Herbert Raby , photographer.


By the year of Herbert`s birth 1888 , George Eastman had invented the Kodak camera . It took 100 individual images and then had to be returned to the factory for developing . The big glass plate cameras used by professional photographers which were in evidence here in 1911/1912 Trade Directories , would have been both heavy and unwieldy and possibly very expensive to buy . There is a story of Herbert using a bicycle to carry his tripod and camera from one job to the next . But the heyday of the bellows plate glass camera was over by the 1920s superseded by more modern equipment . Perhaps at this time both Herbert and his neighbour Royal Watson were able to buy slightly obsolete cameras to use commercially . 100 years on we are lucky to have so many Herbert Raby photographs of the town and various celebrations .

In 1891 Herbert was living with his family in Bridge St , “ next to the Temperance Hotel “ . Grandfather James Raby , aged 71 , a brickmaker and burner, was living with them . Amos , Herbert`s father was 34 , and a stonemason and born in Downham, his wife was Martha , aged 32 a dressmaker born Upwell. Martha was the daughter of Samuel and Sarah Braybrooke of Upwell and born in 1859 . She and Amos married in 1881 and she died in 1912 aged 53 . Herbert`s siblings in 1891 were Kate ,12, Maude, 8, Frederick, 6, and Ruby , aged 1. Someone in the family had a sense of humour to name the last of Martha`s daughters Ruby Raby , or more correctly Ruby Hepzibah Raby . Several of the Raby children did not survive childhood . Kate whose full name was Harriet Kate, died in January 1898 aged 19. But there were two younger brothers after Herbert including Norman who served in WW1 latterly in the RFC/RAF .

Perhaps significantly three doors away lived the family Royal Watson , who is described as a letter press printer and his sons are compositors and bookbinders and printers . In 1891 he is not yet a photographer . Perhaps Herbert became apprenticed either formally or on an ad hoc basis to Royal Watson . And it may be that Royal Watson printed the local interest postcards which Herbert sold from 1908 ( Denver Regatta) . And it maybe that Watson had the space for a darkroom .

The Royal Photographic Society says that the plate camera that Herbert might have used for his big set piece photographs , might have cost as much as £15 in the 1920s . “The weight is quite variable depending on the type of camera being used but a reasonable plate camera, tripod and some loaded dark slides would be at least 5kg.  The cost of say a Sanderson quarter plate camera with standard lens in 1930 was £15 15s 0d but could be up to £29 15s 0d for a Zeiss lens. “ But the development of the camera meant that by the 1930s much smaller and more portable cameras were in use .

“Yes, photography – the equipment and sensitised materials – was relatively affordable by the early 1900s, so a normal working man would be able to pursue what was seen as a educational and improving hobby. The growth of camera clubs from the 1890s reflected this and many clubs had darkroom facilities too. “ (quotes Dr M Pritchard, RPS , Director of Education) . Happily we now know where Herbert`s small shop was and what it looked like both in a Christmas and a Fireworks display .

In the Christmas display , seen below, Herbert is advertising Regal Records which appeared around the mid to late 1920s and 1930s . It is difficult to date the word ” hit” referring to popular music , but Meccano was invented by Hornby in 1898 so this would have been a usual toy for children to collect extra bits for .

Herbert died in 1943 in the 2 High Street possibly at the home of his sister and brother in law the Mastins . His death was certified by Dr Elsie Johnson and the principal causes were chronic bronchitis and emphysema and cardiac failure . He was 54. His occupation is given as Stationer , Master . He left everything , £2,240 , to Kathleen Ethel Dent . She was one of a number of daughters of Robert Dent , master blacksmith, of Windsor St and in the 1911 census 8 adults were living in 6 rooms . In the 1939 General Register she was a Stationery shop assistant , and she was living with Mrs Smith and Arthur her son in Station Terrace . Kathleen died in 1986 in Blackpool . Herbert`s grave in the Kings Walk cemetery has the words , ” Tis God to fix my time of rest .”
As to the rest of Herbert’s family , Harold Chapman Mastin married older sister Florence Maud , he was a baker and confectioner of Bridge St . They had at least 3 children .
Frederick , Herbert’s older brother married in 1910 Ethel Elizabeth Hardy , he was a boat dealer .
Ruby Hepzibah married Ernest William Bullman in 1917 .

The Raby children’s mother Charlotte Keziah Martha was bapt at Welney in August 1858 the day of Samuel and Sarah Braybrooke , labourer of Welney In 1871 the family are living on Bedford Bank Welney . Samuel has died but his widow Sarah is 42 and making a living as a garden farmer . With her are Martha Mary Ann , also known as Mahala , who later married Jonathan Beals , Charlotte K M , Samuel and Sarah .
Next door is Charlotte Braybrooke , widow, 77 , also a garden farmer born Kettering , Northants .
Finally , Charlotte Keziah Martha Raby died in 1912 wife of Amos . Probate was granted to Herbert and Ruby Hepzibah spinster. Assets £388.
Amos died in July 1945 , his estate of £110 , was probated to Wm Canham solicitors cashier. . Hannah the second wife of Amos , married in Downham in 1920 , died in June 1944 and left £182 to Wm Marriott .

It is interesting to see that Herbert left a mighty £2,200 and his father dying at a similar time , left £110 and his widow , £182 .

It is now generally believed that the present Teddy and Toys is the shop and Cheryl`s hairdressers is the Raby home .  .