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Tyne and Wear HER(17705): Newcastle, Northumberland Street, Singleton House - Details

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Newcastle, Northumberland Street, Singleton House




Photographic Studio

Early Modern


Documentary Evidence

Large detached dwelling house belonging to a doctor, Sir John Fife, who was an important figure in the nearby hospital (which became the University Medical School). A sketch of the house shows two storeys with tall rectangular windows with keystones above on both floors. Central block with a wing to either side, gables to the street frontage. Central door with columns to either side and a semi-circular pediment above. Gabled roof with two chimneys. In the late 1800s photographer Lyddell Sawyer moved into Singleton House: "This excellent house was formerly the home of Sir John Fife, and after being especially adapted to his requirements by Mr Swyer at great cost, it forms a suite of rooms which for size, convenience of access and, and most particularly for suitability to produce high class work, is certainly not equalled in the North of England. A beautiful porch leads into a grand staircase, liberally adorned with graceful ornaments and specimens of Mr Sawyer's handiwork, on to a luxuriously furnished suite of reception, show and dressing rooms, adjoining the elaborately equipped studio with its uninterrupted north light, and laboratory on the first floor; while on the second floor there are large and perfectly appointed printing and workrooms. In the show and reception rooms are exhibited a magnificent collection of photographs". Edward Lyddell Sawyer (born in 1856) was the son of Edward Sawyer (born 1828) and Ann Shield. Edward Snr and his younger brother Henry (born 1830) started a phographic business. Their studio was in their home town of North Shields. In 1851 Edward, Ann and their five children were living in Tynemouth. In 1861 they were living in Melbourne Street, Sunderland and Edward is listed in the census as a 'portrait painter & photographic colourist'. In 1871 the family was living at 135 Percy Street, next door to the Crows Nest public house. Edward Snr opened a studio for E. Sawyer & Co. at 40 Grey Street. In 1963 he moved to bigger premises at 95 and 97 Clayton Street. The company enlarged photographs onto canvases up to 8 feet high and then finished them in oils so they resembled oil paintings. A life size art-photograph was created of John Clayton, Town Clerk and put on view at the Central Exchange Rooms (now Central Arcade). The portrait is now at Chesters Museum on Hadrian's Wall. E. Sawyer & Co. opened branches in North Shields and Sunderland and then a studio in Kensington West, London in the late 1860s or early 1870s. They moved from Clayton Street to their new 'Photo Crayon Studio' in Barras Bridge, Newcastle, close to their home at 135 Percy Street, still producing life size paintings in oil on canvas and 'new opal crayon portraits' (possibly on glass). They then moved to Singleton House, by which time Lyddell was part of the business. Lyddell Sawyer's Tyne and Wear exhibition print photographs include 'In the Castle Garth' 1888, 'Waiting for the Boats' 1889 (North Shields Fish Quay), 'The Boat Builders' 1887, 'In the Twilight', 'A Motley Crewe' or 'A Crowded Court' 1890 (North Shields), 'Fishing from the Pier' (North Shields Fish Quay), 'A Quaint Corner of Newcastle' (Castle Garth). From 1881 until 1895 Lyddell exhibited over 60 prints at the London Photographic Society. At the turn of the 20th century, Lyddell sold the rights to his images to postcard publishers like Raphael Tuck. His photographs were also used to advertise cigarettes (such as Ogdens). He opened a new studio in Regent Street, London. Whilst Lyddell is famous for his exhibition prints, his main business was portraiture. He took a photograph of Winston Churchill in 1901 and was paid two guineas (around £250). He made photographic portraits of actresses and actors (including Sir Henry Irving in the 1880s). Geoff Lowe estimates that he could easilt have earned the equivalent of £20 million pounds in a forty-year career. Lyddell Sawyer died in London on 13th April 1927.




Geoff Lowe, 2016, 'Don't look at the Camera' Lyddell Sawyer photographer, 1856-1927

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