Albert Mahomet

 

 

Sources:

Clare Everitt, Norfolk through a Lens, (Norfolk Library and Information Service, 2012)

Rozina Visram, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History, (Pluto Press, 2002)

Mike Welland, Albert John Mahomet, Evangelist and Wells Photographer, (Wells Local History Group Newsletter, 28, December 2004)

 

----------------------------------------    

 

Albert Mahomet may well have been the first British-born professional photographer of Asian descent. He was also one of the very few Victorian Asians to publish a personal memoir: From Street Arab to Pastor (1894).

 

Albert John Mahomet was born in Poplar, East London, on 29th April 1858. His mother, Audrey (née Jenkerson), came from Wells, and his father, John, was a merchant seaman originating from Calcutta. The couple remained in East London until their sixth child was born, and then John deserted his family and returned to Calcutta.

 

Mrs Mohamet struggled to provide for her family, and much of Albert’s childhood was spent in poverty. Eventually his mother gave up trying to manage and took to drink, leaving the youngsters to fend for themselves. They occasionally found work for a few coppers, but this income was supplemented by begging and stealing until, in about 1867, Mrs Mohamet was arrested for brawling in the street. The children were then placed in the Limehouse Workhouse. But Albert and two sisters were subsequently sent on to Norfolk and the Thursford Union Workhouse (on the grounds that, under the Poor Law, the authorities of their mother’s place of origin were responsible for them.) Albert was eventually rescued from the workhouse by his uncle, William Jenkerson, and taken to live in Wells.

 

In Wells Albert worked first as a domestic servant, then for a doctor (who dismissed him for setting up a trade in the surgery’s medical stock), and finally for Samuel Gooch, a farmer who was also Superintendent of the Wesleyan Sunday School. It may be that Gooch’s influence contributed to the changing course of Albert’s life in the following years.

 

As a young man, Mahomet moved to Lincoln, where worked for a blacksmith. But he also became a Methodist Sunday School teacher, a lay preacher and a temperance campaigner. He went on to tour the country as a preacher, and it was during this period that he met fellow-evangelist, Paulina Gill, whom he married in December 1881.

 

In around 1890 Albert returned to Norfolk and spent about three years acting as pastor to the Yarmouth fishing community. In 1893 he and Paulina moved back to Wells, where he continued to preach, but where he also took up photography. He opened a studio in Theatre Street and, possibly, another in Freeman Street, and his output included both portraits and local scenes. His memoir was written in the early part of his time in Wells, but it makes no mention of his photographic work.

 

Mahomet moved to Leeds (where he opened another studio) in 1906.

 

 

Return to studio notes index

 

Return to home page