Family Names

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

From Tightrope Walker to Photographer

 Richard Ellis professional photographer

Richard Ellis was born 27 January 1842. He was the son of James Ellis (shoemaker) and Sarah Jardine (from Pounds Passage John Row).[i]  James and Sarah already had 5 children and later would have 7 more. Richard was baptised seven years later on 4 March 1849 in St Mark Myddleton Square, Clerkenwell, Middlesex, with two of his younger siblings, Charles and Emily.  According to Richard’s record of baptism, at the time the family were residing at number 2 of an indecipherable street in Myddelton Square, Islington.[ii]

According to the 1851 census, at the age of 9 Richard was living with his parents at 5 Garden Row, Finsbury, in Middlesex, England. His older siblings were also at this address, and all but one were working as servants. His father was a Boot & Shoe Maker.[iii]

Photographer Richard Ellis, studio self-portrait, 1900, Malta accessed 22 February 2021

Richard started work with James and Sara Conroy as a circus performer, possibly as an apprentice tightrope walker. He travelled with the Conroys throughout Europe. During a trip to Paris, James Conroy and Richard Ellis became interested in photography and attended the Daguerre Institute. They later travelled throughout Italy and Sicily, but events related to the Italian unification led them to move to the nearest British colony, the Crown Colony of Malta. James, Sarah Conroy, their 1 year old baby Adelaide Anceschi, and Richard Ellis arrived in Malta on 9 April 1861 on a ship called Capitole[iv] [v]

Photographer Richard Ellis, The Ellis Studio on Kingsway (Republic Street) in the late 19th century, 1 January 1900, malta, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons,_The_Ellis_Studio_on_Kingsway,_Valletta.jpg

After arriving in Malta, James Conroy set up a photographic studio in Senglea, with Richard acting as his assistant/apprentice. Richard married Alphone Curmi, aged 17, on 9 February 1864 in Malta, he was 18 years of age.[vi] [vii] Richard set up his own photographic studio in 1871 in Valletta, Malta.

Two examples of Negative sleeves from the Richard Ellis Photographic Studio

Richard died on 23 December 1924 in Valetta, Malta.[viii]

Photographer Jan Beamish, Examining Richard Ellis’s original photographic equipment camera, The Richard Ellis Archive Malta, 26 September 2012 [T299]

Sepia Saturday: Using Old Images As Prompt for New Reflections – Prompt 558 

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Further Reading

·         'Malta: The Richard Ellis Archive 1862-1924' accessed 22 Feb. 21

·         Business today, The last of the Ellises,  Wednesday, 21 May 2008 accessed 22 February 2021

· accessed 20 February 2021

·         “Richard Ellis: The Man And His Legacy”,  Malta Independent, Sunday, 13 May 2012, 00:0 accessed 20 February 2021

·         Why Englishman Richard Ellis deserves a monument in Malta by Melanie Drury 30 December 2018 accessed 20 February 2021

·         Richard Ellis – the man, his times and his pictures by Marika Azzopardi 2012, ARTICLES, ISSUE 6 - 2012, LIBRARY, THESYNAPSE MAGAZINES, THESYNAPSE ONLINE  published on line January 16, 2020 accessed 20 February 2021

 Sources for Text

[i] General Register Office, England, Birth Certificate for Richard Ellis born 27 January 1842, the son of James Ellis (shoe maker) and Sarah Ellis formerly Jardin born at 2 Pounds Passage John Row GRO Reference: 1842 M Quarter in SAINT LUKE MIDDLESEX Volume 02 Page 273

[ii]  Baptism of Richard Ellis baptised 4 March 1849, born 26 May 1842 the son of James (shoemaker) and Sarah Harriet Ellis residing at 2 [unable to read address] Place, Myddelton Square St Mark, Islington parish register for baptisms 1849-1917 entry 36, page 5, year 1849; London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1917 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Citing London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: p76/mrk/003 Year: 1849-1871

[iii] 851 English Census HO107/1521/33/42

[iv] Wikipedia contributors, "Adelaide Conroy," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,  (accessed February 22, 2021). Citing Casha, Kevin (2016). Photography in Malta – The History & The Protagonists. Malta: BDL books.

[v] Wikipedia contributors, "Richard Ellis (Maltese photographer)," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed February 22, 2021).

[vi] Public Registry Office of Valletta, Malta, Marriage Certificate Richard Ellis & Alfonsa Curmi (13 February 1864)

[vii] accessed 20 February 2021

[viii] Death Certificate Richard Ellis, Malta

1 comment:

  1. I was checking on Sepia Saturday and spotted your story on the sidebar. Richard Ellis seems to have led a sensible risk-free life after his circus career. A few years ago I wrote a story on a Canadian photographer who was also a tightrope walker. He walked across the Niagara river. There can't have been many people who combined photographer and funambulist.


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