George Ruff ( 1826 - 1903 )


George Ruff senior (1826 - 1903) -

George Ruff senior. Self portrait c1860. Albumen print from the collection of Philippe Garner. [ COURTESY OF PHILIPPE GARNER ]




Artist and Photographer

George Ruff senior's trade plate marked in
gold lettering on a leather ambrotype case (c 1858)


George Ruff senior - Artist

George Ruff was born in 1826, the son of Charlotte and George Ruff, a shoemaker of Gloucester Street, Brighton. George's baptism was recorded in Brighton on 27th October 1826. George's father is believed to have originated from West Sussex, but by 1824 he was working as a shoemaker in Sussex Street, Brighton. In November 1825, George Ruff the shoemaker married Charlotte Snelling of Brighton. The following year, Mrs Charlotte Ruff gave birth to her first, and probably only child, George. After George Ruff's father died, his mother set herself up as a greengrocer and opened a shop in Brighton. As early as 1845, Mrs Charlotte Ruff is recorded as a greengrocer at 46 Richmond Street. In an 1848 Brighton directory, George Ruff ( presumably Mrs Ruff's 22 year old son ) is listed as a shopkeeper of 46 Richmond Street.

At the time of the 1851 Census, Charlotte Ruff is recorded as " Fruiterer - Greengrocer", a widow, aged 48, residing at 46 Richmond Street, Brighton. Mrs Ruff's only son George, who was already working as an artist, is described as a " Painter in Oil & Watercolour". In 1850, George Ruff had executed a watercolour of Hove Church, which is now owned by Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. Around the same time, the 24 year old artist probably made a daguerreotype of St Nicholas Church, one of the earliest photographic images of a Brighton building to have survived.


View of Brighton.( c1851) An engraving taken from a drawing by George Ruff senior. St Peter's Church can be seen on the right. In the centre, Trafalgar Street runs up to Brighton's Railway Terminus. The Gloucester Hotel can be seen in the left foreground. This is the view that would have been seen from Richmond Street, where George Ruff was living at the time.

In the 1850s, George Ruff produced a number of paintings which represented scenes in Brighton and the surrounding countryside. In 1851, he painted watercolours depicting the Lodge at Brighton Cemetery, the Royal Pavilion, Preston Paygate and a view of the Queens Road in Brighton. In 1853, Ruff completed an oil painting of Brighton Beach, which like a number of his painted works, now resides in the collection of the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.George Ruff also exhibited his work in London. At the Society of British Artists, George Ruff senior exhibited seven watercolours, including the paintings " Broadstairs with the North Foreland Lighthouse" and " Kitchen Garden".


Richmond Street, Brighton (c1900). In this photograph Richmond Street is the steep street that runs between The Richmond Hotel on Richmond Place and the small parade of shops at the western end of Grand Parade. Mrs Charlotte Ruff, George's widowed mother, owned a fruiterer and greengrocer's shop on Richmond Street from about 1845 to 1854.

George Ruff probably did not sell enough paintings to make a living as an artist. By 1855, he is listed in a local directory as a greengrocer, running a shop for his mother at 102 Richmond Street, Brighton.

St Nicholas' Church (c1850). A photograph which is believed to be a copy of a daguerreotype by George Ruff senior.The original photograph was passed down to Aubrey Ruff, George Ruff senior's grandchild.

Mr George Ruff - Artist and Photographist

George Ruff became a professional photographer around 1855 and is first listed as a photographic artist in Folthorp's Brighton Directory of 1856. Ruff's home and studio address is given as 45 Queens Road and he was to work in this building as a photographic artist for the next twenty years. Advertisements proclaimed that his studio at 45 Queens Road was located "exactly opposite the Eye Infirmary" and was "open from ten till nearly dusk" , adding that portraits were taken "in any weather". His cased portraits carried the words "Mr George Ruff - Artist and Photographist"



[ABOVE]Portrait of a woman.(c.1860).A positive collodion
portrait (ambrotype) by George Ruff senior.The label states that the colouring was 'executed entirely by Mr R. himself '.




[ABOVE] This label appears on the reverse of a George
Ruff collodion portrait ( c 1860). Ruff called his ambrotypes 'non-reflecting photographic portraits'. He charged 1s 6d for a portrait in a French frame and 2s 6d for a cased portrait .



In the late 1850s, George Ruff was producing wet collodion portraits on glass, which he described as "Non-reflecting Photographic Portraits". Ruff charged 2s 6d for an uncoloured portrait in a Morocco leather case. Colouring would cost the customer one shilling extra. In an advertisement of this period, George Ruff proudly states that the colouring of the photographic portraits is "executed entirely by Mr R. himself ( an Artist independent of Photography,) ". George Ruff also specialised in the production of stereoscopic portraits.



A stereoscopic portrait of a wedding group by George Ruff senior. Collodion positive ( c 1860)

George Ruff's Family

By the time of the 1861 Census, George Ruff had married and was the father of two children, but his mother Mrs Charlotte Ruff is described as "Head of Household" and is still in charge of the greengrocery business.

