SORRELL, William Edwin

William Edwin Sorrell
born 18 March 1856 (1)
died (or buried) 16 April 1933, Powell River, British Columbia, Canada
aged 77 (2)

studio addresses:
1888 - Manchester Street, Christchurch
Aug 1893 to Nov 1894 - 141 Manchester Street, Christchurch
Nov 1894 - about 1902/1904 - 179 Colombo Street, Christchurch

William Edwin Sorrell was born in Tooting, Surrey in 1856, the son of William Sorrell, a grocer and Leonora Sorrell nee Banks.

The 1861 census shows William Sorrell aged 5 years at High Street, Tooting. His father is a grocer aged 36 years employing a man and a boy.

The 1871 census shows him aged 15 years at 2 London Road, Bromley in London where his occupation is given as a grocer. His father and family are shown at 2 Bruce Road East, Bromley where his father William Sorrell's occupation is shown as a grocer and cheesemonger.

In 1880 he married Emily Behling but she died early the following year after giving birth to a daughter named Emily Edith Blanche Sorrell.

The 1881 census shows him aged 25 years, a widower at 14 Market Place, Stratford, Essex. His occupation is a grocer employing one man and one boy. Living at the same address is his sister Emma, a milliner and brother Arthur Sorrell, a grocer's assistant.

He arrived in New Zealand in 1881 or early 1882 and established himself as a glass embosser and sign writer in Manchester Street, Christchurch. On the 19 March 1882 his shop near the corner of Manchester and Martin Streets was partially gutted by fire. His furniture was damaged by fire and water to the value of 20 pounds and he was uninsured. (Star, Issue 4338, 20 March 1882, Page 3). He continued as a glass embosser in Manchester opposite Coke's Hotel until at least June 1882.

Star, Issue 4325, 4 March 1882, Page 2
(this notice first appeared in the Star on 27 February 1882)

A specimen of a new art industry for Canterbury may now be seen in the window of Mr W. E. Sorrell's shop in Manchester street South, opposite Coker's Hotel. This is a sheet of plate-glass, on which are represented flowers and foliage by the process known as triple embossing. Similar specimens have been much admired in the International Exhibition, where they are shown by a Dunedin firm. The triple embossing is produced by treating the glass with acids in much the same manner as copper is treated in etchings, and with correspondingly effective results. In the specimen shown by Mr Sorrell the glass has been subjected to nine processes — three paintings of the design, three burnings in with acid, and three grindings; but presumably the number of gradations in tone might he multiplied to any reasonable extent. This style of ornamentation is largely used at Home for door panels, &c., and in several of our best buildings here imported specimens of such work can be found, so that there is every probability of Mr Sorrell, who has recently come to New Zealand from London, finding a brisk demand for his decidedly artistic productions.
Star, Issue 4407, 9 June 1882, Page 2

He married late in 1882 to Mary Ann Whittaker nee Halford; she run a grocery shop at the corner of Lower High Street and Barbadoes Street until she was declared bankrupt in November 1886.

For cheapest and best groceries go to Sorrell's corner of Lower High street and Barbados (sic) Street. Compare and judge. Price list on application. The Best Tea in Christchurch. 2s 4d per lb.
Star, Issue 5371, 25 July 1885, Page 2

He worked for Wheeler and Son in 1886 and later worked on his own account as a photographer in Manchester Street in 1888.

Star, Issue 6293, 18 July 1888, Page 2

Star, Issue 6333, 3 September 1888, Page 2

Photographic Christmas Cards.— Mr Sorrell, of the "Canterbury" Studio, Manchester street, has sent us some of his new cards for the approaching season. Very pretty conceptions they are. Mr Sorrell has, by way of enrichment, made free use of flowers, seaweed, vases, fancy baskets, &c, these objects being photographed together with some view of the city, or of some well chosen bit of New Zealand scenery. Numbers of these cards, we fancy, will find their way to distant friends.
Star, Issue 6371, 17 October 1888, Page

A photograph by William Sorrell of the family of the artist Petrus Van der Velden is included in the book Van der Velden by T. L. Rodney Wilson - fig 5, page 35.

