There were two Lessels photographers in Edinburgh,

 one amateur, one professional.

Thank you to Ruth Croft and David Walker and Ian Macdonald for providing the information that has enabled me to compile this part of his family tree.


John Lessels (1831- ..)


John Lessels (1861- ..)


John Lessels (1784 - 1865)
Clerk of Works, Raith Estate

John Lessels (1809-1883)
 Architect + EPS President

James Lessels (1818-1876)

John Lessels (1833 - retired 1894)
Architect: Edinburgh, Windsor, Europe

James Lessels [1846-1919]

John Fraser Lessels 1878 -
Professional Photographer     


Margaret Josephine Lessels 1883 --


 Family Tree

The chart above was originally compiled from information provided by Ruth Croft and David Walker (Feb 2006).  Then Ian Macdonald contacted me in (Dec 2009).

Ian told me that the father of James Lessels (1846-1919) was, in fact, not John Lessels (1809-1883) as I had originally shown on the chart above but John's brother, James Lessels (1818-1876) as I now show on this chart.

Ian added:

"The authority on this is a lady in New Zealand called Lynly Lessel Yates.  More Lessels family details can be found on these web sites:    1    2    3    4  "

 Family Tree  -  Further Details

To see a family tree giving a little more info about the people listed below, please click on this link:  further details.

Ian Macdonald:  December 3+8, 2009




John Fraser Lessels

Professional Photographer

John F Lessels was professional photographer in Edinburgh, with studios in and around Leith Walk (1906-08). 

Thanks to Malcolm Kindness, grandson of John Fraser Lessels for supplying the following details:

"John Fraser Lessels, with studios in Leith Walk, was born in Aberdeen in 1878, so he could not have been the EPS President above.  But perhaps it was his father who was the EPS President.

John Fraser Lessels (b.1878) left Edinburgh to take up a position in Dublin. This is believed to have been motivated by a desire to avoid conscription, as he was a life long pacifist.

He left Dublin shortly afterwards and eventually ended up in Belfast. One of his sons, Maurice Lessels, became a professional photographer and ran a studio in Lisburn, Co, Antrim for many years."

Malcolm Kindness

Thank you to Ruth Croft, Birmingham, England for telling me:


"The professional photographer, John Fraser Lessels was born on 1 December 1878.  When he moved to Dublin, he joined the Lafayette studio."

Ruth Croft is a descendant of the Lessels family.  She is currently, at Feb 2006,attempting to discover her exact relationship to the two 'John Lessels' on this page.

Ruth Croft, Birmingham, West Midlands, England:  February 2006

Thank you to Ian Macdonald who added:

Aberdeen and Edinburgh

"John Fraser Lessels was born in Aberdeen but did some of his growing up in Edinburgh because his father was stationed there with the army for some time around 1891 (though more often Aberdeen based).

His photographic business seems to have been based primarily in Aberdeen, in that he used more premises there than Edinburgh.

John Fraser Lessels' sister was also a photographer, so probably helped out in Aberdeen, though died at just 25.  He also married a cousin, Faith Duncan, from Edinburgh who was herself employed as a photographer's assistant.  It seems that it was something of a family business.

John Fraser Lessels had at least eight children.

Ian Macdonald:  December 3, 2009

Ian Macdonald also provided information about:

-  Dates and addresses of  John Fraser Lessels' studios in:

-  Aberdeen:  1902-11

-  Edinburgh:  1906-08

-  Angus: 1909-11

-  John Fraser Lessels' children. JFL had at least eight children.



John Lessels

Amateur Photographer, EPS President, Architect

Edinburgh Photographic Society

John Lessels, architect and amateur photographer,  became President of Edinburgh Photographic Society from 1876until 1883.

He gave these lectures to EPS

-  1876: A Short Tour with the Camera in Belgium

-  1880: A Communication regarding the Ghent Photographic Exhibition


Thank you to David Walker for the details below.  David has produced unpublished biographies of many Scottish architects.

-   John Lessels was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife on 9 January 1809.

-   In his youth he was a good athlete, marksman (making his own guns), and fisherman (making all his own rods, tackle and flies). ***

-   He bound his own books, made telescopes and turned wood and metal using a lathe that he had made himself. ***

-   By 1843, John had settled in Edinburgh and was exhibiting his watercolours at the Royal Scottish Academy.