In the 1861 Census for the household of 45 Queens Road, the 34 year old George Ruff gives his occupation as " Artist Photographer", while George's wife Ruth is described as a "Photographer's Artist", aged 35. George and Ruth's children were named after their parents. In the 1861 Census, their daughter Ruth is aged 8 and George junior is only 2 years of age. George Ruff, the "artist-photographer, was single at the time of the 1851 Census and so his marriage to Ruth must have taken place around 1852.

A few years after the 1861 Census, George's mother retired from the greengrocery trade and George Ruff became the Head of the Family.At the time of the 1871 Census, the 69 year old Mrs Ruff appears at the bottom of the entry and is described as " mother of Head of Household".

George Ruff's photographic business was a family concern. In an early advertisement for his studio in Queens Road, Ruff declared that " the pictures are produced throughout by Mr and Mrs Ruff, ( no assistants being kept )". In the early years of the business, George Ruff alone coloured the photographic portraits. By 1861, George Ruff 's wife Ruth is recorded as the " Photographer's Artist" at 45 Queens Road. George Ruff's daughter also took an early interest in the photographic art. At a tender age, little Ruth was making portraits of her dolls. One collodion positive photograph of two dolls sitting on a chair carries the inscription "Jany (January) 30, 1858, focussed by Ruthey Ruff , 5 1/4 years". As a teenager, Ruthey assisted her parents in the photographic business. The 1871 Census records her at 45 Queens Road as a "shopwoman", aged 18.


Portrait of Two Dolls. A collodion positive taken by George Ruff's five year old daughter in January 1858.

Portrait of a bearded man c1860. An ambrotype portrait taken at George Ruff senior's photographic studio at 45 Queens Road.




[ABOVE] Queens Road, Brighton, looking south from the railway station towards the sea (c1855). Queens Road was constructed in 1845 to connect the Railway Terminus to North Street and West Street. George Ruff senior's studio stood directly opposite the Eye Infirmary, the building with the classical columns on the left of the picture.



George Ruff senior's trade plate on an ambrotype case


Queens Road, Brighton ( c1890)

[ABOVE] Photograph of Queens Road, looking north towards Brighton's Railway Station (c 1890). George Ruff senior's home and business premises at 45 Queens Road stands centre left. On the far left at No 40 is Corrall's Coal Merchant shop. To the right of Corralls, at No 41-42, is Thomas Emery's Temperance & Commercial Hotel. The building with the three round lamps suspended over the entrance is the Imperial Hotel. Ruff's house stood between the Imperial Hotel and the Church Extension building and Markwick's Aviary, the dark building with the group of people gathered in front of the shop,under the awning.



41 - 49 Queens Road, Brighton


[ABOVE] A close-up, showing 41-49 Queens Road. George Ruff senior's home and business premises at 45 Queens Road stands third from left, the pale building with the white blinds in the centre of the picture. A woman holding a sunshade, ,just to the right of the stationary cart, can be seen directly in front of Ruff's shop.To the left of Ruff's building is the elaborate Imperial Hotel.

George Ruff - Photographic Artist

George Ruff was in business as a portrait photographer throughout the carte de visite craze of the sixties and early seventies.



Carte de visite portraits taken by George Ruff senior at his photographic
studio at 45 Queens Road, Brighton in the 1860s and 1870s.

Carte de visite portraits of Revd. John Grace taken at Ruff's Queens Road studio around 1864.


George Ruff senior Returns to Painting

George Ruff senior is last listed as a professional photographer in 1876. He appears to have abandoned photography for his first love - painting pictures. A marine painting , " The Wreck of the Ida of Glasgow " was completed by Ruff in January, 1877. Around the same time, George Ruff exhibited a painting called " Old Houses at Lewes". In September, 1877, Ruff showed two paintings,"Summer on the Ouse" and "Sunset - Shoreham Harbour " at the Exhibition of Modern Pictures in Brighton. In 1879, he painted a watercolour entitled "Shoreham Harbour - Moonrise". During this period, local trade directories describe George Ruff senior's occupation as "Artist's Colourman". Evidently, George Ruff senior made his living by providing paints and pigments to other artists. However, in the 1881 Census, George Ruff senior gives his occupation as "Artist ( Painter)". George Ruff senior exhibited regularly in London during the years 1880 and 1886, showing landscapes and figure paintings at the Royal Academy, the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, the Royal Society of British Artists and the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colour. George Ruff senior worked as an artist's colourman until his retirement and he continued to paint landscapes well into his late sixties. A decendant of George Ruff , Gill Friend, owns a painting of Cuckfield, painted and signed by George Ruff senior in 1897. In the 1901 Census, George Ruff is recorded as a "retired artist" age 74 .Living in the same household is Ruth, his wife of fifty years. George Ruff senior died in 1903.



George Ruff junior ( born c1858 - died c1913 )


George Ruff junior (1858-1913) -


George Ruff junior taking photographs on Brighton Beach, with his adopted daughter Dorothy at his side.



