Henry TAUNT (1842–1922)
393 Cowley Road, Oxford
Henry Taunt was born in Penson’s Gardens, St Ebbe’s, the son of a plumber and glazier, and lived in Oxford all his life. In 1856 he began work for the photographer Edward Bracher and in 1868 set up his own photographic business, winning great acclaim for the technical and aesthetic quality of his work. He operated from premises in the Cornmarket, the Broad and the High at various times and also from his houseboat, becoming a familiar figure on the river in his nautical garb and yachting cap. In his book A New Map of the River Thames (1872) he published his own survey of the river and he was later elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in recognition of his mapping of the Thames.
In 1889 he leased Canterbury House (at that time in a rural setting) and extended it to become a photographic and printing base; from 1906 it constituted his only premises. By 1922 he had a collection of 60,000 glass plate negatives, though his assistants, notably Randolph Adams, took many of the later photographs. He produced over fifty local histories and guidebooks as well as becoming a major publisher of postcards. He renamed the house ‘Rivera’ after his beloved river. He died in 1922 and lies in Rose Hill cemetery.
He was a forceful character and active local citizen who was organist and choir leader at St Mary Magdalen, campaigned for clean city water in 1880 and against electric trams in 1906 but he was essentially the finest local photographer of Victorian and Edwardian times.
The large archive of surviving glass-plate negatives held at the National Monuments Record Centre in Swindon and the many prints at the Centre for Oxfordshire Studies provide a superlative visual record of Oxford, Oxfordshire and the Thames. Digitised images can be viewed on the English Heritage website (http://viewfinder.english-heritage.org.uk).
- Sources: Malcolm Graham, Henry Taunt of Oxford: Victorian photographer (1973); Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004)
- Pictures: Taunt’s former home Rivera in 2010 and Unveiling ceremony
The plaque was unveiled by Cllr Liz Brighouse, Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council, on 10 January 2008 at Canterbury House (otherwise known as Rivera), 393 Cowley Road, Oxford. Dr Malcolm Graham gave the talk.
Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board
lived and worked here
Oxford Civic Society