Although this miniature portrait is not of high quality as many other miniatures, it is an important reference for collectors of silhouettes.
Also, it has enabled some interesting "ancestor archaeology" to be conducted, albeit with several research diversions noted below, such as the Irish Potato Famine, Bear Farming, a School for Young Ladies, the reason for the slow acceptance of Daguerreotypes in England, and the transportation to Australia of convicted pickpockets!!
The important collecting reference is the two typeset trade labels. One being a printed label on the reverse and the other being an impression on the lower left of the portrait. The trade labels are discussed further below.
The frame is gesso over wood and unusually is painted black, most frames of this type and period being gold in colour.
Also most unusually, it has a painted border with tiny 3D metallic decorations inside all of the black shapes in the design.
I am not sure what the technique was to achieve this effect, but it must have been an expensive frame at the time.
The miniature was acquired from Stoke-on-Trent, England and the sitter has been identified as Insull Burman (1810-JAS 1884) by a hand written label on the rear which reads "Insull Burnan (sic) - husband of Caroline - my great-grandfather 1810-1884". Although the writer misspelled the name, this is an example of the importance of identifying miniatures, as it has enabled a little re-creation of the sitter's life".
A complication in tracing his life is that some records refer to him as Insull Burnan and some refer to him as Insull Burman. There are also variations of his first name as Insull, Insell, Insall, and Insul.
The 1851 census for 76 Temple Street, West Bromwich, Staffordshire shows Insull Burman aged 40 as a brewer's agent born in Tanworth (now usually referred to as Tanworth-in-Arden and not to be confused with Tamworth), nine miles south of Birmingham, Warwickshire. His wife Caroline (16 May 1824-?) is aged 26 born in Worcester City and they have four children; Mary C (1842-?) aged 9 born in Aston, Martha (1845-?) aged 6, John (1847-?) aged 4 and Annie (1849-?) aged 2 with the three youngest children all born in West Bromwich. Also in the household is Edwin Nichols a clerk aged 21 and unmarried, born in Hagely, Worcs and described as Insull's brother-in-law. Thus he is Caroline's brother and her maiden name of Nichols can be determined. This is confirmed by their marriage record of 20 Dec 1840 at Aston Juxta Birmingham, Warwickshire. It would seem that Caroline was only 16 at the time of her marriage.
There is also a servant in the house during the 1851 census, Sarah Burns aged 19 who was born in Ireland. As this is the 1851 census, it seems certain that Sarah had fled from Ireland because of the potato famine which in 1851 had been running for six years from 1845. During the famine over one million people died from starvation and its associated effects, with another million fleeing the country to England, America, and elsewhere.
Thus although we can sympathise with Sarah Burns living the life of a servant, in all probability she would have considered herself fortunate to have enough to eat. For more about the famine see The History Place - Irish Potato Famine
The parents of Insull Burman were John Burman of Light Hall (shown here) and Mary Heath who were married 21 June 1808 in Tanworth, so this was his childhood home. The name Insull being taken from his great-grandmother's maiden name Mary Insull who married John Burman on 1 May 1747.
There is much about the history of the Burman family at Burman They had lived in the general area since 1273, with an unbroken record from 1467 to the present, with a Burman being Mayor of Stratford on no less than five occasions.
In 1857 Insull Burman moved to Farndon, seven miles south of Chester where he died in JAS 1884. Some records are a little hard to locate due to Insull being wrongly spelled when transcribed to www.ancestry.com, but the family can be found in the 1861 census with three more children Clara (1852-?), Ella (1854-?) and Edwin (1856-?). Insull's occupation is very hard to decipher and perhaps looks like "Landowner Fisher"?
In the 1871 census for Farndon Insull's occupation is given as "Income derived from interest on property". Interestingly, four unmarried daughters are all still living at home as teachers with the family residence called Holly Bank School, described as a "School for Young Ladies", and with eight live in pupils aged 9 to 14, and perhaps also some day pupils.
In 1881 the family lives at 74 Barton Road, Farndon still with eight live in pupils. By 1891 Insull has died and Caroline lives at Bridge House, Farndon as a housekeeper with her widowed son-in-law William Thelwall, a surgeon and his six children.
Turning to the trade labels, the printed one on the reverse reads "Likeness Copied, Repaired &etc. Barrett (sic), Miniature and Portrait Painter, and Profilist ,148, Holborn Bars, Five doors down from Gray's Inn Lane, London - Hours 10 to 9 - Frames provided".
Only a portion of the imprint can be read from the front "Miniature & Portrait Painter Barret (sic) 148 Holborn Bars". Thus it is interesting that Barrett is spelled differently on the front and reverse of the portrait.
