by Louise Kelly, BA History Student
The Armstrong Photographs (P6A) comprise 85 boxes (2,147 files) held at Special Collections. The items exist in different forms – photograph albums, prints, negatives, metal and glass plates, slides and film – mostly taken of and by Captain Marcus Beresford Armstrong, his wife and children and their extended family and friends. The images pertain predominantly to the years between 1890 and 1960. The focus of this blog is on photographs relating to the 1927 wedding of Lisalie Maude Armstrong, the eldest child of Captain Armstrong and his wife Rosalie Cornelia ‘Muz’ Armstrong.
The Armstrong Family
Lisalie Armstrong was born in 1897 and lived with her family in Moyaliffe castle, Tipperary. Her father worked in the military and inherited the estate from his cousin Captain Edward Marcus Armstrong. The castle had been the home of the Armstrongs since 1695 when Thomas Armstrong bought the estate. The castle was built by the Butler family in the early fourteenth century. Lisalie had three siblings- William Maurice Armstrong, Cornelia Ione Kathleen Armstrong and Winona Rosalie Armstrong. After William passed away, Captain Marcus Beresford Armstrong passed the house down to Winona. Lisalie’s parents had a difficult marriage and eventually separated when the war began.
The Bride: Lisalie
The photograph (P6A/226), dated 8 June 1927, by Lenare of London, showing Lisalie Armstrong in her wedding dress, holding a bouquet of flowers as she glances down at the ground. The flowers appear to be a combination of roses and baby’s breath flowers. The couple’s choice of flowers are noteworthy- the rose is still a popular wedding flower, symbolising love and romance. The baby’s breath flower symbolises everlasting romance. The portrait is a large full-length studio portrait measuring 268mm x 353 mm.
The bride is wearing a white wedding gown down to her ankles, with a pair of satin white boots underneath. She has a long white veil covering her hair, which trails down to the floor at her feet. The front of the veil appears to be an embroidery pattern while the rest of it is transparent. The dress has long satin sleeves, and the end of the dress is embroidered with lace. Lenare was a society photographer active in London from the 1920s to the 1970s, and several of his portraits can be found in the UK’s National Portrait Gallery.
The Couple: Lisalie and Odo
The photograph (P6A/229) was taken at the studio of Bassono of London. Alexander Bassano (1829–1913) had established one of the most important photographic portrait studios of the Victorian era. His sitters included royalty, aristocracy, politicians, and leading names from the military, sciences and arts. After Bassano retired in 1901, the studio continued until the 1980s and retained its founder’s name. Most of the studio’s negatives, dating from the 1870s to the 1970s, are now held at the UK’s National Portrait Gallery.
The full-length mounted wedding portrait measures 315mm x 417 mm (including the frame). It shows Lisalie Armstrong and her new husband Lieutenant Odo George Henry Russell (1899–1980) holding hands on their wedding day. Odo was from Broadmead Manor, Folkestone, Kent. He was Major of The Black Watch (the Royal Scottish Regiment), like his father – George William Henry Russell – and retired in 1936. However, he returned to the army when during World War II. He was captured by German troops after being wounded in action but he was released from captivity in late March 1945.
In this wedding portrait, Odo is pictured wearing a black suit and tie, accompanied by black and white leather shoes. Clothing could tell society about a person’s social status. How people chose to represent themselves with their clothing was very important, particularly on special personal and family occasions – as seen with Lisalie and Odo’s wedding.
The bridal party
The third and final photograph discussed here is a full-length group wedding portrait (P6A/230), by Bassono of London. In this image, measuring 412 mm x 366 mm, we see the bride and groom, with two bridesmaids to their right and one on their left. There are two pageboys beside the bridesmaids. The two males standing opposite the groom are unnamed, however it is likely they could be the groom’s father and best man. Both of the girls are wearing satin dresses, with scarves tied around their heads. The boys wear frilled shirts along with satin pants and leather shoes, while the older men wear suits similar to the groom. The formal wedding attire of the family suggest the group was wealthy, as they stand looking orderly and sophisticated in their garments.
While portraits may have intrinsic value as visual artworks, they are also important historical records of appearance and promote research for biographical and historical information. Reading photographs requires close visual analysis and the clues found may be interpreted to learn more about the individuals or groups featured, providing different perspectives to textual documentary sources.