Priscilla Douglas

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 Priscilla Douglas was born Priscilla Degelas, in Portsea c 1849.  Her father Joseph was French, and had several skilled occupations including watch maker. Her mother Bathia(1) was born in Portsmouth. The family moved between the Isle of Wight, Portsea, Chichester and France before settling in Southampton by 1871.

The 1871 census entry for 195 High Street Shirley recorded Joseph Douglas, watchmaker (born France 1796), his wife Bathia Martha, and adult children Clementine, Dennis, Priscilla and Alfred. Another sister Louise Bathia was living on the Isle of Wight, and brother Edmund was last recorded in Portsmouth in 1861.

Alfred Douglas advertised as a photographer at 74 St Mary's Road in trade directories of 1876, 1878 and 1880. By the time of the 1881 census the Photography Shop in St Marys Road was run by Miss Douglas. Clementine was listed as a photographer, and Priscilla as an artist figure painter. The head of the household was their mother Martha Bathia, but she was also recorded in Cliff Terrace with her husband Joseph. Although the census did not record Alfred at 74 St Marys Road, in 1883 he was still in the Foster and Roud directory list of photographers at that address, with no mention of Priscilla.

​In 1881 Dennis Douglas, painter, lived with his family in Northbrook Road. In 1884 the Stevens directory listed 'Hy' Douglas, photographer, at the same address in Northbrook Road. The same directory listed Miss Douglas, photographer, at 74 St Mary's Road. In 1891 Dennis Douglas, widower and painter, was still living at the same house in Northbrook Road with his children, the youngest of whom was 5 years old.

In the 1887 trade directory the Photography Shop in St Mary's Road was in the name of Miss Priscilla Douglas. The 1890 directory recorded Miss Prissie Douglas, photographer, at the same address.

The 1891 census record hinted at some kind of upheaval within the family around this time. Bathia senior died in 1885, and husband Peter Joseph Douglas, photographer, (widower) was in charge of the Photography Shop in St Mary's Road in 1891. No trace of Priscilla in 1891 has been found, but a Clementine Douglas of the right age was lodging in Marylebone, London, and working as a teacher of general subjects. Priscilla and Clementine's older sister Louise Bathia was living with their father at 74 St Mary's Road, along with a previously unrecorded brother Fred. The 1891 directory listed Miss Douglas photographer and artist at 74 St Mary's Road, but Priscilla had temporarily disappeared.

Joseph Douglas died in 1892. Joseph gave different dates of birth for each census record, and depending on his true date of birth he would have been between 81 and 98 years of age when he died. The whole Douglas family never seemed entirely sure of their ages, and gave widely varying dates of birth for each census return.

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The plain back carte de visite above gives 9 Oxford Street and 74 St Mary's Road as studio addresses, and probably dates to the mid to late 1890s. 9 Oxford Street was the studio of John Beer from the 1860s to the early 1880s. In 1887 9 Oxford Street was listed as a commercial hotel. By the time of the 1891 census the building was unoccupied. Within two or three years 9 Oxford Street was once again a photographer's studio, when Elizabeth Mentor opened her first studio there in about 1894. As large numbers of Douglas carte de visite portraits from the St Marys Street studio survive, Priscilla and Clementine were clearly in demand, and ​may have rented extra studio space from the new firm Mentor and Co for a short time.

In 1900 Priscilla and Clementine moved to a new shop at 110 East Street. The 1901 census for 110 East Street recorded 'Pressie' as photographer, and 'Clemina' as a photo painter. Also on the premises were 2 lodgers; photographic assistants, William Smith, and Norris Ball.

All examples of portraits taken at the new East Street shop bore the name of the Baden Powell Photo Co, rather than P. Douglas, as on the photographs taken at 74 St Marys Road. At the time, Baden Powell was a national hero and celebrity, for his part in the Second Boer War. He was also famous for his interest in children and young people, and after the end of his military career he concentrated on promoting his new 'Scouting' movement. A high proportion of surviving cartes de visite and cabinet cards by P. Douglas were of children. Although the photographs bore the name of the Baden Powell Photo Co, the firm never advertised in that name, and the business was always listed in the name of Miss Douglas.

Priscilla and Clementine lived and worked together until Clementine died in 1916. Priscilla ran the photography shop in East Street on her own until about 1923, when she retired and moved to Clapham Common to be near her niece Priscilla Clementine, youngest daughter of brother Dennis.

Priscilla senior died in Clapham in 1929.

Notes:
1. I have a Joseph Denis DeGelas married Bathia Freeman, born Portsmouth, 22nd April 1837 St Thomas Portsmouth.  It is not clear if she also used the name Martha.


Source

Sources for this article include:

  • www.southamptonvictorianphotographers.org

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    Last modified: Monday, 06 July 2020