'Harry Gordon Dorrett, Also Taking Part', by Ralph Rimmer
The Biography of
H. G. Dorrett
Who is Mr Dorrett? The Early Years The Photographer Business Success Photographic Success Acknowledgments
Martin's early successes and his interest in mechanical and electrical advances in photographic equipment, including an autofocusing enlarger which he designed (1 p,68), contributed to the view that Martin was the dominant partner. However, Dorrett had been a professional photographer for several years before the partnership. Mrs. Dorrett told the Chorley family that it was Dorrett's picture of the funeral of Queen Victoria that established the partnership. He alone of the assembled photographers climbed to the top of the Marble Arch to make the exposure. The success of the resultant photograph provided a surer financial foundation of the business(3 pp, 34-36). Dorrett' s professionalism was confirmed by his inclusion in the fifth list of members of the newly-formed Professional Photographers' Association ( 11 ).
The partnership lasted a long time for such associations from April 1st, 1899 , to December 31st, 1926. In all that time Martin recorded just one instance of a social relationship with his partner. On September 3rd, 1909, the Martins received a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Dorrett ( 2 p. 108). When the business was wound up Martin retired to grow fuchsias, take part in club photography and to lecture to camera clubs about his early work. For example, he gave an illustrated talk to the Croydon Camera Club on November 24th, 1937, on stormy seas pictures taken at Hastings in 1896 (2 p. 109; 1 p, 188). His latter years were marred by criticisms that his candid photojournalistic street scenes were inartistic snapshots (12) and he and his innovatory work were forgotten. Beaton and Buckland (12) averred that his latter years were spent in semi-poverty and that he was presumed dead in 1942 although his actual death was in 1944. His will showed a total of effects of £4,713-0s-ld.
After the dissolution of the partnership, it was reported that after installing new machinery Dorrett was continuing the business at 382, Streatham High Road, SW16, (13) but a correction followed (14). It does appear that Dorrett had plans to utilise these premises as his brother, Ross, was living at that address until 1930 although local directories only ever listed the premises as residential. They were pulled down, with the house next door, to make the Streatham Ice Rink in 1932.Family Moves
In 1930 Dorrett moved to The Manor House, 341, London Road, Mitcham where he was joined by his brother, Ross Dorrett with his wife, Edith, and their son, Ross, and by Herbert Gordon Dorrett. All had residential qualifications as voters on the Mitcham list of electors and the Manor House appeared well able to provide studio, office and residential accommodation. In 1931 Edith Jess Dorrett became a resident also and in 1932, the year in which Ross Dorrett (Senr.) died, she was joined by John and Celia Nelson, relatives of Mrs. Dorrett. In 1935-36, only Harry Dorrett was listed as a resident. He continued to appear in the electoral register as a residential voter until 1939 but not again until 1952. Mrs. Dorrett never appeared as a resident, of the Manor House. It seems that she continued to run the home at Brookview Road.
Dorrett's niece, Ivy Gertrude Nelson, trained as a sculptress in a London School of Art, probably the Slade, and exhibited a bust of Dorrett in the Royal Academy 1932 Exhibition(Exhibit No. 1571) (25). On 1st June, 1933, Ivy married Ernest Edward Minnion, a life assurance inspector, the son of a bank manager. Their daughter, Faith Elizabeth, was born at 56, Sistova Road, SW12, on June 4th. 1934. The arrival of a 'granddaughter' or, in actuality, a great-niece, brought great joy to Dorrett according to Mrs. Joy Pegrum, former neighbour and friend. Inevitably photographs of Faith Elizabeth growing up were taken in the Manor House studio.
Dorrett appeared more frequently in the Mitcham lists of electors than he did in Kelly's Directories. However, Kelly's 1938 Surrey Directory listed H. G. Dorrett's Multiple Photo-printing works at 341, London Road, The Manor House, where Dorrett undertook the production of stills, showcards, posters etc. for use outside cinemas and theatres. In 1942 members of the Mitcham Civic Society visited the Manor House. They found a red brick house standing in a lovely garden. The roof was tiled and there was an imposing doorway of the Doric order, The house was believed to have been built in the 17th century but largely rebuilt about 1716. At one time it was said to have been in the hands of the Cranmer family when it was used as a farmhouse and enlarged with servants' quarters.
The visitors saw works of art around the house and life-size photographs of natural history subjects and well-known film stars of the day. These were described as being most artistically reproduced and coloured (15). Mrs. Dorothy Chorley (nee Williams) a relative of Dorrett's neighbours in Brookview Road, was employed as a colour tinter.
Eric Montague has recorded Dorrett's interest in furnishing especially in collecting pieces which were contemporaneous with the age of the Manor House (16). Wendy Scott, a local journalist, reported a visit in 1958 in which she listed many unusual items including an old-fashioned linen press, a 1744 bible in a glass case and an embroidered sewing guard used by ladies in the Georgian era (17).