Martyn Carstairs


Dyke Road Hotel, Brighton (image courtesy of Robert Jeeves)

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Photographer, briefly resident in Brighton, but then for many years based at Weybridge in Surrey. Martyn Carstairs was born in Bayswater in London in 1872. His father, another Martyn Carstairs, had been born in Madras on 17 July 1850, and was the son of a merchant, Peter Carstairs (born in the "East Indies" in c.1803) and his wife, Elizabeth Carstairs (born in Ceylon in 1821). Peter left India with his family in the late 1850s or at the start of the 1860s to settle in England. He died at Richmond in Surrey in December 1861, aged 59.

His son, Martyn senior, married sixteen-year-old Frances Ann Wallwork (1855-1935) at Islington in 1871. After giving birth to Martyn junior, Frances had a daughter, Lillian Frances Carstairs, born in Wimbledon in 1878, and then two other sons: Ernest Carstairs, born in 1880 also at Wimbledon, who seems to have died very young, and Percy Carstairs, born in Ilfracombe in Devon in 1882.

Martyn Carstairs senior suffered from recurrent mental illness and spent the last decades of his life in asylums, leaving his wife, Frances, to bring up the family on her own. He died at an asylum in Watford in 1918.

When the census was taken in 1891, Frances Carstairs was living in Twickenham with her three surviving children. Martyn Carstairs junior had left school and obtained a job as a photographer's assistant. In December 1898 he married Lavinia Anne Gold at Twickenham, who had been born in 1871 in Chelsea and had worked as a dairymaid. The couple's first child, Martyn Leonard Carstairs, had been born a month earlier.

The 1901 census records that Martyn Carstairs junior was living with his family at 101 Amyand Park Road in Twickenham, while continuing to work as a photographer's assistant.

Martyn had an uncle, Charles Carstairs, who like his father had been born in Madras, but six years earlier in 1844. Charles accompanied his parents, brother Martyn and two sisters (Juliana and Mary) when they left India for England. He later joined the Army, becoming an officer. He never married, and lived for some years in Brighton before moving to London where he died in 1905 leaving Martyn, his nephew, just over £100 in his will. This was a sizeable sum in those days. Following the bequest Martyn junior moved with his family from London to settle first at 170 Sackville Road in Hove (Towner's 1905 Directory) and then at 101 Compton Road in the Preston area of Brighton. Lavinia and Martyn's second child, Ivy May Carstairs, was born at Brighton in 1907.

At Brighton, Martyn Carstairs worked on his own account as a photographer, producing real photographic cards of shops, schools, hotels and social gatherings, but as far as is known no general views of the resort or studio portraits. The photographs on the cards are usually black and white, rarely sepia, and have white borders. Most cards are hand stamped on the back in green ink "M. Carstairs, photographer, 101 Compton Rd, Brighton". Over the years the green colour has tended to fade making the label less and less legible. A few cards lack a publisher's label but are believed to be Martyn's work because they are initialled on the front "M.C.".

Martyn was active as a Brighton and Hove photographer only for four or five years. The 1911 census records that he and his family had relocated to Weybridge in Surrey and were living at Molyneux Cottages in Waverley Road. Martyn spent all the remainder of his working life as a self-employed photographer at Weybridge, and died there aged 82 on November 15, 1954. He left effects of £981. Lavinia, his widow, died on 28 December, 1959, leaving effects of £1088.

Martyn Leonard Carstairs married Irene Adelaide Monk in 1932 at Weybridge. He worked for many years as a Civil Servant.

Acknowledgement: Many thanks are due to David Simkin for helping to research the Carstairs family, and to Peter Booth and Robert Jeeves for searching out cards.

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