John Brown Smithson was born on the 11th of January
1848 at Smarber. He was the son of John Smithson and Mary, nee Brown,
of Low Row. The family moved to Cockfield near Bishop Auckland some
time in 1854, although they may have left Smarber before then.
John Smithson senior worked in the mines at Cockfield before moving
to West Witton in Wensleydale in 1859 to work at the Keld Heads
Lead Mine, near Wensley Station, where there is a rise named after
him. John junior trained as a game keeper at Swinithwaite with his
uncle, James Smithson, before moving to Ulverston, Lancs, then to
Haydon Bridge in Northumberland, where his father traded as a clockmaker.
It was here, in about 1870, that John junior first became interested
| A few years later
John junior moved to Leyburn where he set up the Wensleydale Studio
opposite the Town Hall. Then, as a good Methodist, he took over the
Railway Hotel and renamed it the Wensleydale Temperance Hotel, adding
a studio and darkroom. He worked there until 1926 when he retired,
at the age of 78, to Craven House, West Burton, and died there in
March 1938 aged 90 years and two months. He was buried at Leyburn
Cemetery. Married twice, his first wife, Elizabeth Strafen, died in
1892 aged 47. They had eight children two of whom, Christopher and
John, followed their father's career.
Picture postcards were first permitted in Britain in 1896 and JB Smithson
produced thousands of local cards working from studios and caravans
in Hawes, Scotton, Catterick, Pateley Bridge and Aysgarth. He is credited
with taking over 50,000 photographs.
Information kindly supplied
by Clive Torrens from his book 'J B Smithson and the Northern Dales',