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Henry Taunt's photographs of Radley College, 1870s to 1890s

Radley College bought the freehold of the estate at Radley Hall in 1889.  Although the school had been in residence here since 1847, most buildings were temporary structures.  Immediately in 1889 the school embarked on a major building programme, starting with the Rackets Court and continuing in each decade until the present day.

Henry W Taunt of Oxford was used intermittently by Radley College from at least the 1880s to create a permanent record of the growing school.  A trawl through Taunt’s surviving day books shows that he took over 60 different photographs of the College over a number of years; though Radley has a few extras for which there is no entry.

Taunt was born in Oxford in 1842 to ‘poor but respectable’ parents.  Aged 14 he joined the staff of Edward Bracher, a pioneer photographer with a shop on the High Street, and soon found himself entrusted with the outdoor (as opposed to studio) work.  He was retained as photographic manager when Wheeler & Day bought out the business in 1863.  This cutting edge technology – photography was barely two decades old – clearly suited his temperament.

Every inch the Victorian self-made man and entrepreneur, Taunt established his own business in 1868.  Despite (or perhaps because of) financial difficulties, he continued to work until his death in 1922.  In addition to the usual studio portraits, commissioned photography, local views and postcards, he published over fifty books and tourist guides, and a daily leaflet summarising the results of the Bumps.  Perhaps his best known book was A New Map of the Thames (first published 1872), on the strength of which he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.  He invented a mobile darkroom mounted on a punt so he could develop glass plates in the field.  His firm even branched out into general printing, window glass (a natural development from picture framing) and bicycle repairs (presumably inspired by the tourists who bought his guidebooks), while as a children’s entertainer he was in demand for lantern slide shows. 


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