The site of Tyburn Tree at the junction of Edgware Road and Oxford Street was for over 700 years a place of execution. Until 1783 Tyburn served as London’s primary place of hanging, burning and gibbeting. Public displays of executions were once a vital part of the criminal justice system which relied upon fear of retribution.


The main purpose of severe penalties for even relatively minor crimes was that they would serve as a deterrent. After re-development in the mid-1800s the area became known as Tyburnia. It was laid out with grand squares and cream stuccoed terraces. Thackeray described this residential district as ‘the most respectable district of the habitable globe’. Not a place one would expect political radicalism to manifest itself – and yet, it did.


On a left-hand corner in Westbourne Terrace one of the last of the original detached houses still stands (now turned into flats). The splendid mansion is named Orsett House. On the evening of 10 April 1861, the property was ablaze with light from thousands of gas-jets, and packed with celebrating Russians, Poles and other émigrés from the Slav nations, as well as a few English radical thinkers, and fellow exiles such as Italian nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini and French socialist Louis Blanc.


It was a grand occasion to celebrate the Emancipation Reform under Alexander II which effectively abolished serfdom throughout the Russian Empire. Over the portico of the house two banners flew in the wind with messages of The Free Russian Press on one, and Freedom of the Russian Peasant on the other. Host and organiser of this red hot European party was Alexander Herzen, the first self-proclaimed Russian socialist and the most significant of all the activists who spent years of political exile in nineteenth century London.


Herzen was born in 1812 in Moscow at a time that the city was being evacuated in the wake of the defeat by Napoleon’s armies. He was the illegitimate son of a wealthy landowner and a German woman whom his father had met while in diplomatic service. In 1829 Herzen entered the University of Moscow to study natural sciences and became the leader of a small group of radical students. In 1834, he and his closest colleague, the poet Nikolai Ogarev, were arrested. He spent six years in prison. In January 1847 Herzen left Russia for Paris with his entourage (wife, three children, his mother, a tutor, and two female dependents) and most of his capital – hardly a stereotype case of revolutionary exile. None of them would see Russia again.


After the disillusion of the failed 1848 revolution, Herzen moved to London and lived in the capital for some twelve years, first alone, and then with his family, accompanied by the German writer Malwida von Meysenbug, who acted as housekeeper and governess to his children from 1853. Malwida Rivalier von Meysenbug is an intriguing person in her own right. She was born on 28 October 1816 at Kassel in Hesse. Her father, Carl Rivalier descended from a family of French Huguenots and was the principal minister for two Archdukes of Hesse-Kassel. He was granted the vacant Meysenbug title and was later raised into the Habsburg aristocracy. The ninth of ten children, she broke with her family because of her political convictions. She was an avowed democrat and supported demands for constitutionalism in the German states. During the years preceding the 1848 revolutions in Europe, Malwida was more radical than many male revolutionaries in that she advocated equal opportunity for women in education and employment. When Meysenbug moved to Berlin she was placed under police surveillance for mixing in ‘suspicious’ company. Forewarned in May 1852 of her impending arrest she fled by way of Hamburg to London where she became a prominent member of the refugee community. She supported herself by writing romantic novels and short stories with underlying themes of egalitarian utopian societies. More significant are her Memoiren eines Idealistin, the first volume of which she published anonymously in 1869 (followed by two subsequent parts in 1875 and 1876).


Throughout his stay in the capital, Herzen moved around between dozens of addresses, before settling at Orsett House in November 1860. His life in London was conducted mainly in Russian circles, but he remained a private figure who concentrated on intellectual and propaganda work. In the spring of 1853 he established the ‘Free Russian Press in London: to our Brothers in Russia’. Its printing press was initially housed alongside that of Democratic Poland published by the Polish Democratic Society at no. 38 Regent Square. The arrangement with this society of fellow exiles lasted almost eighteen months, until December 1854 when it was feared that the bailiffs might move in. The Free Russian Press moved to no. 82 Judd Street (in 1857 the office moved to no. 2 in the same street). It was here that the work of the Press took off. In 1855, he published the first volume of Poliarnaia zvezda (The Polar Star). Much of the first volume was written by Herzen himself, although it also contained letters by Michelet, Proudhon, Mazzini, and Hugo, and the correspondence between Belinsky and Gogol.
In April 1856 his former comrade Nikolai Ogarev arrived in London and joined Herzen in working on the Press. It was at no. 2 Judd Street that the Free Russian Press built its reputation with the publication of the weekly newspaper Kolokol (The Bell) which ran from 1865 to 1867 with a circulation of up to 2,500 copies.