-   His architectural career included appointment as joint architect to the City Improvement Trust in 1866.

-   He married twice, having 4 sons and 4 daughters, all from the first marriage.

-   John died on 12 November 1883 and is buried in Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh,  commemorated by a sundial monument that formerly bore a glazed tile portrait.

-   His effects were sold in Dowell's Auction Rooms on 16 February 1884.  They included:

-  two Kinnear cameras

-  a Meagher folding camera

-  a Pantascopic and several other specialised cameras

-  many Dallmeyer, Steinheil and Voigtlander lenses

-  a significant picture collection

*** David tells me that these comments are taken from Memoirs written by John Lessels' eldest s son, also named John.

John Lessels' died on 12 November 1883.

His obituary appeared in The Scotsman the following day.



Adolphus Ross Calder


Son in Law of John Lessels,
Amateur Photographer, EPS President, Architect

Please e-mail me if you have any information on Adolphus Ross Calder.   Then I'll pass on details to Graeme Harvey who wrote:

What is known of Adolphus Ross Calder?

"I am researching my family tree and find that my g.g.grandfather was Adolphus Ross Calder, Photographer.

I can find no trace of his work which I find surprising as his father in law was John Lessels (architect and photographer)

Adolphus died in 1874 of poisoning and it is believed that this was through the chemicals in use by some photographers at that time.

He also had close connections with his brother in law James Lessels and I suspect they may have been working together as James and his daughter Florence subsequently lived at Roslin with my g.g.grandmother Elizabeth Hamilton Murray Calder or Lessels.

Any information would be gratefully received."

 Graeme Harvey, Mid Calder, West Lothian, Scotland:  August 14, 2006


Graeme Harvey added

What is known of Adolphus Ross Calder?

"Adolphus Ross Calder was married to Elizabeth Lessels.  He and Elizabeth lived in Roslin in a house called 'Creel Ha' (which still exists).  John Lessels' first wife died there.

In the 1891 census, James Lessels is shown living at 'Creel Ha' with his sister Elizabeth."

 Graeme Harvey, Mid Calder, West Lothian, Scotland:  August 17, 2006




John Fraser Lessels

Professional Photographer

Thank you to Ruth Croft, Birmingham, for emailing me again, to tell me about one of John Fraser Lessels' photos that she has just acquired.  The photo appears below.  Please click on the thumbnail images below to enlarge them.

Ruth writes:

Small Photo

"Here is a photo by John Fraser Lessels.  The frame is just over 4in x 3in.  He is described modestly on the front of the frame as 'The Photo King'.

Photograph by John Fraser Lessels

John Fraser Lessels' studios are listed on the back - all in Scotland, but he also claims to be "Of London, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham."

The back of a Photograph by John Fraser Lessels

He was born in December 1878 and went to Dublin to avoid being called up for WWI.

Ruth Croft, Birmingham, West Midlands, England:  August 20+21, 1009.


Could you have a guess at when the photo might have been taken? 

Ruth Croft, Birmingham, West Midlands, England:  August 20, 2009.


The chap looks to my eyes to be a priest, but I was raised RC so any man with a dog collar looks like a priest!  Is he likely to be a priest?  You might be more au fait with Ministers of other persuasions

Ruth Croft, Birmingham, West Midlands, England:  August 20, 2009.

If you can help to answer Ruth's questions above, please email me, then I'll pass your message on to Ruth.

Thank you.    -  Peter Stubbs:  August 27, 2009

Question 1


The addresses on the back of the photo help to give an approximate date for the photo.  See below for the studio addresses and the dates that these addresses appeared in the trade directories:

5a Baxter's Place, Edinburgh


99 1/2 Union Street, Aberdeen


Sea Beach, Aberdeen


185 Leith Walk Edinburgh

not listed

So it would appear that the photo was probably taken around 1907.

Incidentally, I also have books listing professional photographers in London (1841-1908) and Lancashire (1840-1940) but neither of these gives any studio address for John Fraser Lessels.

So when he refers to "John F Lessels, The PHOTO KING of London, LIverpool, Manchester and Birmingham, maybe John F Lessels has just paid short visits to these cities and has not had studios there.

Peter Stubbs:  August 27, 2009


John Lessels - Obituary

Edinburgh buildings designed by John Lessels

Other Professional Photographers