For over 40 years Edward Chambré Hardman ran a photographic studio in Liverpool, earning his daily bread mostly by portraiture work whilst pursuing his own love of landscape work. He produced many iconic works of scenes around Merseyside and photographed a host of famous faces often associated with stage and cinema. Uniquely, his home and collection of prints and negatives remain intact over half a century after his retirement and can be visited at his former home which is managed by the National Trust.
He was born in Dublin on 25th November 1898, the son of land agent Edward Hardman. who was a keen amateur photographer. (It was later in life that he adopted the name Chambré to distinguish himself from his father). Edward became enthralled with the subject from an early age, winning prizes for his pictures whilst still at school.
In keeping with family tradition he served with the Indian Army from 1918 as a regular officer in the Gurkha Rifles, taking the opportunity to photograph the magnificent landscapes of the North West frontier. His time in India shaped his future life, as he became friends with Liverpool-born Captain Kenneth Burrell and the two agreed to open a portrait studio on completion of their tour of duty. In March 1923 they opened a studio at 51 Bold Street. Whilst they attracted some high-profile clients the business was slow to develop and Hardman had to supplement their income by repairing wireless sets. His own standing as a photographer was quickly established and after joining the Royal Photographic Society in 1925 he had two portraits accepted for exhibition. Kenneth Burrell left the business in 1929 but remained friends with Hardman for the rest of his life, who retained the name Burrell & Hardman.
In 1926 Margaret Mills joined the studio as an assistant and a mutual attraction between her and Hardman was soon established. They married on 10th August 1932 at Rainhill Parish Church and she would be a constant support and inspiration until her death in 1970.
In his early days in Liverpool Hardman lived at 66 Canning Street L8, moving to 53 Hope Street L1 in the 1930’s. He and Margaret lived on the Wirral for some years until 1949. At this point the lease on the Bold Street studio ran out, so they sold their house and moved to 59 Rodney Street L1.
He retired in 1965 but continued to produce work for some years. After his wife’s death in 1970 his own health and well-being declined, requiring long hospital stays and interventions from social services. He was visited by Peter Hagerty, director of the Open Eye gallery, who was aghast to see social services noble efforts to tidy the house involved filling bin bags with prints and negatives. Realising an important collection was imperilled he persuaded Hardman to establish a trust to preserve his work for posterity. In due course this was transferred to the National Trust.
Edward Chambré Hardman died at Sefton General Hospital on the 22nd April 1988.
The National Trust has in recent years sponsored a major project to restore and safely store Hardman’s vast collection of prints and negatives, with the intention that they can be made available to view online.
Hardman's home in the mid-1920's.
Hardman's home c.1935.
The Hardman home from 1949, now a National Trust managed property.
There is a comprehensive entry for Hardman in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and a fairly thorough Wikipedia entry. The booklet on 59 Rodney Street and Hardman's life are an excellent source. There is a report on the recent work to restore the collection on the website of the Birkenhead News. A visit to 59 Hardman Street is highly recommended.
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