Mystery over girl featured in 102-year-old colour photos solved

June 11, 2015

The portrait of Christina, taken by Lieutenant Colonel Mervyn O’Gorman, seen by Stephen Riddle who was able to identify her after seeing images of the girl on stereoscopic slides
© National Media Museum, Bradford

The mystery girl featured in the 1913 autochrome portraits was first thought to be Christina, the daughter of Mervyn O’Gorman, the amateur photographer who took them.

They were recently published in connection with an exhibition of the Royal Photographic Society Collection at the National Media Museum (NMM) in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

But research showed that O’Gorman had no children.

After seeing the shots, Stephen Riddle contacted the NMM to say he had a set of stereoscopic slides (see below) by the same photographer, Mervyn O’Gorman, passed to him by his father-in-law.

Captions on the slides refer to Edwyn and Daisy Bevan, along with ‘the children’, Anne and Christina.

The autochrome pictures – not previously seen by anyone at the museum – show the children in various places, including a beach at West Lulworth in Dorset and on Chelsea Embankment, London.

Stereo autochrome_Christina, Daisy & Anne, walking to the beach in West Lulworth. Courtesy Stephen Riddle.webChristina, Daisy & Anne, walking to the beach in West Lulworth – the location of Christina’s portrait shots, August 1913.
By Mervyn O’Gorman, courtesy of Stephen Riddle.

Colin Harding, curator of photographs and photographic technology at the National Media Museum, said: ‘We are very grateful to Mr Riddle for contacting us and it was a genuine thrill to see these images.

‘After all the recent attention Christina had been getting I hoped they would give us sufficient clues to finally confirm her identity. It turns out Christina wasn’t O’Gorman’s daughter. Indeed, she wasn’t a relative – either close or distant.’

Harding added: ‘Christina’s full name was Christina Elizabeth Frances Bevan. She was born in Harrow, London, on 8 March, 1897 and died in 1981. Christina was the daughter of Edwyn Robert Bevan (1870-1943), a prominent philosopher, writer on comparative religions and lecturer in Hellenistic Studies at King’s College, London.

‘On 25 April 1896, Edwyn married Hon Mary Waldegrave (born 1870), the daughter of Granville Waldegrave, 3rd Baron Radstock. Edwyn and Mary, who was known to family and friends as Daisy, had two daughters – Christina and Anne Cornelia Favell Bevan (1898-1983).

‘The Bevan family lived at 6 Chelsea Embankment – just a two-minute walk from the O’Gorman’s home at 21 Embankment Gardens.

‘The precise relationship between the two families still needs to be explored – perhaps Edwyn and Mervyn were members of the same club, or perhaps they shared a mutual interest in automobiles. Perhaps Mervyn O’Gorman’s wife, Florence, and Daisy were friends.

‘Whatever the link, both families were clearly on friendly, first-name terms. Certainly, the friendship was sufficient for Mervyn to accompany Daisy and her two daughters on a trip to Lulworth Cove in August 1913, where he took portraits of Christina.’

The portraits are on display in the NMM exhibition, Drawn by Light: The Royal Photographic Society Collection, until 21 June.

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