Caroline Swain Taylor thumbnail_DSCF1605Caroline Taylor née Cancellor

Photograph with kind permission of Lacy Scott & Knight LLP

Caroline Taylor (1810-1876) was an early, previously unknown, photographer whose calotype images recently came to light in an auction of photographic ephemera in December 2017.

Caroline Cancellor was born on 16th January 1810, the youngest of five and the only daughter of stockbroker John Cancellor and Caroline Hall.[1]  Within two months Caroline suffered the fate of many nineteenth century infants regardless of social standing; her mother died.  John Cancellor never remarried but, despite this tragedy, the family lived a comfortable life on Upper Gower Street, St Pancras, London, just a twenty minute walk from her future husband at Great Marlborough Street in Soho.[2]

Caroline’s father left a generous inheritance, augmented three years later by her brother Richard’s bequest in 1834.  She was now the lease holder of a fashionable residence at Cambridge Place near Regent’s Park and this was to become her marital home.  On 11th July 1834 Caroline married Alfred Swaine Taylor (1806–1880), an aspiring doctor and lecturer, specialising in forensic medicine.

One year into their marriage, Caroline and Alfred’s son Richard Alfred was born but survived only five months and died in January 1836.  Eight years later their only child Edith Caroline completed the Taylor family.

Caroline assisted her husband in revising his books for publication including On Poisons in Relation to Medical Jurisprudence and Medicine (1847), even though the subjects covered included the most abhorrent imaginable.[3] 

Alfred Swaine Taylor took an immediate interest in the new scientific discovery of photogenic drawing by William Henry Fox Talbot, announced in January 1839.  He was a skilled chemist and responded to Talbot’s invention, suggesting improvements to the fixing process, with a publication On the Art of Photogenic Drawing, published in the summer of 1840. 

The British Medical Journal stated “It should be mentioned that his wife, whom he only survived four years, identified herself with all his pursuits…” [4]so there can be little doubt that she shared his great interest in photography. 

Calotype photographs marked “CT” were discovered among the December 2017 auction at Lacy Scott & Knight in Bury St Edmunds.  These faded salt prints depicted views of English landscapes, Kenilworth, Tintern, Hampstead, Hampton Court and Highgate, also Continental views such of Rome and Pompeii.[5] 


DSCF1263 Forum of Rome, Dec 1848, CT July 1848

Salt Print From Calotype View

Forum of Rome, Dec 1848, CT July 1848.  Conflicting dates (1849 added in bold) and additional title added as ‘Roman Forum’[6]


In addition to these views Caroline was interested in using photography to reproduce works of art.  Thirteen photographic prints annotated “CT” depicted copies of engravings by Rembrandt, Landseer, De la Roche, Pinelli and Bonnington.

Caroline may have been the “Mrs Taylor” exhibiting two photographs in 1856 at the Exhibition of the Norfolk and Norwich Fine Arts’ Association; and the Photographic Society.[7]

Caroline Taylor died on 8th February 1876 and is buried at Highgate Cemetery with her husband.[8]

The discovery of her photographs 141 years later shines new light on her status as Alfred Swaine Taylor’s wife, acknowledging her as one of a growing collection of quiet pioneers from the dawn of photography.



My grateful thanks to Darran Green for his introduction and information regarding Caroline Taylor. 

Also Helen Barrell whose excellent biography of Alfred Swaine Taylor contained important references to Caroline’s life.

Also Edward Crichton ASFAV, Lacy Scott & Knight LLP for his assistance with catalogue image permission.


Recommended Reading:

Barrell, Helen, Fatal Evidence: Professor Alfred Swaine Taylor & the Dawn of Forensic Science, (Barnsley: Pen & Sword History 2017)


[1] Baptism record of Old Church,Saint Pancras,London May 3rd 1810 also lists date of birth as 16th January 1810  Accessed 10/04/2018

[2] Helen Barrell, Fatal Evidence: Professor Alfred Swaine Taylor & the Dawn of Forensic Science, (Barnsley: Pen & Sword History 2017) p.20

[3] “Obituary, Alfred Swaine Taylor, M.D., F.R.S.” British Medical Journal, June 12 1880, p.905-6 

“It should be mentioned that his wife, whom he only survived four years, identified herself with all his pursuits, and greatly assisted him in the revision of his work for the press.”

[4] ibid

[5] Darran P. M. Green, “Much Remains to be Done”- The Pioneering Work in Photography of Dr.Alfred Swaine Taylor – A Neglected History. 2018, Unpublished

[6] Darran P. M. Green The Taylor Collection: A Catalogue of Photogenic Drawings and Calotype Prints in Lot 1061 of Lacy Scott & Knight’s Home and Interiors Sale, Saturday 2 December 2017.

[7]  Accessed 01/04/2018

[8] Burial registers Highgate Cemetery : Caroline Taylor February 11th 1876 and Alfred Swain (sic) Taylor May 29th 1880