Charles Walmsley was born in Ambleside in 1862 and lived most of his life in Prospect Cottage. His working life was spent as a landscape photographer capturing images of the Lake District’s villages and fells. He began his career working as an apprentice with Moses Bowness of Ambleside who specialised in portrait work. Walmsley however preferred landscapes. Any portraits he did take were shot outside where possible, away from the artificial studio environment. In 1894 he went into business with his brother, James, and set up premises on Rydal Road. James concentrated on portraits, whilst Charles developed techniques out of doors. Portraits, however, provided a steady income which allowed him to experiment more with landscape photography, particularly developing his use of ‘photogravure’ – a technique whereby an image is formed on a metal plate by a series of tiny holes. Through this technique, Walmsley was able to produce prints quickly and cheaply. From this, his reputation developed and he began selling his work in some of the big city stores. He even reached America where President Woodrow Wilson had a wall in the White House devoted entirely to Walmsley’s work. Walmsley won many prizes for his work and his most famous picture is possibly ‘The Shepherd’ which was insured for the great sum of £1000 and evoked the nostalgia of a Lakeland life now gone.
Walmsley was said to be a gentle, unassuming man, a staunch Methodist and a member of the Band of Hope. He was also a keen fisherman and book collector. He retired in 1929 as a familiar and respected figure and died in 1941 after a short illness in Prospect Cottage.
See and learn more of Walmsley’s work in the Armitt Library and in the book ‘Victorian Lakeland Photographers’ by Stephen F. Kelly, 1991