National Media Museum blog

We explore the science, technology and art of the still and moving image, and its impact on our lives.

Using Fenton’s photographs to research architectural changes in Cumbria

We get all kinds of enquiries here at Insight: Collections and Research Centre. One recent researcher was analysing the structural changes in Furness Abbey in Cumbria. He visited the collection to look at Roger Fenton‘s photographs of the abbey, to help him map changes to the abbey’s architectural form and function.

Furness Abbey from the South West, 1860, Roger Fenton, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Furness Abbey from the South West, 1860, Roger Fenton, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Roger Fenton photographed Furness Abbey in 1860 during one of his extended trips around Britain. Each summer Fenton packed his photographic equipment and travelled around capturing abbeys, stately homes, cultivated parkland and wild landscapes. Here’s a small selection from his journeys to Cumbria and the Lake District.

Borrowdale from the Boulder Stone, c. 1856, Roger Fenton, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Borrowdale from the Boulder Stone, c. 1856, Roger Fenton, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Low Wood, Windermere, Roger Fenton, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Low Wood, Windermere, Roger Fenton, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Fenton’s contemporaries marvelled at his facility in photographing landscapes. The Journal of the Photographic Society said

“No one can touch Fenton in landscape: he seems to be to photography what Turner was to painting. There is such an artistic feeling about the whole of these pictures, the gradations of tint are so admirably given, that they cannot fail to strike the beholder as being something more than mere photographs.”

A Vista, Furness Abbey, 1860, Roger Fenton, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

A Vista, Furness Abbey, 1860, Roger Fenton, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Aira Force, Ullswater, 1860, Roger Fenton, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Aira Force, Ullswater, 1860, Roger Fenton, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Distant View of Ullswater from Gabarrow Park, Roger Fenton, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Distant View of Ullswater from Gabarrow Park, Roger Fenton, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

View on Windermere, the Boat House, Roger Fenton, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

View on Windermere, the Boat House, Roger Fenton, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

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About Rebecca Smith

I'm the collections assistant - I answer enquiries, dig about in the archives, and update information about our collections. In my spare time I like looking at stuff - paintings, old industrial buildings, photographs, hills and waterfalls.

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