Edwardian Album

Two albums of Edwardian photographs containing over 1000 photographs, purchased by the City Museum from a local dealer in 1980.  Many are of Plymouth, local area and naval subjects. A number are taken in and around London and Kent and some are taken abroad during holidays or whilst on shore-leave.

Although the mounted photographs are small, they are mostly unique and good quality paper prints, many with captions. Dip into the albums online for photographs that often have a unique social, local and maritime history interest.

A detailed study of each image and every caption has enabled the City Museum to identify the owner and compiler of the albums. This was John Henry Palmer R.N. (1865 to?1951). It seems likely that John Palmer took most of the photographs.

About John Palmer [PDF]

Summary of album’s contents

The online catalogue of the Edwardian albums uses broad subject headings of: Devon and Cornwall; Family; Holidays; London and South East; Royal Navy; Royal Palaces; Sports; ‘Terra Nova’. There are sub-headings within these categories to help fine tune your search.

There are some subject ‘cross-overs’. For example, the ‘Devon and Cornwall’ category is largely of Plymouth and Devonport subjects, but Plymouth interest photographs can also be found in the ‘Royal Navy’ and ‘Sports’ categories.

Please do not limit yourself to looking only for photographs of Plymouth and its environs. The album includes photographs of the Suffragettes marching in London, canal haulage and hop picking in Kent. The Palmers visited the Terra Nova before she sailed with Scott to the South Pole. The category ‘Royal Navy (Shore Leave)’ also includes a few photographs of Canada, the Caribbean, Ireland, Malta and Spain.

Royal Naval interest

The online catalogue category ‘Royal Navy’ has the following subject sub-headings: Boats; Funerals; On Board; Ship Launch; Ships; Shore Leave; Submarines; Training; Training Ships; Wreck of HMS Montagu. Once again there is some subject ‘cross-over’, so it pays to search carefully.

The scope of Palmer’s R.N. career and interests, and his associated photographic opportunity, is reflected within the collection. Palmer was in Plymouth when HMS Hibernia, HMS Temeraire and HMS Lion were built and launched. He witnessed the funeral cortege for the crew of the Submarine A8. Torpedoes and torpedo training feature strongly.


Ships identified through cataloguing – variously at sea, at anchor and sometimes in dry dock include: Albion (1898); Amphitrite (1898); Andromeda (1897); Apollo (1891); Argyll (1904); Blake (1889); Carnarvon (1903); Canopus (1897); Colossus (1910); Confiance (tug); Crescent (1892); Cumberland (1902); Defence (1907); ‘Diadem Class’ Cruiser; Duncan (1901); Exmouth (1901); Fervent (1895); Glory (1899); Hibernia (1905); Jupiter (1895); King Alfred (1901); Leander (1882); Linnet (tender); Lion (1910); Monmouth (1901); Niobe (1897); Ocean (1898); Patrol (1904); Proserpine (1896); ‘River Class’ Destroyer; Sentinel (1904); Sharpshooter (1888); Temeraire (1907); Theseus (1892); Torpedo Boats 86, 98, 99

HMS Montagu

Photo showing a large shipPerhaps the most important naval group record Palmer’s time aboard HMS Montagu (1901). There are numerous onboard and crew group photographs, plus an important series taken with the ship aground on Lundy Island in 1906 – and of the salvage attempts. It seems Palmer also submitted a selection of these wreck and salvage photographs to ‘Jane’s Fighting Ships’ – who published eight of them in 1907. It was Plymouth City Museum’s acquisition of the brass ‘M’ of Montagu that had led to Plymouth’s initial added interest in purchasing the Palmer album.


These Edwardian albums have long been a ‘treasure trove’ for reference images; used in local history books and museum exhibitions etc. The content has also long deserved the wider on-line access now offered – thanks to ‘Plymouth Pictured’, a digitisation and cataloguing project supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. The digitisation was prioritised because of the poor condition of the albums. Digitisation has ensured that each image is now copied and catalogued individually, at the same time capturing the relevant page layouts and page order, complete with captions. As a result, the original album and photographs can be archived and are no longer subjected to regular handling.

Can you help?

If you have additional, or corrected, information relating to any of the photographs in the Palmer albums, or about John Henry Palmer himself, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery would love to hear from you. Please email [email protected].