During Herzen’s residence at Westbourne Terrace numerous compatriots travelled to London to visit him, including Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Nekrasov, Bakunin, Vasily Botkin, and others. On Sundays, Orsett House was the place to be. The family remained at the residence until June 1863, and then moved out again, this time to Elmfield House, Teddington. Herzen’s inability to settle in exile reflects the restlessness of his mind. He finally left England in 1864. Herzen is the author of a set of magnificent memoirs entitled My Past and Thoughts which are an irreplaceable time document for the European socio-political developments of the day. His presence in London does not take up a prominent part in these memoirs. What the metropolis offered him was anonymity. To him, London was ‘adapted for training one away from people and training one into solitude’. This suggestion implies a paradox of political exile: by its very condition it denies the here and now, it looks forward by always looking back, escaping into an almost Confucian dream. Exile and nostalgia are not synonymous, but they stem from similar experiences. They are stories of loss and memory. Nostalgic memory may bring some solace, but the sigh of separation from place, language and culture is forever present. This pain hits exile and newcomer alike. It weighs heavier on the former who lives in anticipation of an imminent return home. The exile is – psychologically at least – banished for the short term. He hates the past, despises the present, and dreams of the days ahead. He seeks consolation in futurity. Utopia is a dissociation from the here and now. Living in the present in order to effect social change is a more difficult task. Herzen was well aware of the challenge and this realisation gives his memoirs their lasting relevance.


Over time, there have been two – maybe unexpected – places in the workplace where women earned early positions of responsibility, although their achievements were gained almost by default. Both printing and photography were in their early stages of development open to all newcomers. These were fresh fields of skill and technology and as such unhindered by the authority of strict regulations, laws or prejudices to deny anyone access (as was the case in more traditional professions and forms of art). Marginalisation was not an issue. Both women and immigrants found free entry in these domains of activity.
Since at least the late sixteenth century women had been participants in the printing trade. This included boarding youngsters serving as apprentices and journeymen as well as tasks in the shop itself, from keeping books to overseeing the sale of printed matter and stationery. A small number of women became masters of offices, running the entire business by themselves. In most cases they succeeded to their positions as widows after the death of their printer-husbands. These women often ran the offices for a relatively short time before they handed operations over to a member of family or foreman, who in turn would provide an income for the remainder of her life. The early history of American printing supplies a spectacular example of the process. In 1638, the ‘John of London’ sailed from Hull to Boston, Massachusetts. The ship was captained by George Lamberton. On board were clergyman Ezekiel Rogers and a number of families that went on to settle the plantation of Rowley, Massachusetts. The ship also transported the first printing press to North America. It was brought by Reverend Joseph Glover who, when deprived of his position in the Church of England for his non-conformist Puritan beliefs, shipped his family and equipment to the Massachusetts colony. He also paid for the passage of the man in charge of running his press, Stephen Daye, and his son Matthew, an apprentice printer.
Glover did not survive the passage to the New World, leaving ownership of the press to his wife Elizabeth. Settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts, she established the Cambridge Press. It was an act of great initiative. As a woman, Glover needed special permission from New England officials to open a business. Within the first year in Massachusetts Bay, Daye and son printed a broadside for her entitled ‘The Freeman’s Oath’, probably the first tract published in British North America. Daye printed the first book in the New World, The Bay Psalm Book, in 1640 (only eleven copies survive today). This book was in demand throughout the colony for the remainder of the seventeenth century. In June 1641 Elizabeth married Harvard’s first president, Henry Dunster, who took over operations of the Press until his death in 1654, when the business was turned over to Harvard College.

