion were in the production and marketing of
visiting cards with a photograph on one side and business details on the
reverse. This soon provoked a collecting craze of almost unimaginable
proportions amongst wealthy middleclass Victorian homes with the Carte
de Visite becoming a miniature portrait with studio and photographer’s
name often appearing on the reverse. Households had rich bound albums
containing their collections. Having your own portrait in the albums of
others was a mark of acceptance and a snub if yours was not present!
By 1866 Marion & Co were wholesale publishers of cartes of celebrities
of the time featuring portraits by the studios of top London
photographers, such as George Mayall. The sales of these reached
phenomenal volume. For example the portrait of Prince Albert, following
his death in December 1861, led to a rush on cards featuring him. In one
week alone Marion & Co were said to have received orders for seventy
Solidarity with the grieving queen was manifested in orders from Marion
of Mayall’s portrait of her. It is said that Marion & Co paid a high
royalty of £400 per 10,000 cartes sold. (£40,000 equivalent today). The
Queen was an avid collector too. One of her ladies- in- waiting wrote in
1860 “I have been writing to all the fine ladies in London for their and
their husbands’ photographs, for the Queen. I believe the Queen could be
bought and sold for a photograph.”
Marion exploited the market to the full. Its Soho office contained
hundreds of thousands of images, all carefully numbered and filed for
repeat orders for studio work and servicing flocks of roving
photographers selling their trade on the fashionable streets of London.
They produced card backs to sell to photographers with a variety of
designs to suit the client. Teams of travelling salesmen would sell from
catalogues to photographers across the country.
Two types of card were fashionable. The carte de visite (cdv) about 4⅛”
x 2½” and from the 1870s the ‘cabinet card’ with a larger 6½” x 4¼”
So what is all this to do with
Honeywood? The connection with Marion & Co comes through Honeywood’s
owner John Pattinson Kirk. The Friend’s web-site will tell you that the
deeds to Honeywood
show that by 1779 there were two houses standing
side by side at the west end of the ponds. Our building was the
northernmost of the two, and in the mid-19th century it was called
'Wandle Cottage'. The other house stood between our building and Pound
Street and was then called 'Honeywood'.
In 1883 the freehold of both properties came into the hands of Kirk,
who had already acquired leases on both of them. Very little is known
about him. He was born at Alston in Cumberland around 1836 and his wife
Leah was born in Birmingham in 1856. In the 1881 census he is described
as a merchant.
Kirk had a town house in Soho Square, London and probably used Honeywood
as a country retreat. The connection has now become much more apparent.
He demolished the original Honeywood around 1883/4 and c.1895 he
transferred the name to our building, which has been called 'Honeywood'
At first John Phillips and I thought he was a junior
partner who had obtained his position through the sales side of the
business. However, with the recent digitization in the United States of
The Directory of Gold & Silversmiths, Jewellers, and allied traders
1838-1914 .This confirmed that Marion & Co had their first mark entered
by John Pattinson Kirk, described as managing partner (23.5.1890). It
also confirms what we already knew that Marion & Co also had a factory
at Southgate where they produced photographic plates and dark room
Marion’s were a leading retailer and wholesaler of fine cameras and
lenses. They provided a vast range of equipment and even gave
photography training to clients. Eventually they had their own range of
fine cameras sporting the Marion & Co badge. Whilst leading cameras by
manufacturers such as Lancaster and Thornton Pickard and Sandersons etc.
those sold under the Marion brand tend to be rare. They also produced
lenses under the Soho brand name and a later range of Soho cameras.
Recently, we came across a Marion ‘Perfection’ camera dating from around
the 1880s for sale. A successful bid by The Friends of Honeywood Museum
has acquired this for display at Honeywood when it reopens.
These cameras were very expensive in their day. They retailed without
lens or tripod or carrying case (although a folding tripod was added to
the package later. In today’s terms the Perfection sold for over a
thousand pounds and even the case would have cost about £120 today.
An advertisement in ‘Sun Artists’ for April 1890 for Marion’s Photo
Supply Warehouse described it thus:-
The Perfection Camera (highly finished, and of best
quality mahogany) - with 3 double backs and folding tripod stand (ash).
A very strong camera, and yet a very light camera. A very short focus,
with no bottom board projecting; yet it has a very long focus when
racked out. All movements easily effected. Rising and swing front,
double swing back. Camera fixed on stand with patent turntable.
Every desirable movement has been provided for in the most practical
way; hence its name – The Perfection Camera.
Price with three double backs (made to a Gauge, so extra backs can be at
any time ordered and will fit), and with folding tripod stand for plates
8½” x 6½” best finish £9.15s.
The Perfection we have purchased is a larger Full Plate
version, with a Marion leather case and four double back plates.
Having purchased the camera we went in search of a lens. Two Marion
examples proved beyond reach but the very helpful manager of a leading
antique camera specialist came to our aid and supplied a suitable lens
and mount to complete an authentic display. Because of our charitable
status he was good enough to let us have the lens at well below market
Finally, we have also sourced a range of complimentary cdvs (mostly
marked Marion) and a good example of a Marion cabinet card. All of which
adds to the story of the house and we hope it will prove to be a very
Unless otherwise stated, all images and text on this web site are
Copyright © The Friends of
Honeywood Museum 2012
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