The People of Gibraltar
1861 - Browning and Dansey - Part 5

A good number of Browning Jnr’s photos were taken abroad during his stint with the Royal Navy. Dansey, however, seems to have been a bit of a stay at home rarely venturing anywhere not within a day’s journey of Plymouth. Nevertheless a single photograph taken in Scotland suggests that he may very well have done so in the past.

Dunrobin Castle, Scotland  - the four people in the foreground are unidentified but possibly members of Dansey’s family   

Whether he took any other photos in Scotland or indeed further afield I have no idea but there are certainly none of these in the album. On the other hand those taken of places within striking distance of Stoke Dameral are fairly numerous. The following examples include those that are both dated and directly attributed to him and those that are missing either the date or the attribute or both but which I am convinced were taken by him - most of them in the mid 1850s. 

Probably one of the entrances to Anthony House described in an 1812 guide to Plymouth as “The seat of the Right Hon. Reginald Pole Carew: an excellent house, situated in low ground near the St Germans River, of which it has pleasing views.”

The west doorway of St German’s Priory, Cornwall created out of local “greenstone” - It’s about 8 miles from Saltash   (Undated - Unattributed)

(1857 - George Dansey photographer - Browning Jnr printer)

Unknown location - Possibly Freddy sitting on the grass   (Undated - George Dansey photographer - Browning Jnr printer)

Unknown location and unknown lady, possibly a member of George Dansey’s family (Undated - Unattributed)

Gypsy Caravans - but the picnic in the foreground seems singularly un-gypsy like   (Undated - Unattributed)

Lady on an unknown bridge - possibly Mary, George Dansey’s wife   (Undated - Unattributed)

Railway Station - It looks very new - could it be the one at Ivybridge?    (Undated -Unattributed)

Unidentified building    (Undated - Unattributed)

Unidentified manor house     (Undated -Unattributed)

Unidentified river crossing        (Undated - Unattributed)

Unidentified cottage   (Undated -Unattributed)

I am not sure that this one is by either Dansey or Browning Jnr - It looks like a photograph cut out from elsewhere and stuck on to one of the pages of the album

Moving away from the album, the only other photograph I have ever come across attributed to Dansey is the one shown below held by the Getty Museum Collection.  

The Transfiguration by Rafael   (1860 - George Dansey)

If nothing else “The Transfiguration” seems to confirm Dansey’s odd enthusiasm for taking photographs of other people’s artistic creations - be they paintings or sculptures - or in fact other photographs as mentioned previously. The reason for this might have been that in so doing he was dealing with a subject that could be described as a “still life”. It eliminated the perennial exposure problem that photographers encountered at the time which often resulted in blurred results brought about by anything that moved while the photo was being taken. 

Whether this is the correct or not, a large number of these types of photos were included in the album. All those of statues, for example, including the one of Queen Victoria shown above, may very well be photos of photos that had been available at the Crystal Palace exhibition.

“Still life” photographs taken by George Dansey    (From the album)

Meanwhile Browning Jnr now a married man continued his service in the Royal Navy as an assistant surgeon. Aboard HMS Cumberland he still found time to indulge in his hobby by taking the odd photograph here and there. 

HMS Achilles was an armour-plated rigged steamship built at Devonport Dockyard and launched in 1863 - “Rattling Down” meant that she was being fitted with rope ladders in preparation to sail - Although the top photo is unattributed I am sure it was taken by Browning Jnr in 1864 on the same day as the bottom one  

I am not sure about Browning's interested in HMS Achilles as the ship is not mentioned in his service record - Perhaps he was just interested in the ship because she was brand new and he may have known some of the crew   (1863 - Browning Jnr)

Browning continued on HMS Cumberland after she sailed back home from Malta in 1864. He was still on it when the Royal Navy promoted him to Naval Surgeon. 