Intriguingly, a number of Jewish women were among the pioneers of photography. In traditional Judaism, the primary role of a woman is that of wife and mother, the keeper of the household. The typical Jewish woman, sometimes herself a seamstress working from home, was the wife of a craftsman or shopkeeper. She was barely visible in early communal and religious life. Public Judaism was reserved for males. Mass immigration forced changes upon the community. Concentrated in large urban centres women sought employment in textile and tobacco factories, assisted husbands in workshops, or kept shops themselves. Many women combined employment and care of their children by working out of their homes. Increasingly, they made their presence felt by joining the debate on social justice and emancipation. For many middle class women, however, staying indoors remained the norm. Careers outside the home were not encouraged. Women were expected to play a role in philanthropic activities (‘domestic feminism’), while upholding the myth of pure and pious homemakers.

The participation of women in photography goes back to the very origins of the process. Like in printing earlier in history, initially it was a case of partnerships. Several of these female photographers were married to male practitioners or had close relationships with their families. It was above all in northern Europe that women first entered the business of photography, opening studios in Austria, Germany, and Scandinavia from the 1840s. Bertha Beckman was the first Jewish, and perhaps the first European photography professional. In 1843, she established a studio in Leipzig together with her husband. In 1848, on the death of her partner, she took over the operation of their atelier. Thereafter she opened a chain of stores, including one in Vienna and another in New York. Photography flourished in Vienna.

In this city, Adèle Perlmutter-Heilperin together with her brothers Max and Wilhelm founded the Atelier Adèle in 1862. The studio prospered and around 1890 it was named Photographer to the Imperial Court. Dora Kallmus was born in 1881 into a Viennese Jewish family of lawyers. In 1905, she was the first woman to be admitted to the art and design courses at the prominent Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt in Vienna. That same year she became a member of the Vienna Photographic Society. Together with Arthur Benda, she opened a studio in 1907. The Benda-D’Ora Studio was so successful that they started another business in Paris in 1924. Having settled in the French capital, Dora became famous for her society and fashion photography during the 1930s and 1940s. Her subjects included Josephine Baker, Maurice Chevalier, Colette, Alban Berg, and many other prominent figures in French cultural life. Russian-born Ida Kar had settled in London in 1945 and quickly became a leading portrait photographer of the many artists and writers living in Soho during the early 1950s. Her most famous portraits include those of Jacob Epstein and Bertrand Russell. In 1960 she exhibited her work at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, the first solo photography show held in a major public art gallery in London. Women have achieved many ‘firsts’ in the history of photography.

British intellectual and cultural life profited enormously from the departure of Jewish talent from the Continent during the 1930s. The exodus included a number of outstanding women photographers. Gerti [Gertrude Helene] Deutsch was born in Vienna in 1908. She trained as a professional pianist at the Vienna Academy of Music, but her concert career ended when she developed an inflammation of the nerves in her arms. She switched to photography. During the build up towards the Anschluss of 1938 she moved to Paris where she earned a living as a photojournalist. In 1938 she settled in London, working from a studio in New Bond Street, and started photographing for the Picture Post, Britain’s premier photojournalistic magazine.

A German Jewish girl, one of several hundred who have arrived in Britain as part of the 'Kindertransport', at Dovercourt Bay camp, near Harwich in Essex, 1938. Their names and addresses are kept secret to protect those they left behind. Original Publication: Picture Post - 42 - Their First Day In England - pub. 17th December 1938 (Photo by Gerti Deutsch/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Her first assignment for the Post was ‘Kindertransport’ (1938), a series of images showing the passage of German-Jewish children to safety in Britain. Her preoccupation with music was reflected in her portraiture. She created images of the most celebrated musicians of the day, including Arturo Toscanini, Benjamin Britten and Yehudi Menuhin. In 1948 she returned to Vienna to document the city after the Nazis surrendered control to the Allies. Gerti Deutsch captured the turbulent 1930s and 1940s in a series of iconic images.

