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William Porter's, Photographic Studios, Fleetwood & Blackpool 

 

William Porter (1819-87) of Blackpool & Fleetwood.

William Porter was born about 1819 in or near Kirkham, Lancashire, and served his apprenticeship in the offices of the Preston Pilot newspaper in the 1830s. At this time there were no newspapers published in the Fylde so the only local news were small scraps in the Preston or Lancaster newspapers. Most people could not read anyway and relied upon the town bellman, or word of mouth.

During Porter's apprenticeship, the new town of Fleetwood had been founded (1836) in the sand dunes and it was the most exciting development in the Fylde. In 1841 Porter moved to Fleetwood, establishing a small printing business. Two years later, at the young age of about 24, he founded the first newspaper for the Fylde, The Fleetwood Chronicle, also sold under the title The Blackpool Herald.

 

Aside from his work as a stationer, bookseller, printer and newspaper publisher, Porter was also interested in reproducing and selling images. This was in the early 1850s, before photographic images could be commercially reproduced, and so he comissioned a number of engravings of Blackpool which were sold locally, many to visitors as souvenirs.

Engraving of Blackpool published c1852. Bailey's Hotel, Albert Terrace & the Clifton Arms Hotel, Blackpool. A number of early views of Blackpool by the Edinburgh engravers William Home Lizars and/or Willam Banks. These were created from sketches made by an artist in 1852 and published for William Porter & Sons of Fleetwood & Blackpool.

In the 1840s the first photos had been produced on a silvered copper plate (daguerreotypes) but were expensive and not easily reproduced. When these Blackpool engravings were published in the early 1850s it was only just becoming possible to produce photographs on glass (collodion photos).

Printing photos on paper was still experimental at the time but by the end of the 1850s they had become commercially viable. In the early 1860s carte de visites, became extremely popular; these were small photographs printed on paper and mounted on card.

In 1862, as the craze for carte de visites swept the country, William Porter established a photographic studio in Fleetwood.

"Musketry School, Fleetwood" c1862 (now the North Euston Hotel). A roughly cut oval photo pasted onto card, this was one of the first of the new carte de visite photos in the Fylde. It was published by William Porter's studio and the reverse is shown below.

Later photos also advertise Porter's studio in Blackpool, opened a second studio established at the Blackpool Herald office in 1864. These were predominantly portrait studios but visitors could also peruse racks displaying a wide range of carte de visite views of Fleetwood Blackpool and Lytham.  

 

Portrait photo taken at William Porter's studio. This was taken between 1864, when the Blackpool studio opened, and 1878 when the business was sold.

All photographs bearing his name date between 1862 and 1878. Those with "W. Porter, Fleetwood" are more likely to be earlier, dating between 1862 and 1864. Those marked "W. Porter, Fleetwood and Blackpool" are more likely to date between 1864 and 1878.

Porter also published guides to Blackpool and the Fylde illustrated with engravings based upon photographs. This is because photographs could not easily be reproduced in publications until the 1890s.

William Porter retired in 1878 and the newspapers were continued by his son, Thomas James Porter. The photographic business was taken over by Edward Gregson, photographer, of Halifax. William's other son, John Porter had published History of the Fylde of Lancashire in 1876 but died tragically five years later in Antwerp. 3.

William Porter died in 1887.

 

1. William Porter also published guides to Blackpool, Fleetwood and Lytham.

2. Blackpool Herald 15 Feb 1878.

"Edward Gregson, photographer of Talbot Road and North Pier, also Waterhouse Street, Halifax, has opened the photographic business lately carried on by Mr. Porter at the office of the Fleetwood Chronicle."

3. History of the Fylde of Lancashire, 1876, by John Porter can be downloaded free, in PDF and other formats, at the archive.org website.