The marina at Ramsgate, the town in south-east England where Sarah grew up and married Alfred Boddy    (Artist unknown, c1830s).  Sarah grew up only a short distance from this waterfront

Sarah Blackburn (1853 - 1939)


Sarah Blackburn m. Alfred Boddy

Alfred Charles Boddy

Geoffrey Alfred Boddy

Birth: 7 July, 1853, Ramsgate, Kent, UK

Sarah Boddy, née Blackburn, c1890s


Alfred Boddy, 31 January 1876, Ramsgate, Kent


26 October, 1939, 4 Union Street, Newcastle  (NSW)


Joseph Blackburn


Frances Jane Sutton


(Catherine Mary) "Katie" (1876-1958)

Alfred Charles (1879-1968)

(Lottie) May (1881-1966)

(Mildred) Ethel (1883-1963)

Arthur Sutton (1893-1980)

  As the eighth and youngest child of a whitesmith/tinsmith in the British sea-side town of Ramsgate in Kent, Sarah Blackburn would have had a reasonably comfortable upbringing. Her older brothers were apprenticed to various trades when barely into their teens, but Sarah and her sisters were simply required to help their mother around the family house (although one of Sarah's sisters was sent to a college in London to train as a teacher).

By the early 1870s,  the Blackburn family house in Albion Place was only a short distance from the seaside- and just a little further away, was another boarding house run by a widow, Mary Collett, in King Street, Ramsgate. One of Mrs Collett's boarders was an apprentice, Alfred Boddy, a mere six months older than Sarah.Their courtship resulted in a winter wedding in January, 1876, at the Ebenezer Chapel in Ramsgate (left).
Within 10 months of their marriage, Sarah and Alfred had their first child, a daughter, Katie, who was born when they lived in a terrace house in Dartford.  This was a very small house, and soon after, the family moved to the inner London suburb of Lambeth, where the eldest son Alfred Charles was born. 

right: the house at 60 East Hill, Dartford, where Sarah's eldest daughter Katie was born.  It is the end terrace house on the left, with the green door

The Ebenezer Chapel in Ramsgate, where Alfred and Sarah were married
By the time the next census of the UK was taken in 1881,  Sarah and Alfred and their two children, four year old Katie and young Alfred Charles, nearing two years, had moved yet again.  Alfred was then working as an "oilman", and living next door to his hardware shop in Frances Street, Woolwich, part of the extended area of Greater London. This is where the couples' two younger daughters, May and Ethel, were born in the 1880s.

However, in 1877,  in a move that was to become significant for the whole Boddy clan, one of Alfred's brothers, Samuel, then aged only 18, had taken a big step - migrating to Australia to start a new life there. 

And less than 10 years later, Samuel was followed by his sister Catherine Augusta ("Kitty"), who by then had married Ebenezer Dann, and another brother, Charles Boddy who all headed to Newcastle and the Hunter area, unlike Samuel, who, after a period in Newcastle, had elected to stay in Sydney where he worked as upholsterer in the harbour suburb of Five Dock.

So, the idea of making the move south was implanted in Alfred's mind, even though, by 1883, he and Sarah had added two more daughters to the family.
In 1888, the year of the centenary of European settlement in Australia, Sarah and Alfred packed up their family, including Sarah's widowed father-in-law George, and boarded the appropriately named Austral for the six week journey via the Suez Canal and Colombo.

That voyage alone would have been a great adventure for a young woman who had never before left the south of England, but since her home town of Ramsgate was an important port in the 19th century, and indeed up until after World War II, the idea of ships that travelled the world would not have been so daunting.

The town the family made their new home, New South Wales' second largest city, Newcastle, was still a relatively raw settlement, albeit with a few grand government and maritime trade buildings (left and above) - it had been a convict settlement until 60 years before. 

The Boddy family moved several times in the first few years, and established a store in Lambton Road, Adamstown.

