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The Marion Date Code and photographer L. Urbinsky of Norwich in the 1890s

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The Marion Date Code and photographer L. Urbinsky of Norwich in the 1890s

Posted: 1517936585000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1519820330000
Surnames: MARION, MENDELSSOHN, POLL, URBINSKY, VANDYKE, VAUGHAN
The accompanying photographs by L. Urbinsky of 19 The Walk, Norwich, cast doubt on the validity of the Marion Date Code (http://www.cartes.freeuk.com/dated/mip.htm) proposed by the late Roger Vaughan. My uncertainty arises largely from the differing addresses of Urbinsky's premises in Norwich, now the site of Lloyds Bank, at the northern corner of Davey Place and The Walk (the eastern side of Market Place, also known as Gentlemen's Walk or Gentleman's Walk). It would be useful to see dated copies of Urbinsky's work, especially anything later than 1895.

The earliest of my examples is a cabinet card numbered 1983 with the mount manufacturer's imprint ''Marion, Imp. Paris.'' above three underscores _ _ _ potentially indicating that it was made in 1893. If a dot between the dashes in the code signifies a starting point of 1895, my two other mounts (carte de viste 10728 ''Marion, Imp. Paris _.._ and cabinet print 13612 ''Marion Imp.Paris''_.._) may both have been produced in 1899.

But Urbinsky's studio had been relocated from 19 to 18 The Walk by January 1898 (see below) and it would be surprising if he ordered new cards displaying his old address. Counting the quotation marks as well as the dots and dashes, and starting from 1890, could place 10728 in 1895 and 13612 in 1896. However, doing the same for my earliest mount would also bring that to 1895, which is implausible for such a low number as 1983, unless it was a reprint, so I hope more photographs will be found to resolve the conundrum.

The following notes may be helpful to other researchers.

Louis Urbinsky, a Russian subject born in Poland, was granted naturalization in the United Kingdom at the age of 25 in 1891. Advertisements in Norfolk newspapers reveal that he had worked in London for a Mr Mendelssohn before obtaining his own studio at 1 Queen Street, Norwich, in 1888 (Eastern Daily Press 31 Dec. 1888 & 30 March 1889). He soon moved to a more central locality at 19 Market Place, on the corner of Davey Place (EDP 27 July & 7 Nov. 1889), subsequently advertised as 19 The Walk with "windows in Davey Place" (EDP 9 Nov. 1889 & later).

In 1890 Urbinsky's advertisements abandon the past prestige of Mr Mendelssohn (seen in the EDP up to 18 March) and begin to highlight the patronage of The Prince of Wales, "By Special Authority" (EDP 22 March). A new branch studio at 182 King Street, Great Yarmouth, is announced in 1893 (Yarmouth Independent 16 Sept.) and mentioned again in 1894 (Norfolk News up to the end of April) but this appears to have been short-lived. (The list of King Street studios compiled by Robert Pols at http://www.early-photographers.org.uk/Studios%20-%20King%20S... shows a relatively high turnover in the proprietors of number 182. During Urbinsky's time in Yarmouth it was also occupied by Jarrold & Sons, printers, publishers, stationers and booksellers of Norwich and Cromer.)

On 15 January 1898 Urbinsky announced in the Norfolk Chronicle that he had moved from Davey Place to premises "specially adapted in all the Latest and Modern Styles for the Photographic Business" at 18 The Walk, with an entrance adjoining Lacon's Bank. Unfortunately, the new studio was destroyed by fire just three months later, as reported in the Eastern Evening News on 22 April:

"A fire, which but for the exertions of the Norwich Fire Brigade would undoubtedly have reached extensive proportions, broke out yesterday afternoon on some premises at the back of the Walk. Some alterations have recently been completed on the premises occupied by Messrs. Lacon & Co., and at the rear Mr. Urbinsky has erected a studio some two storeys high and having a glass roof. The studio is hemmed in by other buildings, occupied by Messrs. Lacon, Mr W. A. Boston, boot and shoe manufacturer, and Mr. J. G. Pike, confectioner. The police received the call at 4.45 p.m., the alarm having been given in consequence of smoke issuing in dense volumes from the roof. ... Some delay was caused by the fact that Mr. Urbinsky's premises were locked up, and entrance was obtained through a doorway in Davey Place. Two lengths of hose were taken up a staircase through the studio of Messrs. Day & Co., and from a window at the top of the staircase two streams of water were poured into the burning building. ... The firemen had great difficulty in getting at the flames by reason of the construction of the building, and in spite of their efforts the roof and two floors were completely burnt out. ... Mr. Urbinsky's studio is completely ruined, and Mr. W. A. Boston has suffered very considerably through water. Beneath the studio Mr. Boston had a warehouse full of boots, and these have been all but ruined. ... Mr. Urbinsky, we understand, is insured in the County and Mercantile offices. None of the buildings were damaged by fire except that in which the outbreak occurred. The origin of the fire is unknown."

Whether any part of the old studio had remained operational is not stated, but the new one was reopened for business by 13 August 1898, when the Norfolk Chronicle again informed the public that Urbinsky had removed from Davey Place to 18 The Walk, this time "To more convenient Premises (his Studio being only on the Second Floor)."

The complex layout of the building is reflected in local directories. Prior to 1900 they generally list Urbinsky at Davey Place, Norwich. Number 2 Davey Place is specified in Kelly's Norfolk for 1896, while Jarrolds' Norwich for the same year has both Davey Place and 19 Market Place. Kelly's 1900 county directory locates him at 18 The Walk, Market Place, among the photographers (on page 738) and under Norwich (p. 369), but at 17 The Walk in the section detailing the city's streets (p. 304). (A similar anomaly occurs in the 1904 edition for Vandyke & Co., who are at listed 17 The Walk under Market Place and with no number elsewhere in the directory.)

The 1891 census, recording 17, 18 and 19 The Walk as warehouse space and Louis Urbinsky's home as 1 Davey Place (RG 12/1527 f. 78 p. 7), looks unreliable, since 1 Davey Place is also itemised as a warehouse on the next page, along with other odd numbers in that street.

Electoral registers are more consistent in their description of Urbinsky's residence: 19 The Walk in 1891 (the year of his naturalization); 19 Gentlemen's Walk from 1892 to 1897/98; and 18 Gentlemen's Walk in 1898/99 and 1899/1900.

He resigned from the Freemasons' Lodge of Friendship (Great Yarmouth) in June 1900 and left Norfolk for Lancashire. His stock-in-trade, initially sold in July 1900, included a lot of mounts that were offered cheaply to amateur photographers (EDP 8 Aug.). Negatives were acquired by Poll Bros for their Art Studio in Gorleston (EDP 1 April 1901). Urbinsky ran another studio for a while at 50 Railway Road, Leigh (Leigh Chronicle 14 Sept. 1900 + 1901 census), but I have found no further trace of him in Britain after a possible migration to the USA in 1909.

David Gobbitt
davidgobbitt[at]yahoo.co.uk
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David Gobbitt 1517936585000 
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