SMITH, Thomas, and family of Colebrooke Park. A group of three matching quarter plate ambrotypes mounted under passe-partout mounts under glass (107 x 127mm), all with the trade label of J.C.Twyman of 65 High Street, Ramsgate. On the reverse of each are pencil and ink inscriptions, that of the gentleman reading "Thomas Smith of Colebrooke Park. August 1857 Father of Elizabeth Benson"; that of the lady reading: "Mrs Smith of Colebrooke August /57"; and that of the child reading: "Sept 17 1857 WAB 2yrs 11mnths (W.A.BENSON)". The horizontal scratch on the ambrotype of Thomas Smith is on the outside of the cover glass and not on the photographic plate.
Thomas Smith and his wife Elizabeth lived at Colebrooke Park, Tonbridge, Kent. Their daughter Elizabeth Solesby Smith (1828-1892) married William Benson JP in 1852, by whom she had six children, of which the eldest was William Arthur Benson (1854-1924). William, encouraged and supported by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris, established himself as a successful metalwork designer. In 1884 he became a founder member of the Art-Workers' Guild, and the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society came into being through his initiative. After William Morris's death in 1896, Benson also became the first chairman of William Morris & Co. Decorators Ltd. (ODNB). The ambrotype of the lady is misattributed to Mrs Smith - Elizabeth wife of Thomas Smith died in 1853 aged 48, so cannot be the sitter given the photograph is dated 1857. It is undoubtedly instead Elizabeth Solesby Benson (nee Smith), who would have been 29 when the photograph was taken.