Robert George Murduck - Professional Photographer in Exmouth, Devonshire, and Eland, Yorkshire (England)
Submitted by: Bruce Murduck, firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright, May 2006
Robert George Murduck was a photographer known to have worked commercially in England between about 1900 and 1936.
He was born on 30 August 1875, in the Parish of Hackney (Greater London, England), the oldest surviving son of Robert Murduck, a builder, and Mary Elizabeth Symes. The family moved from Hackney to Hastings, in Sussex County, around 1888, and Robert George is shown on 1891 census schedules (5 April) from Hastings to have been a 15 year old ‘photographer's apprentice'.
Robert George left the family home in the late 1890s, and is known to have been married to Emma Susannah Margrie at Exmouth (St. Thomas Registration District) on 27 May 1898. Two children followed in due course - Ernest George, 12 February 1899, born at No. 72, Victoria Road, Littleham; and Dora, 9 November 1900, at Ashburton House, Danby Terrace, Withycombe, Raleigh, both places being within the Exmouth Urban District.
Robert George described himself as a ‘Photographer' when he married in 1898, but when he registered his son Ernest's birth (2 March 1899) he reverted his occupational description to ‘Photographer's Assistant'. When he filed registrations for daughter Dora's birth and death (she died 18 November 1900; both events were registered 20 November 1900), Robert George again described himself as ‘Photographer'. He may have found employment as a photographer's assistant during his early days in Exmouth, perhaps while attempting to establish himself as a business proprietor in his own right.
1901 census schedules from Exmouth show clearly that Robert George had made the transition by the end of March to being a self employed, entrepreneurial photographer. On Census Day (31 March) he was noted to have been a 'Photographer' living and working from his home, which was located at 34 Strand in Exmouth. The 1901 census record also indicates that he employed an unspecified number of assistants at that time. His name appears in various editions of Kelly's trade directories for Devonshire, 1902 through 1921. He was continually listed as a ‘Photographer' situated on the Strand in Exmouth.
The volume of photographic sales necessary to support a growing family and business must have been great. However, while his photographs must have been popular with locals and ‘tourists' alike, few examples of Robert George Murduck's images are known to exist today. One of the central elements in Robert George's business offering seems to have been ‘postcard views'. One student of early photographic images of Exmouth has even gone so far as to suggest that Robert George's photos have "more historical interest than the Friths collection". An early view - suggested as dating from the late 1890s, reputedly depicts a scene outside "Lake's Posting and Livery Stables, London & Bedford Booking Office opposite London Hotel, Sidmouth". This is clearly a ‘staged' view, and one wonders whether this was taken as Robert George Murduck was making his way toward Exmouth from Hastings.
Additional views of places around Exmouth are known to exist on postcards which apparently bear postmarks from 1913. Most of the views that are known are broad, expansive ones, which show Robert George's adept skill at mastering difficult depth of field and lighting challenges on a grand scale. Perhaps the best example of this can be found in an image of the celebration dinner that took place in Phear Park, Exmouth, upon the coronation of King George V (22 June 1911). His early photo postcards are distinctive by the inclusion of a written attribution "Murduck Photo", positioned in all examples seen so far, along the bottom at the right hand side of the image area.
Three portrait type postcards are known to exist from the Exmouth area, each postmarked in 1913. One shows the hand written attribution, and two show evidence of an oval embossed impression in the lower right corner which reads "Murduck Photo Exmouth"
Personal upheaval seems to have struck Robert George's family around 1918, and for unknown reasons, some time around 1921, he shifted the base of his photographic operations from Exmouth to Eland, Yorkshire. Four children were borne by a second partner in this period, and regional business directories published between 1922 and 1936 show him listed as a ‘Photographer' situated on the Huddersfield Road, Eland. No examples of Robert George's work from this period are currently known.
It's possible that Robert George Murduck retired in 1936 - he would have been about 61 years of age in that year. He died in Eland around 1947, aged about 77 years. Robert George's oldest son, Ernest George Murduck, was himself described as a 'Photographer, retired from the Admiralty' when he died in Bath in 1964.
All known postcard images, as of 21 May 2006...
|1) Lake's Posting and Livery Stables, London & Bedford Booking Office opposite London Hotel, Sidmouth; late 1890s.
* This photo, possibly an early postcard image, was mentioned in the Usenet Genealogy forum "soc.genealogy.britain" in 2000. Much sleuthing, and the generosity of several people, lead to an East of London Family History Society member forwarding a copy of the image to me in May, 2001. The current ownership and condition of the original postcard are unknown.
| 2) Coronation Dinner in Phear Park, Exmouth (King George V); 11 June 1911.
Note: This image has been accessible through various web sites between 1997 and 2006, most recently (May, 2006) through www.exmouth-guide.co.uk/oldpics.htm
I include it here here for information and comparative purposes only. Other photographs on that site may also have been developed by Robert George Murduck, but only one other is specifically attributed to him (No. 7, below).
The following images (Nos 3 through 6) have all been found on postcards bearing postmarks dating from 1913. These images show the handwritten attribution "Murduck Photo" that Robert George positioned along the bottom edge of each image, generally on the right side of each the views. These digital scans were provided by various kind souls from original postcards held in their private collections. Names of contributors have been withheld by request.
| 3) Countess Weir Bridge; crca 1913.
| 4) Clock Tower, Exmouth; circa 1913.
|5) Seafront, Exmouth; circa 1913.|
| 6) The Cliffs, Exmouth; circa 1913.
| 7) The Esplanade, Exmouth (Formerly known as The Parade); circa 1913.
Note: As of May, 2006, this image resides offsite - see www.exmouth-guide.co.uk/oldpics.htm . It's an image which has been attributed to Robert George Murduck in a secondary image copyrighted by George Pridmore, Obelisk Publications, 2 Church Hill, Pinhoe, Exeter, Devon; Other photographs on that site may also have been developed by Robert George Murduck, but only one other one is specifically attributed to him (No. 2 above). The image at the right is acknowledged as belonging to Mr. Pridmore, and is presented on this site only for information and comparative purposes.
|8) John The Ferryman, Exmouth (from a copy of an original card); before 1913.
"John was the ferryman in Exmouth from circa 1870 to 1913. He was drowned in the docks after a session on the Local cider. It was discovered he drowned when they initially found his bowler hat floating on the water!"
|7) An unidentified young soldier, standing in a studio setting.
Probably circa 1913.
|7) The "Swift Duo" - Cycling Acrobatic Pair; circa 1913.
Two modes by which Robert George Murduck attributed his photographic images are known, as follows:
When seen, the manuscript example is usually written along the botton of the photo, usually right of center. The embossed example has been seen only in the lower right corner.
A Plea..... Do you have in your collection, or do you know of any additional examples of Robert George Murduck's work? If so, please contact the author by email (email address can be found at the top of this article. Postal address is: 820 Allum Ave, Kingston ON Canada K7M 7A1).
I would be pleased to speak with anyone who can help shed light on other examples of Robert George's work, who knows anything about the disposition of his negatives and prints following his retirement and death, or who has comments regarding the technical aspects of his work. Robert George Murduck's photographs definitely deserve a wider audience.
When sending digital scans, could I entice you to include images of the reverse side of each item, as well? Information recorded on the backs of photos and postcards helps immeasurably to date the image and identify people associated with it. Thank you in advance!