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Derbyshire Photographers' Profiles
by Brett Payne, of Tauranga, New Zealand
John Roberts (1830-1904)

of Derby

John Roberts started his photographic business in Derby in the late 1860s, and had a studio first in Derwent Street, then in Osmaston Street.  He later moved to St Peter's Street and Mansfield road.  One of his two sons joined him briefly at new premises in Nottingham Road in 1891.  The firm ceased operating in 1903.

Go straight to Portfolio


John Roberts was born in 1830 at Aston-upon-Trent, Shardlow, Derbyshire, one of nine children of a cow keeper and dairy man Joseph Roberts (1810-1895) and Eliza Johnson (1811-).  His siblings included Emma, Selina, Mary, James, William, Sarah, Julia (a carver and gilder) and Eliza.

John married a girl from nearby Heath End in Leicestershire and they moved to Derby in the early 1860s, where they had two sons and two daughters.  While it is tempting to assume that John was a son of the early Derby daguerrotype pioneer, Thomas Roberts, initial research suggests they are unlikely to have been related.  Thomas did have a son John, but the latter was born in 1839 or 1840 in Derby, and died in 1880.

John probably started his photographic business in Derby in the late 1860s.  A cdv is known (see below), probably from the late 1860s, which lists his premises as 14 Derwent Row.  In 1871 he had a studio at 26 Osmaston Street - thus overlapping briefly with the career of Thomas Roberts - where he remained until about 1877 (Craven, 1993).  From then until 1883, he lived and operated from premises at 26 St Peter's Street.  His wife Mary and daughter Fanny were both milliners.  The photographer William Pearson had a studio at the rear of shop from 1863 until at least 1876.

He briefly occupied a shop at 17 Mansfield Road from 1883 until 1885, and then moved to 31-33 Nottingham Road.  His elder son, another John Roberts, entered the trade long enough for the firm to be listed in an 1891 trade directory (Kelly) as "Roberts & Son", but in April that year he listed his occupation as "compositor", and by 1901 John Roberts junr. had become a musical instrument maker.

Craven (1993) states that the business later moved to 57-59 Nottingham Road, and that John Roberts senr. retired in 1903.  John Roberts died in Derby in 1904, at the age of 74.

I am very grateful to Julie Nugent, great-granddaughter of John Roberts' sister Eliza (married Josiah Brown and lived in Leicester), who has sent me information about the family and several images of photographs of family members by John Roberts.


Portfolio
Image © & courtesy of Michael Jones Unidentified soldier
by J. Roberts of 26 Osmaston Street, Derby
Undated, but probably taken c. 1865-1870
Format: Cabinet card
Size: Mount 82.6 x 117.5 mm

Image © & courtesy of Michael Jones

Notes by BP:  I believe that this is a militiaman, dressed in the uniform of the 1st Derbyshire Rifles.  A photograph by Richard Keene, dated August 1874, showing officers of this militia regiment is included here.
Image © & courtesy of Michael Jones

Image © & courtesy of Brenda Croome Caroline Young (1852-1928) with her half-siblings Rosamund and Richard Smith
by J. Roberts of 26 Osmaston Street, Derby
Undated, but probably taken c. 1871
Format: Carte de visite

Image © & courtesy of Brenda Croome

Notes: see Photo-Sleuth article
Image © & courtesy of Brenda Croome

Reverse of photo taken by John Roberts of 26 Osmaston Street, Derby, date unknown but probably 1874-1877
Format: unknown

Image © & courtesy of Christine Hibbert

Nothing further is known about this photo.

Image © & courtesy of Christine Hibbert

Image © & courtesy of Cynthia Maddock Unidentified older man with beard
by J. Roberts of 26 Osmaston Street, Derby
Undated, but probably taken c. 1874-1875
Format: Carte de visite

Image © & courtesy of Cynthia Maddock

Notes
Image © & courtesy of Cynthia Maddock

Image © & courtesy of Steven Chain Sarah Earl née Astle (c1854-) and baby daughter Ada Earl (born c. Feb 1875),
by John Roberts of 26 Osmaston Street, Derby,
Undated but must have been taken in early to mid-1875 (see Notes below)
Format: Carte de visite

Image © & courtesy of Steven Chain

Nothing further is known about this photo.

