Edwin Debenham


Question 1

Edwin Debenham  -  40 years later

Edwin Debenham was an Edinburgh photographer 1883-84.

There was no further reference to any photographers named Debenham in the Edinburgh trade directories until Edwin Holford Debenham appeared in 1921-25.

The gap of almost 40 years suggests that this was probably a different photographer, though perhaps a member of the same family. 

Was Edwin Debenham related to Edwin Holford Debenham?

Answer 1

Dave Bean wrote:

"I believe Edwin Debenham was the same photographer as the one in Weymouth. He and his 3 photographer brothers were born in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. 

Edwin had a son Edwin Holford born 1872 in London who must be the other Edwin you have on your Website. 

Their sister Lucy married an artist, Edwin Wensley Russell and had a son who married into my family."   [Dave Bean]

Faye Debenham wrote:

"Edwin Snr had a brother ARTHUR F. who was extremely well known on the Isle of Wight and enjoyed the privilege of much royal patronage.

Another brother William Elliott Debenham, also operated a studio on  Regent Street W in London and he married Amanda Southwell.

The Southwell Bros themselves were also well known photographers and operated a studio on Baker Street, London."

 [Faye  Debenham]


Question 2:

Edwin Debenham  -  Elsewhere in Britain

Was Edwin Debenham, perhaps, the same person as the photographer Edwin Debenham, born in 1844, perhaps with a middle name, Alfred, whose details are given below?

-    1877: operated at Royal Portrait Studios, Weymouth

-    1901: Debenham & Co (same man?) at York and Gloucester

-  c1914: Studio at Workington

c1918: Still photographing portraits at the age of 74

-    1919: Living in Nottingham

[The  details of Edwin Debenham above , b.1844, supplied by Faye Debenham]


Question 3:

Edinburgh and Bournemouth

Was the Edwin Debenham, Edinburgh, perhaps the same photogrpaher as Edwin Debenham of Glen View Studio, Old Christchurch Road, Bournemouth?

Thank you to Lesley Rowe who wrote this about a photograph by Edwin Debenham of Bournemouth. 

"The photograph is of two youngish females, both seated, one cuddling a dog - possibly late Victorian or early Edwardian, judging by the clothes that are of not very high quality."

There are no medallions on the reverse of the card, simply his name, ‘Artist Photographer’, his initials intertwined.


Further Research?

Other Researchers

There certainly seems to be interest in researching the photography of Edwin Debenham, but I don't expect to be able to add much to this research myself, so I'll leave that to others.  There are others in a  much better position to carry out this research than me.  I am concentrating almost entirely on research into the history of photographers and photography in Edinburgh.

Edwin Debenham was a photographer only briefly in Edinburgh.  His roots lie elsewhere

Comments from Ian Leith

Here are some notes sent to me by Ian Leith.  They may be helpful to others who are carrying out research into Edwin Debenham and his photography.

Ian wrote:

Sources of Information

"As you know, the Debenham problem is very complicated: there seem to be as many as there are department stores. I believe that the best way to deal with him and other related Debenhams (I know of at least 6) is to consult and compare:

 (a)  what is online on Photolondon and

(b)  the rather incredibly vast tome by Raymond V Turley: ‘Isle of Wight Photographers 1840-1940’ (2001) – which has no index."


"If you look at Edwin’s brother Arthur [1845-1936] and Arthur’s son Arthur William [1876-1944] who were both born in Bury St Edmunds, I am aware of references to studios in Ryde, Cowes, Sandown, Newport [IW], Southsea, Southampton, London, Gloucester, Luton, Bedford, Brighton, Bournemouth, Torquay, Weymouth, Scarborough & Weston Super Mare – quite apart from at least one other unconnected Debenham in Leamington and some others in London.

Edinburgh does not seem to fit this mostly southern distribution though according to Photolondon he died in Darlington having also lived in Reigate and Holdenhurst, Hampshire.  All this only proves the mobility of photographers."

Acknowledgement Ian Leith, Swindon, Wiltshire, England:  August 18, 2008


Edwin Debenham

Cabinet Prints

Edwin Debenham produced Cartes de Visite and Cabinet Prints. Here are three of his Cabinet Prints, which may be helpful in determining whether or not the Edinburgh photographer, Edwin Debenham was the same photographer as Edwin (Alfred?) Debenham, b.1844.

Cabinet Print - 1 

front and back


Debenham - Cabinet Print 1 - front Debenham - Cabinet Print 2 - back

©  Copyright: For permission to reproduce, please contact peter.stubbs@edinphoto.org.uk

Cabinet Print - 2 

front and back

Debenham - Cabinet Print 2 - front Debenham - Cabinet Print 2 - back

©  Copyright: For permission to reproduce, please contact peter.stubbs@edinphoto.org.uk

Cabinet Print - 3

front and back

Debenham - Cabinet Print 3 - front Debenham - Cabinet Print 3 - back

©  Copyright: For permission to reproduce, please contact peter.stubbs@edinphoto.org.uk

Here, Edwin Debenham describes himself as Photographer Royal and as Prize Medallist.  The Medals shown on the back of this Cabinet Print can be seen enlarged by clicking on the image below:

Debenham - Cabinet Print 3 - detail from back

©  For permission to reproduce,
 please contact


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