19th Century Justice

Life was tough in the 19th century and vandals were treated harshly. When Thomas Henry Burrow decided to mess around with the local canal he found himself in more trouble than today’s young thugs would do. Not only was he fined for wasting water but he was expected to publish this public apology in his local newspaper.

Wastage is still a problem on today’s canal system and many lock pounds are drained overnight during the long hot evenings of summer because local roughs enjoy watching the water run. Today it is expensive to put right and takes a lot of time and effort by canal bank staff but there is little disturbance other than preventing a few holidaymakers from passing a flight when they want.

In the 19th century, however, it meant that traders could not ply their boats along the canal until the pounds were refilled and time was money. Many boatmen were not paid for their trip if they were late to deliver.

William Henry Fox Talbot 1800-1877

bay window
The window at Lacock Abbey first photographed by Fox Talbot. His notes said it was possible in the first image to count the different panes in the window.

The Father of Modern Photography William Henry Fox Talbot (1800 – 1877) invented the positive / negative process in 1840 and is therefore recognised as the first real photographer. As well as his interest in photography Fox Talbot was also known as a mathematician, physicist, classicist and transcriber of Cuneiform texts. He also spent a year as a Liberal Member of Parliament. His home was at Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire where there is now a museum dedicated to his life and works.

In a way he could be said to have contributed to the modern computer industry because his photographic process is the basis of how circuit boards are produced. His earliest photographic negative was produced in 1835 and shows a window of his home but he did not present his findings until 1839, when he read a paper at the Royal Society.

His interest in science began at an early age.  He left his mark on Harrow school when he caused a massive explosion while trying to gild steel. He became interested in the camera lucida and the camera obscura – two simple forms of image creator, often used by artists – because he was not skilled at drawing. He dreamed of ways to make the images permanent and began experimenting with various compounds before coming up with the silver salts process known today.