Pictures in the Fire, or: Great Uncle George Dalziel, discovering a long lost family history

Douglas Downing

The 19th century was a great time of change and upheaval in commerce and industry. One of those industries which changed drastically was the printing industry. By the mid 19th century, the mass media was a burgeoning market and as people became more literate, so did their sensational appetite for more reading materials, such as books, newspapers and ephemera.

One company which capitalised on this growing commercial industry was The Camden Press, commonly known as The Brothers Dalziel. The Brothers Dalziel originated from Northumberland and came from a very large family of eight brothers and four sisters. In the second quarter of the 19th century, the family move from Newcastle to London to set up their own engraving workshop, The Camden Press.

They were certainly not the only engraving firm at this time but its through the wealth of information and the abundance of archival material they left behind, which enables us today to see the wonderful array of people they worked with and the engraving work, the Brothers undertook during the 60 years the engraving firm ran for.

As a child Douglas Downing liked nothing more than looking through the old family photographs and piecing together the family history. It was thanks to his grandparents that storytelling was a common occurrence, as they often recounted stories about their life in east London during the Second World War, or going to school in the shadow of St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was several years later with the internet at his fingertips that he started to search for the names and dates of his ancestors, but he wasn’t expecting what came next! When he first came across the unusual surname Dalziel, at that time it was only another name to add to the list, but on further exploration a different story revealed itself, one which was rich in social and art history but ultimately told an everyday human interest story of life, home and family in 19th century Britain.

Douglas’ talk is a culmination of 11 years worth of research and like any good story there is always a prequel. So to enliven the Dalziel story he unlocked the door and brushed off the dust and immersed himself in the archives. He started to look at the Dalziel family in 19th century Northumberland and how it all began, tracing the family footsteps. By doing this Douglas started to uncover some remarkable stories about the origins of the Brothers Dalziel; along the way he has created some new stories, and this is what he will discuss with you during his talk.

Tickets £8–12.50 (Online box office closes at 6pm before the event)


Dates & Times: 24 November @ 7pm (Doors open 6.30pm)

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