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7 April, 2021

Carte de visite – Martha Fell (née Keighley)

Filed under: 1837-1911,England,Fell,Keighley — Tags: , , , — David @ 8:38 pm
Fell to Faulder Relationship
Fell to Faulder Relationship

I have recently acquired a Carte de visite (CDV) of my Great Great Grandmother, Martha Fell. The purpose of this post is to record some details of it and see whether others who find this post can offer any thoughts on the card’s origin.

Carte de visites are small cards 2⅛ x 3½ inches (about 55mm x 9mm) in size. Typically they were made in the mid Victorian era by photographers. They consisted of a piece of cardboard – usually with the photographer’s details on the back with a thin albumen print pasted to the front. The process was patented in 1854 by André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri, and their usage continued until the early 1870’s when they were superseded by Cabinet Cards (about the size of a modern post card). [Ref: Wikipedia: Carte de visite, accessed 7 April 2021].

CDV "Mrs Robt Fell of Somerville, Upper Edgerton Huddersfield"
Reverse side
CDV “Mrs Robt Fell of Somerville, Upper Edgerton Huddersfield”
Reverse side
CDV "Mrs Robt Fell of Somerville, Upper Edgerton Huddersfield"
CDV “Mrs Robt Fell of Somerville, Upper Edgerton Huddersfield”

I was alerted to this card being for sale by Vicky Dunning, who as a sideline to her genealogy work likes to reunite photographs of Huddersfield people with their descendents or relatives. My thanks to her.

The photograph is identifiable as Martha because conveniently (and unusually) her details are on the back!

She was born 9th May 1834 and died 7th July 1920 in York. Martha Keighley married Robert Fell 20th September 1854 in Bradford when she was 20.

Interestingly the back of the carte de visite does not have the details of the photographer who took the picture or created the card. This would normally be printed in an ornate style on the back.

This raises the possibility that this may not be a professionally produced card – and examination of the actual picture shows that it has been rather inexpertly cut out and mounted.

It has rough edges and is not well centred in the mount and is not upright (the top is tilted slightly to the right).

The card is a little unusual in that it is a small photograph (about the size of a thumb print) on a relatively large mount without any photographer’s branding. Most cartes de visites have a photograph which if rectangular covers most of the surface of the card and if oval covers a substantial portion of the card.

Might a family member have created this card using a “blank” mount which had no printing other than the border for the photograph? The image would have been cut out of an existing photograph and pasted on to the card. If so, for what purpose and when?

Family of Robert Fell at Somerville, Huddersfield
1904 Golden Wedding Celebration
Family of Robert Fell at Somerville, Huddersfield
1904 Golden Wedding Celebration

The Fells of Somerville have already been discussed on this blog. The Fell family moved into Somerville between the census of 1861 (when they were in King Street in central Huddersfield) and the census of 1871.

To me the card is clearly an earlier picture of the Martha Fell in the centre of the Golden Wedding (1904) celebration one – the facial characteristics are very similar.

Robert & Martha Fell detail from
1904 Golden Wedding Celebration
Martha Fell detail from
1904 Golden Wedding Celebration
Mrs Robt Fell of Somerville (detail)
CDV: Mrs Robt Fell of Somerville (detail)

In the Golden Wedding photograph she would have been 70; might she have been half that age in the Carte de visite photograph? If so was the CDV created around 1869 (towards the end of heyday of CDVs), or was it created much later using an “old photograph”?

Trying to judge age from just the face and ignoring the austere dress and hair-style, and the glasses is difficult – at a push; somewhere between 30 and 50 (which would mean the photograph was taken sometime between 1864 and 1884)?

(The paragraphs below were extensively re-written following the realisation that Martha’s father was married three times – which changed the estimated date of death of her mother. The scope of this post was then expanded.)

The Photograph – its date and purpose

Given the dark clothing, I wonder if it is a mourning photograph – but given the white lace trimming I suspect it would be when she was in late mourning (secondary mourning – ref: Alison Petch: Funeral and mourning clothing [accessed 13 April 2021 citing: Catharine Arnold 2007 Necropolis: London and its dead London Pocket Books]).

Who might she have been mourning? It is likely to have been a close family member which could mean: a parent, a sibling, her husband, a son or daughter. The following details are summarised from a separate post researching James Keighley and his families.


Her Parents were James Keighley and his first wife Elizabeth Ramsden.