Dorothy Bohm was born Dorothea Israelit in 1924 in Königsberg (now: Kaliningrad), East Prussia, into a German-speaking family of Jewish-Lithuanian origins. She was sent to Britain in 1939 to escape Nazism and studied photography at the Manchester Municipal College of Technology. In 1946 she set up her own portrait studio. Having travelled extensively, she settled in London in 1956, living at no. 15 Church Row, Hampstead. By the late 1950s, she abandoned studio portraiture in favour of ‘street photography’. In 1971, Bohm co-founded (with Sue Davies) the Photographers’ Gallery at no. 16/8 Ramillies Street, Soho, the first independent British gallery devoted entirely to photography. She worked as its Associate Director for the next fifteen years. Dorothy Bohm is generally considered as one of the doyennes of British photography. The splendid careers of these women underlines that, more often than not, emigration functions as a power of liberation and an unshackling of conventional ideas and customs.



Photographer Oscar Gustaf Rejlander was born in 1813 in Sweden, but nothing is known about his early life. He apparently studied art in Rome in the 1830s and supported himself there by working as a portrait painter and copyist of old masters. He was in England by 1841. In 1845 he had settled at no. 42 Darlington Street, Wolverhampton, where he opened a painter’s studio. He took up photography in 1853 and two years later began to exhibit his photographic compositions consisting of portraits, landscapes, nudes, anatomical studies, and subject pictures.


His genre photographs earned him the reputation as one of Britain’s leading photographers. His ‘Night in Town’ (also known as ‘Homeless’), depicting a child in rags huddled on a doorstep, was used by the Shaftesbury Society for over a hundred years to highlight the plight of homeless children. In the spring of 1862 Rejlander moved to London and settled in Malden Road, Chalk Farm. On the relationship between photography and painting, he insisted that artists had as much to learn from photography about observation and draughtsmanship as photographers had to learn from painting about composition and expression. Contemporary critics described him as ‘the father of art photography’. As a portraitist Rejlander photographed several illustrious sitters, including Alfred Tennyson, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), Henry Taylor, Charles Darwin, Gustave Doré, and Prince Albert. In 1868 he opened a richly furnished studio opposite Victoria Station. It was soon after this move that Charles Darwin entered his shop. Rejlander supplied Darwin with nine illustrations for his The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). The photograph illustrating ‘mental distress’, that of an infant boy wailing, known as ‘Ginx’s Baby’ after the popular novel by James E. Jenkins, became a best-seller. He died in January 1875 at his home at no. 23 East Cottages, Clapham.


Frederic Albert was born in Frankfurt in 1733. He served at the Court of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and accompanied Princess Sophie Charlotte in September 1761 to England as her page and hairdresser when she was engaged to marry George III. His daughter Charlotte was born in 1765. She was appointed Assistant Keeper of the Wardrobe in 1797/8 and later became Reader to Queen Charlotte as well. She married Mr Papendiek, a servant and musician to George III.

Both continued the family tradition of being faithful servants to the Court of St James’s. Charlotte Papendiek began her retrospective journal of the ‘Court and Private Life in the Time of Queen Charlotte’ in 1833, continuing the work until her death in 1839. Her memoirs cover the first thirty years of George III’s reign until 1792. The diary was published by her granddaughter in 1886. The journal is a valuable source of information for George III’s court in a time of turmoil. Britain lost its colonies in the War of American Independence and the European political system changed dramatically in the wake of the French Revolution. In addition, problems with the King’s health led to a constitutional crisis.


Art historian Bruno Adler was born in Karlsbad, Bohemia, on 14 October 1888 into a Jewish family. His father was editor of the social democratic newspaper Volkswille. From 1910 to 1916, he studied art history, literature, and philosophy at universities in Vienna, Erlangen and Munich, acquiring his doctorate in 1917 with a dissertation on the origin of woodcuts. From 1919 to 1924, Adler lectured on art history at the Bauhaus and between 1920 and 1930 he taught at the Weimar Saxon-Grand Ducal Art School.

