Adolphus Verey was born in Melbourne in 1862, the fifth of seven children to English parents, Thomas Verey and Harriet Lovelock Verey. The last child was born in Daylesford, where the family relocated between 1862-1864. Verey’s parents and at least one of his brothers remained in Daylesford for the rest of their lives.
Adolphus learned the photographic trade at a Melbourne firm. He travelled around Victoria working as a photographer before coming to Castlemaine to establish his studio in 1883. He rented premises on the corner of Barker and Lyttleton Streets from Wherrett, also a photographer. Adolphus bought the premises upon Wherrett’s death in the early 1900s and renovated them to a standard that the 1903 Cyclopaedia of Victoria described as ‘… a first-class studio, with appointments equal to any outside of Melbourne.’ The Verey business remained on that site until its closure in 1955. The building still bears the Verey name today.
For the first seven years, Adolphus worked in partnership with his eldest brother, Frederick, trading as Verey Brothers out of Daylesford and Castlemaine. By 1891 the business of Verey Brothers had been renamed A. Verey and Co. The remaining Daylesford Vereys were also involved in saw milling and undertaking and by 1899, Verey Brothers were no longer running a photographic studio in Daylesford. It is difficult to tell how much Adolphus was involved with the business at Daylesford but it is certainly clear that he operated the Castlemaine business throughout.
Adolphus married Sophia Emma Clark in Castlemaine in 1886. They lived at Roseneath House on Campbell Street, the second house north-west of the corner of Hargreaves Street (one of the two buildings which form the present-day Campbell Lodge). Their first child, Winifred, was born in 1887, with five more children over the next seventeen years. Adolphus Verey was an active member of the Castlemaine community with known involvement in the Congregational Church, the Independent Order of Rechabites Lodge and the Castlemaine Benevolent Asylum.
Florence, Verey’s second youngest child, worked with her father as a colourist, adding pigment to the developed photographs to give a blush to the cheeks and a rose to the lips. Winifred’s son, Gordon Jones, remembers that the eldest son, Leslie, was expected by his father to take over the family business, although it was a role for which he had no real enthusiasm. Les Verey left school at the end of Year 10 to join the business regardless. He took most of the photographs in the 1920s and 1930s, running the business after Adolphus died in 1933, aged 70 years. Les continued to run the business until 1948, after which it continued under the name of A. Verey and Co until 1955. After Leslie sold up in 1948, the business operated under the management of Allan Studios. In 1954 Ken C. Hammett, photographer, bought the business. In 1964, chemist, David Baillie bought the building which still operates as a pharmacy today.
The photographs were made as negatives onto glass plates. A whole plate was 6 x 8 inches and half-plates were also used. The plates, which were already coated with silver nitrate and gelatine, were inserted into the camera and exposed for approximately one second. The subject had to hold still during this exposure and not all quite managed, resulting in a blurred picture. The negative was then printed onto photographic paper and – importantly, for the present day – the glass plate negatives were stored alphabetically in cardboard boxes with the surname of the subject pencilled along the top of the glass plate. While there are many thousands of photographs in many family collections, unlike these plates, the photographs were often not named, and so for many identities are forgotten as time passes.
There are various accounts of some of the larger plates being used as glass for greenhouses and up until a few years ago there was a small greenhouse in Johnstone Street, Castlemaine made from half-plates, some still with a faint image. At some point after the studio closed, the plates that comprise this collection were stacked at the end of a shed at the premises of Les Chapman’s, the Castlemaine furniture removalists. They remained there for the next thirty years.
In the 1980s, Ashley Tracey bought a box of Verey glass plate negatives at an auction at St Mary’s Hall, Castlemaine. Tracey printed them and put them up in a shop window in Guildford. He was then told about the boxes at Chapman’s, which he could have if he was interested. He certainly was interested and fortunately also knew enough about photography to be able to look after them. There were about six thousand plates, of which about 4,600 were in good condition with names still legible.
The most recent addition to the collection came from a private collector who bought some boxes of photographic plates at auction, in Ballarat in the 1980s. At later auctions, more plates came up for sale. Tracey tracked down the owner and acquired some 9,000 plates. Eventually the images were copied and made available.
The images were bought in 2009 through a collaborative effort led by FOCAL (Friends of Castlemaine Library), supported by the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historic Museum, Castlemaine and Newstead Historical Societies, Chewton Domain Society, Goldfields Library Corporation and private donors. These groups together raised $11,500 to buy the images. Each of these organisations now holds a database of the collection, available for public use.