Her father James Keighley died 17 September 1888 when Martha would have been 54. Is the photograph one of a 19th century woman in her mid 50s?

James Keighley married Elizabeth Ramsden in Birstall, Tong (near Bradford) on 11 Nov 1829.

Elizabeth died 26 Apr 1851. Obtaining Elizabeth’s Death Certificate confirms we have the right individual.

26th April 1851 at Bell Vue, Manningham
Elizabeth Keighley, Female, 40 year old
Wife of James Keighley, Plumber & Glazier
Convulsions & Rupture of a blood vessel compressing the brain,

Details Transcribed off the Death Certificate of Elizabeth Keighley (née Ramsden)

In 1851 Martha would have been about 17. This photograph does not look like a photograph of a 17 year old mourning her mother.

The other people who Martha is likely to have intensely mourned would have been a sibling (possibly a sibling in-law), her husband or a child.


Her husband, Robert Fell died 12th April 1910, when Martha would have been almost 76 – but the probable date of the photo (of a much younger woman than the woman in the Golden Wedding photograph) would rule this out.


From Census records and Birth/Baptism and Death/Probate records we find the following Keighley’s.

  • Mary Hannah, b 6 October 1830, Registered at Bradford Westgate Baptist Church
    • married 5 May 1852 to Charles Bankart
    • he died in Q2 1856 (when Martha would have been 22)
    • died Q2 1882, Bradford as Mary Bankart (when Martha would have been 48)
  • John, b 23 July 1832, Registered at Bradford Westgate Baptist Church
    • John’s death has not been identified but when his wife Emma died in 1893 (when Martha would have been 59), her probate record described her as the wife, rather than the widow) of John. He has not been identified with certainty in the 1901 Census.
  • Edward, b ~1836, Yorkshire (only found in 1841 Census with probable parents)
    • married 6 June 1859 to Jannet Bog Blanchard, St Mary’s Scarborough (witnesses: James, John & Emma Keighley – the latter probably John’s wife Emma Clayton – Edward’s father was listed as James; plumber)
    • Jannet died 3 January 1892 (when Martha would have been 57)
    • died probably Q2 1907, Scarborough (when Martha would have been 73)

From GRO Records we get the birth and death (registration) details of later siblings (which match to parental surnames and approximate derived date and place of birth in Census Records)

  • Elizabeth, b Q1 1838, Bradford, (Mother’s Maiden Name: Ramsdon)
    • married 9 May 1860 to William George Lord in Westgate Chapel, Bradford
    • died after the 1911 Census
  • James, b Q4 1839, Bradford, (Mother’s Maiden Name: Ramsden)
    • died Q1 1841, Bradford, (Age at Death: 1)
  • Maria, b Q2 1841, Bradford, (Mother’s Maiden Name: Ramsden)
    • died Q1 1842, Bradford (Age at Death: 0)
  • Frederick, b Q3 1845, Bradford, (Mother’s Maiden Name: Ramsden)
    • Lost track of him after the 1861 Census when he was believed to b the Frederick Keighley at School in Thorp Arch.

Of the above, the two possibilities are her eldest sister Mary Hannah who died in 1882 (when Martha was about 48) or her youngest brother who may have died young as he cannot be traced after 1861.


Robert and Martha had eleven children – all of whom are believed to have outlived their parents (they were certainly alive for their parents’ Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1904). Eight of them married. They are detailed on the post entitled Identifying the Fells at Huddersfield. Martha could not have been mourning any of them.

It is possible that she was mourning a grandchild – as much in solidarity with her bereaved child as for the grandchild. But none of her children even married before Martha was 50

The Card – its date and purpose

Given the slightly rough construction of the card we cannot be sure that the card was constructed at the same time as the photograph was taken (estimated to be between 1864 and 1884). The photograph has been trimmed and given its small size and the size of contact prints at that time it is likely that this photograph was cut out of a significantly bigger picture – which probably would have included others.

The other possibility is it was some form of card to commemorate her death (7th July 1920) made up by one of her children or grandchildren.

The seller was unable to provide any further detail other than “the photo was part of a collection I bought last year and the only one in that style.” It was not part of an album, so context is lost.

1 Comment »

  1. […] suspicion that the recently acquired Carte de Visite of Martha Fell shows her in mourning dress – who was she […]

    Pingback by The Family of James Keighley (1805-1888) « Faulder Family Genealogy — 12 July, 2021 @ 10:28 am

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