Amateur Photographer and Artist


George Ruff junior with his adopted daughter Dorothy.


George Ruff junior - Artist

George Reuben Ruff, commonly referred to as George Ruff junior, was born around 1858. He appears to have inherited his father's interest in painting and photography. As a young man he studied painting in London, producing mainly landscapes and still life. In the years 1879 -1880, George Ruff junior exhibited three paintings, two of which were Sussex landscapes, and gave a London home address to the gallery. For example, in 1880, Ruff junior exhibited at the Royal Society of British Artists and gave his address as 164 Great Titchfield Street, Portland Place, London. At the time of the 1881 Census, George Ruff is recorded as " Art Student (Painting)", aged 22, lodging with Thomas Taylor, an elderly carman of 6 Hill Street, Camberwell, Surrey in South London. Marilyn Hiles has a painting dated 1882 and signed 'George Ruff', which she believes was painted by her great grandfather during this period of his career.


Landscape by George Ruff junior. This signed painting, dated 1882, is owned by George Ruff junior's great grand daughter.


By the early 1890s, George Ruff was back in the Brighton area taking photographs. He made his home in the Preston area of Brighton and by 1893, George Ruff junior was living at Cambridge Villa, 50 Coventry Street, not far from Thomas Booth's Natural History Museum on Dyke Road. In the 1901 Census, George Ruff junior is recorded at 50 Coventry Street, living with his wife Mary ( born c1869 Salehurst, Sussex ). He is described as "Living on own Means", aged 42. No children are listed in the census return. It is known that in 1903, Mr and Mrs Ruff adopted a young girl named Dorothy. His adopted daughter features in a number of photographs taken by George Ruff junior. Around 1905, he captured Dorothy photographing her dolls, an activity that his sister "Ruthey" performed nearly 50 years earlier. The Ruffs were also the parents of a son. who they named Aubrey Mortimer. (Aubrey's grandchildren have a photograph which shows a young girl,believed to be Dorothy, washing a golliwog in a water butt ). In the 1890s and the early 1900s, George Ruff junior wandered along the beach and esplanade of Brighton's seafront, armed with the recently introduced portable camera, snatching pictures of children paddling in the sea, boys and girls playing on the beach and other animated scenes. Ruff junior also captured seaside entertainers in action. One photograph, taken on 17 June 1904, shows Professor Reddish entertaining holidaymakers on the West Pier by "flying the foam" , a stunt which involved diving from the pier head on a bicycle. Away from the beach, George Ruff junior snapped children playing games or having a picnic in the park.



George Ruff junior 's snapshots of Brighton


Holidaymakers on Brighton Beach, to the east of the Royal Chain Pier. A photograph taken by George Ruff junior before the Chain Pier was destroyed by a storm on 4 December 1896.


Children having a picnic on the groyne which ran alongside Brighton's Palace Pier. A snapshot photograph taken by George Ruff junior around 1900.



Snapshots of children on Brighton Beach. Photographs
taken by George Ruff junior in the early 1900s.


George Ruff junior's camera captures the moment when Professor Reddish takes off from the West Pier on his bicycle. A photograph dated 17 June 1904.

George Ruff junior was not a professional photographer. As a man of independent means , George Ruff junior was a "gentleman amateur", who took an active part in the Hove Camera Club ( a fellow member was Charles Job, a stockbroker who lived in Hove and exhibited with the artist-photographers of The Linked Ring group ). Although interested in the "snapshot" as a means of capturing the moment and documenting everyday life, George Ruff also exhibited more orthodox photographs at the Hove Camera Club. He submitted photographs of rural scenes such as ploughing with horses and sheep grazing on the Downs.

Ploughing, a photograph exhibited at Hove's Camera Club by George Ruff junior around the year 1905. On the back of the photograph the exhibitor's label reads " G. Ruff, 1 Chatsworth Road."


In 1905, George Ruff junior moved from Coventry Street to a house a few streets away in Chatsworth Road, near Dyke Road Park. Mr G Ruff is listed as head of household at 1 Chatsworth Road, Preston, Brighton from 1905 to 1913. George Ruff junior appears on Brighton & Hove's Voting Lists for the last time in 1913. From 1913 to 1915, Mrs M Ruff is the only name listed at 1 Chatsworth Road in local street directories and so we can assume George Ruff junior died around 1913.




Photograph of George Ruff junior's adopted daughter Dorothy washing her toy "golliwog".





Children in Brighton's Queens Park, captured in a photograph taken by George Ruff junior around the year 1900.




Thanks to Philippe Garner for permission to use photographs from his collection.

I can recommend Philippe Garner's excellent book "A Seaside Album : Photographs and Memory", published by Philip Wilson Publishers in association with The Royal Pavilion, Libraries & Museums, Brighton & Hove (2003).












Website last updated: 9 April 2003


This website is dedicated to the memory of Arthur T. Gill (1915-1987), Sussex Photohistorian


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