After the Nazis seized power, he was forced to flee to Prague. In 1936, he went to England. Writing under the pseudonym (and anagram) Urban Roedl, he released a biography of Stifter with the publisher Ernst Rowohlt, who was afterward prohibited by the Nazis from working, having been charged with disguising Jewish writers. Adler taught at Bunce Court School, a German-Jewish school in Kent founded by refugee Anna Essinger with help from British Quakers. It was a haven for many young children who had arrived on the Kindertransports. During the war, Adler worked in the German Service of the BBC at Broadcasting House, Portland Place, which had begun broadcasting in German in September 1938. Among its early contributors were novelist Thomas Mann.

Under the guise of literary entertainment, these German-language programs produced British propaganda, using established native-speaking writers in exile. Adler created the satirical ‘Frau Wernicke’, a program broadcast from summer 1940 to January 1944. The lead role, disgruntled Frau Gertrud Wernicke from Berlin who launches hilariously subversive tirades against the Nazis, was voiced by the exiled German actress and cabaret artist Annemarie Hase. It became one of the most popular programs of the BBC’s German Service. After the war he edited the monthly German-language magazine Neue Auslese aus dem Schrifttum der Gegenwart. In 1958, Adler, again writing as Roedl, re-issued his 1936 biography of Stifter. He died in December 1968.


Photographer Nicolaas Henneman was born in Heemskerk on 8 November 1813. Having worked in Paris for a while, he arrived in England around 1835. He was employed as valet to William Fox Talbot at Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire, where he assisted in preparations and printing, and he took many photographs himself. He accompanied Talbot on photographic expeditions around Britain, and in 1843 the pair ventured into France, securing important photographs later published in The Pencil of Nature (1844/6: the first first commercially published book illustrated with photographs).

Later that year, Henneman left Talbot’s employ to set up the world’s first dedicated photographic printing works at no. 8 Russell Terrace in Reading. Unable to sustain that operation he moved to London in 1847, this time in a business largely owned by Talbot but called Nicolaas Henneman’s ‘Sun Picture Rooms’ at no. 122 Regent Street. In 1848 he was joined by the young chemist Thomas Augustine Malone, and by the next year Henneman & Malone were billing themselves as ‘Photographers to the Queen’. While Henneman taught many successful photographers, he never achieved true artistry himself. In the increasingly competitive photographic world of the 1850s he lost out. By 1859 financial difficulties had overwhelmed him and he shut down his business.


In the 1860s Henneman worked as an operator for other photographers in Scarborough and Birmingham. He died in London in January 1898. Henneman’s major claim to fame was his involvement in the publication of the first photographically illustrated book on art. To the three volumes of text of William Stirling’s Annals of the Artists of Spain (1848) was added a limited edition volume of sixty-six photographic illustrations. These were the first photographs ever published of Spanish paintings, drawings, sculpture and prints, by artists including El Greco, Velázquez, Murillo, Zurbarán, Ribera and Goya, in addition to examples of architectural designs and book illustrations. The photographs were taken by Henneman who used the Talbotype (or Calotype) process invented by Talbot. The book has become extremely rare. Only fifty copies of the Annals were produced, and their deterioration, due to daylight, chemicals and other factors, began immediately.


Organ builder John Snetzler  was born Johann Schnetzler in Schaffhausen in 1710. He trained with the firm of Egedacher in Passau and initially worked in partnership with his cousin Johann Conrad Speisegger. He may have joined Christian Müller in building the famous organ in the Bavokerk in Haarlem. Snetzler arrived in London around 1742 and worked from premises in Oxford Street. He collaborated on occasion with piano maker Jacob Kirkman. His organ for St Margaret’s at King’s Lynn in 1754 earned him the praise of Charles Burney. For the next fifteen years his skills were in continuous demand all over Britain. He was naturalised in 1770, but returned to Schaffhausen in 1780 where he died in September 1785. His thriving business was continued by Swedish immigrant Jonathan Ohrmann and later taken over by Thomas Elliot.



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