Frederick William Flower 1815-1889

Frederick William Flower
Born in Leith, Scotland, Frederick William Flower left England at the age of 19 and settled in Porto, where he is remembered as a pioneer of photography in Portugal and author of the oldest photographs of local scenes.

Entering the service of Smith Woodhouse & Company, shippers of Port wine, he lived in the Woodhouse residence in Largo de Coronel Pacheco, later moving to Lavadores, Vila Nova de Gaia in the house that today lodges the “Casa Branca” restaurant.

The 1840’s brought political upheavals and poor harvests, impacting on the wine trade with a significant fall in exports. When calm returned in 1849, Frederick William Flower married Mary Mason, a widow with four daughters. His interest in photography also dates from this period, learning the calotype method pioneered by Henry Fox Talbot.

A calotype image by F W Flower
Frederick William Flower gained more independence and time to pursue his passion for photography by creating an export house in 1852 in partnership with John Godfrey, who transacted most of the company’s business. Frederick William Flower left Smith Woodhouse & Company in the following year, most of his output dating from the next 5 years, during which period he photographed extensively not only in Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, but also on field-trips, as was the case of Guimarães, where he had the distinction of taking the first photograph of the Castle.

He travelled frequently between Porto and Bristol, where the family lived from 1859 to 1862. Between 1862 and 1874 they lived in Quinta de Frutozas, until ill-health obliged him to return to England in 1874. He finally died in Porto in 1889.

His photographic collection is now held by the National Photographic Archive of Porto.

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Arriving in Oporto to select a port wine for his college, Englishman Horace Grimpil soon finds himself embroiled in the conflicting interests of the British and Portuguese communities, where he is an ignorant outsider.

This Portuguese city - a turbulent place of ambition and defiance fought over by the French and British during the Napoleonic wars - is emerging from political turmoil that left the city and its people with their wealth and society destroyed.

Mr Grimpil, however, is about to experience personal turmoil of his own. Little does he know how the passions aroused during his journey of discovery will affect his own character, or how his presence will bring to a conclusion the relentless pursuit of a political revenge spanning generations.

Read more about the book here

Grimpil's Retrogress © 2010

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