William Porter (1819-87)
of Blackpool &
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
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
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
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.