Object in Focus - Edward Sammes

This 'Junior' Sanderson camera was owned by Edward Sammes, a cabinet maker and photographer from Boxmoor. The 'Junior' was made between 1930–39 and was one of the cheapest models in the popular range of Sanderson cameras. It was only made in a half plate size. The case is grained leather covering a mahogany body with red bellows. Manufactured by George Houghton and Son.

Edward Sammes was born in Chipping Ongar, Essex, in 1883. His parents ran the Wheatsheaf, a beerhouse in Bovingdon from 1887 and young Edward attended the local Church of England School. At 16, he was apprenticed to Robert Joseph Smith, a cabinet maker of 134 Marlowes, Hemel Hempstead. His father was charged £20 for this training. Edward eventually obtained his indentures, but during his five-year apprenticeship, he was not allowed to play at cards, or dice, buy or sell, haunt taverns or playhouses, or even get married.

Edward’s father died suddenly in 1903. The bereaved family eventually settled at Oxford Villa in St John’s Road, Boxmoor (opposite Parry’s Newsagents). Edward continued working for Mr Smith as a cabinet maker for a further three years and during this time he made contacts with the local gentry which stood him in good stead later. After a short stay in Kilburn, he returned to Boxmoor in 1907 to work for Fred Gower, an ironmonger of 83 St John’s Road. The Gower Brothers were well-known local builders, with premises in Sebright Road.

Edward soon set up on his own account, as a cabinet maker, furniture restorer, upholsterer, and commercial photographer, with a workshop in Wharf Road, which he rented from a Mr J. Loosley. His early interest in photography was flourishing and he continued to record the people and events of the district.

Photographers were still fairly rare in the early 1900s. People would be in no hurry for the completion of an order and they would understand that images did not always ‘take’. In the Boxmoor area there was another commercial photographer, Mr H. Margrave of Catlin Street, who encouraged the young Edward in this field.

Edward himself had no special premises or studio, but used the box-room over the front door for day-work and the scullery for developing and printing after the family had gone to bed. By 1910, he appears to have standardised the production and sale of postcards, with his name on the back. They would have been taken on a half plate stand or field camera, which he would have transported, together with his tripod, on his bicycle.

Edward met his future wife, Dorothy Ella Sharp, on a seat at the top of Roughdown Common; she lived nearby in The Dell. In those days, he could use one of his own postcards to write to her and rely on the fact that it would reach her the next day in time for their walk along the canal. They were married in 1917, at St John’s Church, Boxmoor. A son, Edward ‘Ted’ Sammes, was born in 1920 in Hendon. The family moved to 129 Horsecroft Road (the corner shop), and Edward’s commercial photography then seems to have come to an end. It had been declining as other outlets grew, especially the sale of gramophones and records.

Sadly, in a subsequent move to Hendelayk, (above Boxmoor Station), all his negatives were lost. Edward and his family returned to Hendon in December 1931.

When Edward died in 1969, he left behind a legacy of 200 photographs of the Boxmoor area for the period 1898–1912. The people he photographed loved to dress up and they loved their sports, fêtes and processions – providing a wonderful social record of the turn of the century, which is now preserved at Dacorum Heritage.

Originally written by Joan and Roger Hands in November 2010, edited in 2023.



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