VORLEY, Herbert Henry, 1839-1880 (attributed); [BOSWELL, Edward Blair Buchanan, 1860-1933]
[NEW ZEALAND] Photographs of the gold rush townships of Charleston and Brighton, on the West Coast of the South Island, circa 1870.
Group of seven gelatin silver printing-out paper prints, all of which appear (on account of their exceptional clarity) to have been printed out from original late 1860s or early 1870s negatives at the beginning of the 20th century; six are in format 68 x 102 mm (approximately carte de visite size), and one is much larger (140 x 200 mm); all are unmounted and have identifying captions in pencil verso in the hand of Westport schoolmaster Edward Blair Buchanan Boswell (1860-1933), father of New Zealand artist James Boswell (1906-1971); the prints are in fine condition.
Attributed in the early 1900s by Westport resident E. B. B. Boswell to early West Coast photographer Herbert Henry Vorley, this group of important images documents the thriving townships of Charleston and Brighton at the height of the West Coast gold rushes, a little before or after 1870. There can be little doubt that these gelatin silver prints were taken from Vorley’s original negatives, and are not “second generation” prints (photographs of photographs). The whereabouts of Vorley’s negatives is, unfortunately, not known. Relatively few topographical scenes by Vorley appear to have survived, and he is probably best known for a small number of views of Reefton. We can locate none of the seven images offered here in New Zealand institutional collections online.
The inscriptions on the back of the photographs are as follows:
(140 x 200 mm) Brighton, Fox’s River. This was taken in the early 70s (or late 60s) of last century. All these buildings have long since disappeared. EBBB. Vorley was the name of the photographer.
(68 x 102 mm) Town Lead Gold Mining, Charleston.
(68 x 102 mm) Princess Street, Charleston.
(68 x 102 mm) Camp Street, Charleston.
(68 x 102 mm) Camp Street, Charleston.
(68 x 102 mm) Church of England, Charleston.
(68 x 102 mm) Charleston.
Photographer and phrenologist Herbert Henry Vorley (1839-1880), the son of a wealthy London family, emigrated to Port Phillip in 1862. In Melbourne in February 1863 he married Adelaide-born Margaret Wood, who was just 17 years old. A few years later the Vorleys travelled to New Zealand at the commencement of the gold rushes on the South Island. They settled on the remote West Coast in 1866, where Herbert was active as a photographer in Reefton, Charleston and Westport from the late 1860s right through the 1870s. He and his family remained there until 1879, when the following article appeared in the West Coast Times newspaper, on 18 January 1879:
‘Mr Vorley, an old West Coast photographer, long and favorably known at Charleston, Westport, and Reefton, the other morning awoke to find himself famously rich. He received at Westport a direct cablegram from London, apprising him that through the death of a near relative he had succeeded to an extensive property. We congratulate Mr Vorley upon his good fortune, and trust that he will live long to enjoy it. He proceeds to Europe by the next outward mail steamer. The legacy is worth about £3000 per annum.’ (Canterbury Photography)
Vorley did not live to enjoy his new found wealth for very long: he died in November 1880, at the age of just 41, at his mother’s house in Russell Square, London – a little over a year after he and his family had arrived back in England.
Provenance: Edward Blair Buchanan Boswell (Westport and Auckland); private collection, Melbourne.
‘BOSWELL, EDWARD BLAIR BUCHANAN 1860–1933. Born in Argyllshire, Scotland, lived in Stewarton and attended Rothesay Academy at some time. Came to New Zealand with mother and brother, arriving in Otago on Lyttelton 6 Sept 1880: lived in Dunedin for about 3 years, taking lessons in 1883 from painter George O’Brien (a fellow student was A. W. Walsh). Moved with his mother to Westport, took up school teaching and married Ida Charlotte Fair from Charleston. By 1906 when his son was born was deputy head master of the high school at Westport. In 1916 he retired and came to Auckland. He lived in Remuera until he died. His son James Edward Buchanan Boswell, who was to become a successful British graphic artist, wrote of his father as a skilled amateur watercolourist who did little work but kept up a passionate interest in the arts. The house he designed and built in Westport had in it furniture designed by him and made from New Zealand woods and in everything like this he was influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement ideas which he got from The Studio, subscribing to it from the beginning. He collected books and they made the background for many other of his interests—his shell collecting, his topographical photography, his fashioning of furniture in carved wood and beaten brass, his collecting of botanical specimens and of geological specimens. Represented in Hocken.’ (Nineteenth century New Zealand artists: a guide and handbook. Victoria University, Wellington)