Mt. Sefton


Stephen Spurling (1821 - 1892)

Vintage albumen paper print of Mount Sefton, New Zealand by Tasmanian photographer Stephen Spurling.

$A 100

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S/N: FOTO-SPUR-010–232638
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Full Title:

Mt. Sefton




Stephen Spurling (1821 - 1892)


In good condition.


Vintage albumen paper print.

Image Size: 

x 180mm
Mt. Sefton - Antique Print from 1889

Genuine antique



Vintage albumen paper print of Mount Sefton, New Zealand by Tasmanian photographer Stephen Spurling.


Stephen Spurling (1821-1892)

Photographer, government clerk, frame-maker and entrepreneur. In 1827, his father who was then serving aboard HMS Hind, became ill and died in Trincomalee, Ceylon (Sri Lanka). As a fatherless child, Stephen 1st was eligible to enter Christ’s Hospital (Blue Coat School) in London. He commenced his eight years of tuition there two days after his seventh birthday. In 1835, while he was still at school, his mother and youngest sister migrated to Tasmania. Stephen 1st completed his education in June 1836, and twelve months later, around the time of his sixteenth birthday, he, and his thirteen-year-old brother Ansley (1824-1888), embarked on the five-month journey to join their mother and sister in Hobart Town. They arrived aboard the Andromeda on 14 November 1837.

For a few years, Stephen 1st continued to work in the Convict Department, while in his spare time he produced crayon portraits. Then, when transportation ceased in 1853, he transferred to the Survey Department where he worked as a clerk. While here, he may well have encountered fellow Survey Department employee, William Charles Piguenit. Two years later, Stephen 1st joined the exodus to the goldfields, but the theft of his findings on his return in 1855 forced him to seek insolvency. In May the following year, he established a business in partnership with George Shepherd producing bespoke picture frames. His next business, called Spurling’s Bazaar, carried, amongst other items, magic lanterns, dissolving and cosmoramic views. His third business, which opened in August 1860, sold a range of goods including telescopes, microscopes, stereoscopes and stereoscope slides. When this venture failed in 1861, Stephen 1st was declared bankrupt.

In 1863 Stephen 1st, his wife and two of their sons travelled to New Zealand. Lured by the discovery of gold in Otago, the family settled in Invercargill, where they established a grocery and bakery, selling supplies to those en route to the diggings. However, their stay in New Zealand proved fraught with difficulties and they left early in 1864.

Back in Hobart Town, Stephen 1st established a photography studio at 76 Murray Street. Over the next decade, he earned a reputation for quality portraiture, and he achieved a number of distinctions. For example, in 1866 he was awarded a prestigious bronze medal at Intercolonial Exhibition in Melbourne, and in 1868, he contributed to an album presented to His Royal Highness Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh. Although his work was primarily studio-based, he did undertake some outdoor work. Despite his achievements, by 1875 Stephen 1st was once again facing bankruptcy. During the subsequent sale of his assets, fellow photographer Alfred Winter purchased his negative collection. For the next decade, Winter advertised Spurling portrait and landscape prints and enlargements for sale.

From 1875 onwards, Stephen 1st’s career was in decline. In 1881, he attempted to re-establish his studio, but this venture proved unsuccessful. By 1886, the deterioration in his mental health, combined with his impending paralysis, led to his admission to the asylum at New Norfolk. It is possible he was suffering from the long term effects of chemicals, such as mercury, which he had used during his early photographic experiments. He remained incarcerated until his death, from congestion of the kidneys, at the age of seventy, on 13 April 1892. His funeral was held the following day at St Matthew’s Church (Anglican), and he was buried in the New Norfolk Old Cemetery.

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