Image © & courtesy of Steven Chain
Notes by Steven Chain:  Ada married Albert Potter  and their oldest daughter was Marie Maud -  It is likely she who wrote "My Grandma & My Mother (the baby) as she visited the family in Kansas in the late 1950's or early 1960's.  That would then explain the pencil note about Marie Maud. She was married three times, first to Harry Hopkinson, second to Joe French and finally to Michael Anson.  As Maud Anson she wrote a book about her life and family titled, "Life's a Jubilee."
Notes by Stuart Brown:  She also wrote a booked titled "Missed Bits," which was published in 1983.

Image © & courtesy of Cynthia Maddock Unidentified older man with beard
by J. Roberts of 26 Osmaston Street, Derby
Undated, but probably taken in the late 1870s
Format: Carte de visite

Image © & courtesy of Cynthia Maddock

Notes
Image © & courtesy of Cynthia Maddock

Image © & courtesy of Samantha Smith Portrait of unidentified young man,
by John Roberts
of St Peter's Street, Derby,
undated but probably 1877-1883
Format: Carte de visite

Image © & courtesy of Samantha Smith

Nothing further is known about this photo.

Image © & courtesy of Samantha Smith

Image © & courtesy of Julie Nugent Image © & courtesy of Julie Nugent Image © & courtesy of Julie Nugent Image © & courtesy of Julie Nugent
Eliza Roberts née Johnson (b. 1811), by J. Roberts of Derby
Undated but probably taken in the late 1870s or early 1880s
Format: Carte de visite

Image © & courtesy of Julie Nugent
Notes: These two photos of Eliza Roberts were taken by her son John Roberts in the late 1870s or early 1880s.

Image © & courtesy of Julie Nugent Joseph Roberts (1810-1895)
by Roberts & Son of Holborn House, 33 Nottingham Road, Derby

undated but probably taken in the mid- to late 1880s
Format: Carte de visite

Image © & courtesy of Julie Nugent

Notes: This photo of Joseph Roberts was taken by his son John Roberts, probably in the mid- to late 1880s when he would have been in his 70s.
Image © & courtesy of Julie Nugent

Image © & collection of Brett Payne A group of four unidentified woman
by Roberts & Son of Holborn House, 33 Nottingham Road, Derby

undated but probably taken c. 1888-1892
Format: Cabinet card
Size: Mount 109 x 164 mm Photo 107.5 x 148.5 mm

Image © & collection of Brett Payne

Notes:
Image © & collection of Brett Payne

Image © & courtesy of Martin Jackson Portrait of an unidentified woman
by Roberts & Son of Holborn House, Nottingham Road, Derby

undated but probably taken c. 1893-1896
Format: Cabinet card

Image © & courtesy of Martin Jackson

Nothing further is known about this photo

References
Images and information kindly provided by Brenda Croome, Michael Jones, Cynthia Maddock, Stuart Brown, Julie Nugent, Martin Jackson, Samantha Smith, Christine Hibbert and Steven Chain
1841-1901 UK Census - online from Ancestry.com
FreeBMD
North East Midland Photographic Record - Picture the Past
Anon (1874) C.N. Wright's Directory of South Derbyshire, Third Edition, October 1874, Derby.
Anon (1881) Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire, Kelly & Co., London.
Anon (1887) Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire, Kelly & Co., London.
Anon (1891) Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland & Nottinghamshire, Kelly & Co., London. University of Leicester's Digital Library of Historical Directories
Anon (1895) Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire, Kelly & Co. Limited, London.
Anon (1895) History, Topography, and Directory of Derbyshire, T. Bulmer & Co. - by kind courtesy of Sonia Addis-Smith
Craven, Maxwell (ed.)(1993) Keene's Derby, Breedon Books, Derby, pp. 200-202. - by kind courtesy of Sonia Addis-Smith

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