He then worked for Eden George as an operator and head retoucher before working for Alfred Gadd in 1892.

By August 1893 he had open a studio at 141 Manchester Street, where he offered "Sorrell's Enamelled Cabinets" at 10s per dozen. (Star, Issue 4719, 10 August 1893, Page 2).

above - a photograph by Sorrell "Atelier" Photographer
141 & 143 Manchester Street, Christchurch

1894 - The Industrial Exhibition in the Opera House, Tuam Street, Christchurch
...At the head of the left-hand staircase Mr Sorrell has a really fine exhibit. Two enlargements, each twenty-four inches by sixteen inches, are lifelike pictures, admirably soft and delicately finished. Mr Sorrell's Matt surface "artistotype" photographs, which he shows in great variety, are charming; they have a soft gray tone, similar to that of a high-class steel engraving, and, he states, are not liable to be damaged by wet. A large assortment of ordinary enamelled photographs of great merit completes an artistic and effectively arranged exhibit...
Star, Issue 5021, 6 August 1894, Page 4

In November 1894 the studio moved to 179 Colombo Street.
Mr Sorrell has removed his photographic establishment to 179 Colombo Street, Christchurch, where his patrons and the public generally will find him always ready to attend to their orders in a manner to give them the most complete satisfaction. (note: John Spiller was at 179 Colombo Street until 1889)
New Zealand Tablet, Volume XXI, Issue 28, 9 November 1894, Page 19

An excellent enlarged photograph, handsomely framed, of the late Mr J. T. Matson has been presented to the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association by Mr W. Sorrell, photographer, and his been placed in the rooms of the Association, of which Mr Matson was for many years an active member.
Ashburton Guardian, Volume XVII, Issue 3605, 15 June 1895, Page 2

1895 - The Industrial Exhibition
The exhibits of photography show that the art has attained a high stage of development in Christchurch. More charming portraits than the "platinettes" of Messrs Standish and Preece, the Christchurch photographers to Lord Glasgow, it is impossible to imagine. Some are taken with the Rembrandt light, others are delicately tinted. Several fine handfinished bromide enlargements are included in Messrs Standish and Preece's handsome case.

Mr W. E. Sorrell displays an admirable collection of "untouched" nikko enlargements. The Alpine scenes from, Mr J. J. Kinsey's negatives, and the illustrations of the s.s. Gothic, are particularly fine, and the portraits are excellent. Mr Sorrell also shows an extensive and very good collection of ordinary photographic portrait work.

Messrs Wheeler and Sons' photographs of landscapes and groups are excellent. The enlargement of a panoramic view of Mount Cook and its surroundings is splendid, and as much may be said for the other enlarged pictures of Alpine and other scenery.

Mr G. Wilson shows well-made and highly-finished cameras and other requisites for photographers.

Star, Issue 5359, 10 September 1895, Page 4


A few notable additions have been made to the exhibits...Mr Sorrell has added to his stand an exceedingly fine enlarged portrait of a little girl, taken from a cabinet photograph. It is four feet long by two feet six inches in width, and is printed on "Star" paper, an Australian production of the nikko type. It is beautifully soft and clear, and altogether an excellent picture...
Star, Issue 5371, 25 September 1895, Page 2 

Rangiora Volunteer Bazaar.— This bazaar continues to be well patronised ... One of the features of the bazaar is a fine collection of photographs exhibited by Mr Sorrell, of Christchurch.
Star, Issue 5402, 31 October 1895, Page 3

... Mr Kirk stated that Mr Sorrell had presented the Association with a photograph of the members of the committee of the exhibition of 1894 and a large portrait of the Hon R. J. Seddon. He moved a hearty vote of thanks to Mr Sorrell...
Star, Issue 5471, 24 January 1896, Page 4

The 1896 Christchurch Electoral Roll shows William Edwin Sorrell, photographer and his wife, Mary Ann Sorrell also a photographer residing at 19 Tuam Street, Christchurch.