A kind visitor has pointed out the major work on British silhouette artists by Sue McKechnie which refers to Barrett as active c1838-1842. Although McKechnie refers to Barretts trade labels and to 148 Holborn Bars, she says she has seen little of his work and does not seem to have ever come across either of the trade labels shown here. She does mention one trade label for him from 122 Holborn Bars, which refers to daguerreotype portraits, but the 148 Holborn Bars label here does not refer to daguerreotypes. One wonders why he gave that line of work up?
Perhaps because daguerreotype photography spread rapidly across France and the United States but not in the United Kingdom, where Louis Daguerre controlled the practice with a patent. Richard Beard, who bought the British patent from Miles Berry in 1841, closely controlled his investment, selling licenses throughout the country and prosecuting infringers.
This picture taken around 1905 shows some of the very old houses in Holborn Bars which would have been there in 1840, but the numbers in the photo are not known.
An 1896 description says "Holborn, derived from Hole Bourne, has been an important thoroughfare for centuries. Criminals travelled along it from the Tower and Newgate on their last journey to Tyburn, and the Inns of Court on either side made it busy. It escaped the Great Fire, but modern improvements have greatly altered its character, least so, however, at the spot known as Holborn Bars, where are some picturesque old houses. The granite obelisk is one of those marking the site of the Bars enclosing the City Liberties, and here a toll had to be paid for carts entering the City. Through Holborn Bars entry is effected to Staple Inn, where Dr. Johnson lived and wrote "Rasselas". Holborn extends from the Viaduct to Holborn Bars; that part of the street which stretches from the Bars to Drury Lane is known as High Holborn."
The profile is undated, but judging by the apparent age of Insull Burnam, at say 35 to 45, and his clothing, it would seem that the profile was taken around 1845/1855.
Tracking the Barrett family has been more difficult, as there is no first name for him. Street directories for 1837-39 record that J Gillingswater, Slaughterer of Bears and Importer of Bear Grease, had a barber's shop at 148 Holborn Bars, London.
This is an opportunity for a little history lesson! Bears grease was used as a pomade for the hair and was also said to cure baldness, presumably based on bears being very hairy (ie furry). In the 19C bears were even farmed and there is reference to this practice at THE BEAR INDUSTRY. The reference is to the banning of bear farming in Maine, USA where it was estimated in 1877 there were, within the state of Maine, 1800 families involved in breeding and raising bears, with each milch bear yielding "10 to 12 pounds of excellent butter".
Some years later, in 1857-58 148 Holborn Bars was occupied by Charles Pyemont a photographer and in 1859-61 by William Levinne another photographer. By 1861 Charles Pyemont who then described himself as "artist in painting" was living at 4 Charlton St, St Pancras. However he was not successful at that, as by 1881 he was widowed and described himself as a general labourer.
It therefore appears Barrett was at 148 Holborn Bars at some stage between 1839 and 1857 which fits with the apparent age of Insull Burman in the profile. It may be possible to narrow this time by trying to determine when John Gillingwater left the site and also trying to find who was living there in the 1841 and 1851 census records. The trade label refers to 148 Holborn Bars being five doors from Grays Inn Lane (now Grays Inn Road), so it must have been close to the bottom of this map.
John Gillingwater (10 Nov 1799-?) a hair dresser can be found in the 1841 census aged 40 living in Willow Terrace, St Mary Islington, with his wife Mary 45 and daughter Mary (3 May 1820-?) aged 20 and born in St Andrew, Holborn. There is a marriage record of John Gillingwater and Ann Kennedy for 4 Mar 1819 in Newgate, London. It appears his wife's name was Mary Ann, so she is recorded as both Mary and Ann.
As an interesting observation it appears from The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London 1674 to 1834 that on 23 Oct 1828 this same John Gillingwater was a witness at the Old Bailey against a pickpocket named William Stanton who had stolen a handkerchief valued at four shillings from his pocket. That sounds a lot of money for a handkerchief and Stanton was sent to prison for six months for the theft.
William Stanton was lucky as the next case in the Old Bailey on 23 Oct 1828 was a pick-pocketing charge against Ann Smith who had stolen a tobacco-box valued at one penny and coins totalling three pounds. She was sentenced to transportation for seven years!
In the 1851 census John Gellingwater (sic) is living as a gentleman, still at 2 Willow Terrace with his wife Ann and daughter Mary, who is still unmarried. It appears John Gillingwater had retired by 1851 and thus left 148 Holborn Bars before 1851. He has not been found in the 1861 census, but in 1871 John Gillingwater then a widower and retired hair dresser lived at 5 Brompton Villas, Edmonton, Middlesex. John appears to have died OND 1871.
Despite the above research, to date it has not been possible to find who was living at 148 Holborn Bars in the 1841 or 1851 census records, which could have enabled finding out the first name of Mr Barrett. 1316