Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Costume in Natal: the Christadelphians


Christadelphians - Lafnie's Drift (De Jager's Drift), Natal : 1895/1896
Back Row : 1 Bro Sigvart Larsen, 2 Bro Milner, 3 Bro E Milner, 4 Bro C Milner, 5 Bro Dogoya Libisi
Front Row : Sis Lafnie, Bro Lafnie, Bro Milner, Sis Milner, Sis van Rooyen

(Note by Angel Sivert Larsen dated 27/3/1963 - eldest son of Sigvart Larsen - gives the source of the above information as "Christadelphian page 140 March 1906".

Acknowledgement: David Larsen. For more information see

The Christadelphian movement was founded by John Thomas (1805-71), in the USA in 1848. Thomas was a doctor who had been born in London but emigrated to the USA in 1832, partly because he thought that English society was 'priest-ridden'.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Costume in Natal: Alice Mary Swires nee King

Alice Mary Swires nee King (1816-1919) died in the Spanish flu epidemic which followed
the end of World War I. She married James Dudley Swires (1850-1905) in 1886 in Pietermaritzburg.  Swires was originally of Bierley, Bradford, Yorkshire. He was a butcher. The couple had seven children, a son and six daughters of whom one daughter was Maud Alice Swires who married Sydney Bartle Gadsden. This is the only surviving photographic portrait of Alice Mary, taken by B Kisch of Durban.

Please note her maiden name was King, she married Swires. There is an

error in my twitter entry giving her maiden name as Swires - incorrect.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Costume in Natal: Sydney Bartle Gadsden

Sydney Bartle Gadsden (1880-1953), my grandfather, was the son of Thomas Alfred
Gadsden and Eliza Ann Bell (daughter of Capt William Bell, Port Captain of
Natal). Born in Durban, Sydney Bartle married Maud Alice Swires and they had one son,  my father William Bell Gadsden. Sydney Bartle was a marine engineer and Works Manager of the company James Brown (later James Brown and Hamer).

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Costume in Natal: Maud Alice Gadsden nee Swires

A delightful portrait of my grandmother Maud Alice Gadsden nee Swires b 18 April 1890 with her only child, my father, William Bell Gadsden, b 29 June 1910, seen here aged about 6 months.

The daughter of Alice Mary nee King and James Dudley Swires, Maud married Sydney Bartle Gadsden, son of Thomas Alfred Gadsden and Eliza Ann nee Bell (daughter of Port Captain William Bell).

Both Maud and William's outfits are lavishly trimmed with the hand-embroidered broderie anglaise much in vogue at the time. Maud's hair achieves the high bouffant style through use of net and wire pads worn underneath.

Unfortunately, the photographer who took this cabinet photo remains unknown as the print at some stage (before my time, I hasten to add) became separated from its cardboard mount.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Costume in Natal 1902: family group

A gloriously-bearded patriarch, wearing a top hat, and his family pictured in 1902. Two of the girls' hats seem about to take wing up into the trees. This was probably taken on a special occasion - a wedding anniversary for the patriarch and wife, perhaps.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Dating costume and photographers, Natal (Swires/Gadsden)

In her crisp white day dress, with fashionable tucked detail on her high-necked tunic-style bodice, this colonial lady (my grandmother Maud Alice Swires) epitomizes the end of the first decade of the 20th c. Her hair has been encouraged into a loose, curly style, the bouffant shape probably owing something to coir pads worn under her own hair. The waist of the dress is placed slightly above the normal waistline, and accentuated by a fabric belt. Her sleeves end in a point over her wrist with a hint of feminine frill. All signs of the bustle have disappeared and her skirt is long and tubular, widening at the hem.  

The brooch at her throat spells out her name, Maud. This photograph was probably taken shortly before her marriage in 1909. The photographer’s name is stamped on the reverse of the enlarged print: T. Dickinson (sometimes spelled Dickenson), who owned the Imperial Studio in Pietermaritzburg ca 1900-1910. By the date this photo was taken he was located at 128 Chapel Street, Pietermaritzburg.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Dating Photographs in Natal: costume and studio

Sydney Bartle Gadsden (1880-1953) My grandfather

What the well-dressed young man-about-town was wearing in Durban, Natal, in the first decade of the 20th century:
the ubiquitous three-piece suit (three buttons to the jacket which has fairly narrow lapels), worn with a white shirt with a stiff collar and almost invisible knotted tie peeping above the high opening of the waistcoat. Not much concession, therefore, to heat and humidity, other than the straw boater (often incorrectly referred to as a 'basher') with wide ribbon trim. This gives a jaunty seaside tang to an otherwise formal appearance. The moustache, brushed neatly to the sides, was virtually obligatory at this period.

The photograph may have been taken just prior to the gentleman's marriage in November 1909. The Bower Studio was run by W Thomas at Smith Street, Durban, from 1905 and continued in existence into at least the late 1940s, when the studio was listed at both Smith and West Streets, Durban. By that time, it was the Bower Studio (Pty.) Ltd. The good quality grey card mount has decorative touches in the Art Nouveau style.