The Mataura in Dock.— A very fine enlarged photograph of the New Zealand Shipping Company's s.s. Mataura in the Lyttelton Graving Dock is to be seen at the Christchurch office of the Lyttelton Harbour Board. It is 2ft 6in in height and 2ft wide, and was enlarged by Mr Sorrell from a photograph taken by Mr Hillsdon, of Lyttelton. It has been prepared by the Board in order to be sent to the Canterbury Court at the Wellington Industrial Exhibition. It will form an excellent advertisement for the Port and the dock, as the Mataura is the largest vessel ever docked in New Zealand, being 5764 tons, 421 ft in length and 54ft 6in beam.
Star, Issue 5714, 6 November 1896, Page 3

The Christchurch Press is responsible for the following:- The result of a notice published in Mr Sorrell's vestibule, to the effect that for two days, any baby brought to the studio would be photographed free of charge, was that the street was so blocked with perambulators that a policeman was obliged to clear the entrances to the places of business on either side.
Inangahua Times, Volume XXI, Issue 1076, 13 November 1896, Page 2

Star, Issue 5723, 17 November 1896, Page 3

The old man Halford, whose sudden death was reported in our columns yesterday, was an old soldier, having served in the Crimea and in India. He has a daughter in Christchurch, the wife of Mr Sorrell, photographer.
Ashburton Guardian, Volume XVIII, Issue 4256, 31 July 1897, Page 2


On 9 November 1897 he photographed the Governor's Vice-Regal party at Elmwood in Christchurch. Some "really first-class pictures" were obtained. Standish and Preece also were accorded a sitting at Elmwood and obtained some very satisfactory pictures of his Excellency, Lady Ranfurly and suite.
Star, Issue 6024, 10 November 1897, Page 3

The scene in the beautifully-decorated chamber was one of exceptional brilliance, and it is fitting that there should be some permanent record. Flashlight photography, as at present practised, has its drawbacks, but it has enabled many a scene to be permanently fixed that would otherwise have become dim with the march of the years. The proprietors of the "Canterbury Times" did well in securing the services of Mr Sorrell as an expert flashlight photographer, for the result, as seen in the current issue of the weekly journal, is highly satisfactory, and is certain to prove a valued memento of one of Canterbury's historic occasions.
Star, Issue 6809, 31 May 1900, Page 1

Star, Issue 7542, 27 October 1902, Page 3

Fire in Christchurch.- Early this morning a fire broke out in Christchurch in the three storey building occupied by Messrs Wardell Bros., and their tenants. The fire apparently originated at the back of the top storey in the portion of the building used as a studio by Mr W. E. Sorrell, photographer. When the alarm was given by the police constable on duty in the neighbourhood, the fire had evidently got a strong hold. The engines of the City Brigade were quickly on the spot, and were reinforced later by the St. Albans and Sydenham engines. Though a large quantity of water was poured on to the fire, in the front the flames burnt fiercely, portions of the windows falling down and shattering the glass verandah, making it most difficult to approach.

The White Hart Hotel, which was the nearest building on the eastern side, at one time was menaced by the showers of sparks and embers which were falling, but some timely water put on, together with the brick parapet wall, ensured the safety of the building. The occupants of the hotel were all got out in view of emergencies, but ultimately went back again. Though the fire did not extend to the lower stories, considerable damage is bound to be done there. The top story has been practically gutted. It is estimated that the total damage to the building and stock and the stocks of the tenants amounts to £7000.

Insurances are: —
Warden's stock, New Zealand, £2000; Victoria;£650; Royal Exchange £700; total £3350;
Sorrell's photographic Studio, Phoenix, £400;
Hofmeister (tailor) National, £55;
Atkinson (warehouseman) Phoenix, .700;
Bain (dentist) Law Union, £250;
Smale (dentist) New Zealand, £l5O;
Dr. Clayton (consulting rooms) Liverpool, London and Globe £25;
Wright (music teacher) uninsured.

The building was insured for £4500 distributed as follows:- Royal Exchange £2000,
Manchester £1000,
South British £1000,
and Northern £500.

Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXI, Issue 6352, 24 August 1904, Page 3


Sorrell returned to England where he set up a photographic studio.

above - an English postcard by William Edwin Sorrell.
blind stamped " W. E. Sorrell"
reverse inscription: To Mr & Mrs Hummerston, from Mrs & Mr S. H. Barker baby Laurence Barker age 9 weeks weight 11lbs"

Possibly about 1920
Free BMD shows:
1. Sidney H. Barker married Amy H.(N) Dell about Sept 1918. Edmonton
2. Laurence S. Barker born about March 1920 Edmonton mother maiden name Dell

Laurence Sidney Barker the son of Sidney H. Barker, and of Amy Nora Barker (nee Dell), of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, died 11 March 1944 aged 24 years. Warrant Officer Class I, Royal Canadian Air Force 37 Sqdn.
Buried Ancona War Cemetery, Italy.

(1) refer to Margaret Mavis Johns -
(2) Reg. Number: 1933-09-485748. B.C. Archives Microfilm Number: B13149. GSU Microfilm Number: 1953016
British Colombia Archives -

Free Births, Deaths and Marriages -

Hackney 1b 373 March Quarter1853
Wadsworth 1d 429 June Quarter 1856
Mile End 1c 749 March Quarter 1880
West Ham 4a 14 March Quarter 1881
1861 and 1881 census

The New Zealand Post Office Directory (Wise's) for 1890-91
Sorrell W. G.(sic) 143 Manchester street, Christchurch

Canterbury and West Coast Electoral Rolls 1893
Sorrell, Mary Ann, 19 Tuam Street, Christchurch. Photographer no. 10517
Sorrell, William Edwin, 19 Tuam Street, Christchurch. Photographer no. 10518

The New Zealand Post Office Directory (Wise's) for 1898-99
Sorrell W. E. "The Photographer, The Palace Atelier, 179 Colombo Street, Christchurch

The New Zealand Post Office Directory (Wise's) for 1900, 1901, 1902, 1903, 1904
Sorrell W. E., "The" Photographer, The Palace Atelier, 179 Colombo Street, Christchurch

The New Zealand Post Office Directory (Wise's) for 1905
Livingston & Griffiths, 179 Colombo street, Christchurch

Star, Issue 5789, 30 November 1886, Page 2

Star, Issue 7344, 18 August 1892, Page 2

Star Issue 8263, 11 March 1905, Page 6
The "Wairarapa" on the Rocks Oct 28th 1894. 134 Lives Lost"
Probably copied by Sorrell from a photograph by another photographer or from a negative purchased by Sorrell.

... By the way, a local photographer was commissioned to go to the scene of the wreck on Friday and take 'snap-shots.' He did so, but declares the sights he witnessed while at the Barrier were so horrible, that nothing would induce him to go again. And yet people in scores were going there for pleasure and feasting their eyes on most gruesome spectacles.
Observer, Volume XV, Issue 827, 10 November 1894, Page 5

John Clarke, Hardware Importer & Manufacturers Agent, 155 Lichfield Street, Christchurch, NZ
[purchased December 2022]



above: Lester James Hight born 1900

above and below: Sarah Ann Gudsell married Frederick Hight on 23 November 1899 at the Wesleyan Church, Weedons.

above: Elizabeth Agnes Gudsell born 9 May 1883 and Eva Clara Gudsell born 29 January 1885.

above - this photograph has lost it's cabinet card mounting, however the heavily embossed wallpaper in the background indicates this is probably a photograph by William Edwin Sorrell.

above: The studio interior indicates this photograph is by William Sorrell.
Reverse inscribed: "Grandfather (Walter) Perry & Grandmother Catherine.
Ethel & Voilet (daughters)"
Walter Charles Perry born circa 1863 England, died 11 July 1916, buried Sydenham Cemetery.
Catherine Jane Perry nee White born circa 1866 Pigeon Bay died 16 October 1950 aged 84
Violet Catherine Perry born circa 1891 married James Wilfred Swaney
Ethel Grace Perry born circa 1895 married Allan Hunter





above cabinet card courtesy of The Laurence Eagle Collection
above cabinet card courtesy of The Laurence Eagle Collection

above cabinet card courtesy of The Laurence Eagle Collection

 above cabinet card courtesy of The Laurence Eagle Collection
 above cabinet card courtesy of The Laurence Eagle Collection

above cabinet card courtesy of The Laurence Eagle Collection

unknown child photographed by William Edwin Sorrell
[purchased May 2022]

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