The word “Our” in “Our Landing place” suggests that the photo was taken by Browning Jnr   (1864)

The following year in 1866 he became a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians in London. In effect he was now a fully fledged medical doctor. A few years later it would be time time to quit the Navy and set up his own private practice. He was now thirty four years old. Why he decided to do this in Littlebourne in Kent I am not sure. It is just about as far from Plymouth along the south coast of England as it is possible to get while being reasonably close to places like Sheerness, Gillingham and Chatham all of them familiar to him from his naval service days.  It was here that his son George Dansey was born in 1870. 

His third daughter Sofia Margaret, however, was born in Wandsworth, London in 1871 and a year later in 1872 Letitia Frances was born in nearby Bromley. In 1874 they seem to have still been living in London as this is where Irene - Browning’s fourth and last child was born.

The next few years were ones of more or less unrelieved gloom. In 1876 Browning Snr died. A year earlier the latter had appeared in the Medical Directory as the “Late Surgeon Parkhurst Prison, Isle of Wight”. It must have hurt to have been reminded of his dismissal and he probably went to his grave without ever finding out the reasons why. His third wife Emma followed him a couple of years later.

However much he may have grieved the loss of both his father and step-mother Browning Jnr continued to develop his medical career - in 1878 he was appointed Medical Officer of Health to the Vestry of Rotherhithe in London - the only medical doctor in quite a large organisation responsible for the health of the 30 000 people of Rotherhithe.  In 1879 he published an article in the Boston Journal of Chemistry on Medicine and Pharmacy in which he appeared to prove that diphtheria may be caused by polluted water.

Vaccination was yet another medical topic that interested him. This of course is not the place to enter into a discussion on the merits of process but perhaps it is worth mentioning that the Acts passed by Parliament to make it compulsory was met with astonishingly numerous anti-vaccination societies and journals that were all highly vociferous on the topic. All of which makes it less than surprising that when nearby Southwark Town Hall was rebuilt in 1872 as the “New” Vestry Hall a local historian described it with displeasure as:
 . . . very hot in summer and particularly draughty in winter. Externally an abortion, it was internally an infliction to all concerned. . . .  It is now used as a vaccination station, for which purpose it is no doubt well adapted.
Browning Jnr would have strongly disapproved of this ironic dismissal of a building almost certainly very like the one he worked in. He was apparently a believer and his remit would certainly have involved him in the vaccination of his patients. He certainly knew quite a bit about the procedure as in 1881 he published the probably unreadable Vaccination Direct from the Calf.

By now he was 43 years old, experienced as well as energetic enough to opt for an ego-boosting few years in which he published numerous pamphlets on all sorts of medical issues including one on the Hygiene in the Royal Navy in which his personal experiences must have come in handy, and a more general paper on Some Points in the Therapeutics of the Day.

A glowing report to the members of the Vestry on the improving sanitary conditions and better health of the parishioners of Rotherhithe - of which of course he was mainly responsible     (1881)

A year or so before he become an employee of the Vestry of Rotherhithe he applied to become and had been accepted as a Freeman of the City of London.  He did so by redemption - in other words he simply paid hard cash for the privilege. What is difficult to understand is why he bothered to pay for a title that gave him absolutely no privileges whatsoever. 


In 1883 he left Rotherhithe and set up shop as a general practitioner in Melcombe Regis in Weymouth perhaps slightly nearer to Plymouth which may have made it feel more like home than London. The practice lasted 8 years after which he took up a similar job as the one in Rotherhithe as Medical Officer for Weymouth. He retired in 1902 and moved house about 50 miles west to Sidmouth, where he died in 1919. His father-in-law and one time fellow amateur photographer George Dansy had long since passed away as well. He had died in 1870 the same year as had Browning Snr. 

In essence the only thing that remained as a legacy of their days as amateur photographers was a collection of about 100 photos spanning some 8 years of activity from 1856 to 1864 for Browning Jnr and about 7 from 1851 to 1858 for Dansey - although it is hard to be certain in Dansey’s case as many of his photo are not dated on the year in which he originally took them but rather the year they printed.