The photo below is of an (as yet) unidentified (English) family member and is from the London studio of Hermann Ernst. There is nothing printed on the back. The photo is part of a collection, the dates of which range from the mid 1860s to about 1916 or 1918.

enter image description here

At the moment, this lady could be any one of about 10 to 12 relatives. As we know her age in this photo, having even an approximate date ( + / - 5 years) could narrow down the number of possibles to as few as 2 or 3.

Information on Hermann Ernst's London studio, unlike many others of the period, is hard to find. Pages such as RCS Photographers Index and Victorian and Edwardian Photographs make no mention of Hermann Ernst. The only information I've found is that Hermann Ernst was a photographer and / or photographic studio owner from Hannover. The English translation of his German Wikipedia page offers very little. A date, 1865, is mentioned but the translation as to its significance is a little unclear. Also, there is no mention of his London studio.

Following the link to the page of Ludwig Hoerner, a researcher and source of the above information hasn't helped as I can't access any of his works which might have the information I'm looking for.

The best clue so far is this circa 1885 photo but it's from Hannover and the card style is quite different. I've only found one other photo online from the same studio as our photo (Waverly Place, St. Johns Wood NW); the design is closer to ours but no date is given. For the moment, I'm assuming that our family photo was taken later than 1885 as the design seems more modern (but this is really just a guess).

Can anyone put an approximate date on this photo? It seems that a big step in the right direction would be establishing when Hermann Ernst's studio in St. Johns Wood was in business. Also, the hairstyle and dress may provide further clues.

1 Answer 1


I think we can narrow down your date-range to 1891-1903.

According to the Directory of London Photographers, 1841-1908, by Michael Pritchard, Hermann Ernst's studio was only in St. Johns Wood between those dates. After that it moved to premises in Finchley Road, where it remained until after 1908 (the last date covered by the directory).

His entry in the directory reads:

Ernst, Hermann

1 Waverley Pl, St Johns Wood N.W.


14 Finchley Road N.W.


An alternative source would be the London Post Office directories for the period. A few of these are available online, and others can be searched on Ancestry if you have a subscription (or at a Local library). The extract below is from the directory for 1899 (the only one I have at home for that period):

Waverley Place extract from 1899 London P.O. Directory

Some of these may also be available from the University of Leicester Special Collections which have a number of directories available to search and view online.

  • 2
    Excellent link which has also given me even an earliest date for an Army and Navy Auxiliary Co-Operative Supply Ltd. (Francis St.) photo I've been struggling to put a date on. Puzzled as to why this source didn't come up in all my hours of googling. I'll accept this answer unless someone comes up with something better. Thanks very much :) Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 10:34
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    I agree with the proposed dating; from my experience with photos of this time period, and the style of dress and hair, I would put it in the first half of this period, 1890 to 1896. Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 0:50
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    The hairstyle originated in the 1880s so I agree with Peter Diehr's comment that it has to be the earlier part of the timeframe. Later hairstyles became fuller around the crown by the end of the century.
    – Daniel
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 9:25
  • 1
    @PeterDiehr Thanks for your very useful comment on the style of dress and hair. This narrows it down nicely and we are now fairly sure who is in the photo (my great great grandmother). Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 2:06

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