All of Sarah's housekeeping skills would have been called on when the great Depression of the 1890s hit. The family's store failed, with creditors forcing Alfred into bankruptcy in 1894. According to Alfred's testimony at the bankruptcy hearing, the family lived on bread and water on many occasions.
From Sarah and Alfred's point of view, the situation was complicated by the arrival of their youngest son, Arthur, in 1993, when the family was living in York Street, Waratah North (now Mayfield), just as the depression was beginning to bite.

Sarah and Alfred had a novel, progressive idea to help them support the family.  They started a photography business, Imperial Studios, at first on a small scale. The studios also used the name of S A Boddy,  incorporating Sarah's name possibly because of Alfred's bankruptcy. 

Their granddaughter Mildred (Davey) tells the tale as
Grandfather had a camera, probably a small one, and when things got better, he and grandmother would drive up the Newcastle Valley and take photos of people.  He would finish off the pictures and sell them to the folk.  Things became better and easier for the family.

Another granddaughter, Dorothy (Sheldon), wrote:
Sarah & Alfred Boddy began a photography business, probably (one of) the first in Newcastle, going by horse drawn vehicle as far as Taree in the north taking photos.  Had a studio & shop on the corner of Wolfe & Hunter Sts. (Later) they and family moved to Perkins Street, Newcastle with their studio and continued there for many years. 

They rented the house, then owned by the Methodist church,  at 25½ Perkins street, and stayed there for nearly 20 years.
Alfred's sudden and early death  in 1913 could easily have put the family out of business.  But Sarah and the two daughters, May and Ethel, decided to carry on, only changing the name of the studio to May and E. Boddy some years later. At one stage, all three women listed themselves as "photographers" on various city directories, although it appears in later years, Sarah retired from active photography, and took care of the house for her two (unmarried) daughters.

After Alfred's death, the trio moved their workplace a short distance away from the Perkins Street house and studio. In 1916, the sisters moved their studio just round the corner into King street, next door to the Bond store. Sometime before 1919, they built an impressive two-story house they called "Dartford" in Noster Place (left), just off Wolfe Street with views down to Newcastle Harbour.  Joining them in this house was Annie Bailey, widow of Sarahs daughter's brother-in-law, Arthur Bailey.  Annie went on to live with the Sarah's eldest daughter Katie for many years, being known to the family as Auntie Anne Bailey, or simply Auntie Bailey.

Granddaughter Dorothy says there had been a convict -built house on the Wolfe street site before the sisters built Dartford. However, just a few years after the new house was built, an even bigger building, the YMCA, was built next to Dartford, shutting out most of the view. 
left: what's believed to be the drawing room of Dartford, the Boddy home in Noster Place.  A close examination of the photo shows what appears to be a young girl holding a doll while seated on a couch against the far wall.  It's thought the child is probably Sarah's granddaughter Mildred.

right: a studio portrait of Sarah, probably taken by her husband Alfred around the turn of the 20th century.

The sisters continued to operate their photography business, but supplemented their income by renting out rooms in Dartford - it was after all, a large house with only four women living there.

Sarah employed at least one general help to do the housework Dartford entailed, with an advertisement in 1924 in The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate for "a strong, capable girl".

After living in Noster Place for a number of years, Sarah put Dartford up for sale before the household moved for a few years to the nearby seaside suburb of Merewether before turning to Noster Place.
                 The house in Livingstone Street, Merewether.

The attempt to sell the Noster Place house appears to have failed (the Electoral Rolls for Newcastle in 1933 once again lists the address of all three as Dartford, Noster Place), but financially Sarah and her daughters were obviously reasonably comfortable.  In 1926,  Sarah travelled with her eldest daughter Katie and  son-in-law, Ernie on a trip back to England, which they always referred to as "home". Some months later, her photographer daughters joined the trio, and all returned to Australia together on the Osterley in July, 1927

In the passenger list above, Sarah and her daughters listed their address as 119 King Street, the address of their photographic studios.
By 1936 Sarah's final move came - to 6 Union Street, just off Hunter Street.

A photo taken of Sarah a year later shows a woman, with a gentle face, with just the hint of a smile.   
Eighteen months later, Sarah died at her home in Union Street.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate, Saturday, 28 October 1939

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