Friday 1 December 2023

A little bit about Samuel L Coulthurst and those amazing pictures of Manchester street life

Rochdale Road and Swan Street 1900
This is another of those images of Manchester street life by Samuel Lawrence Coulthurst.

It was taken in 1900 at the corner of Rochdale Road and Swan Street.

Now at this point I would normally go off and look for a story behind the image but today I am more
interested in Mr Coulthurst.

There are 171 of his photographs in the digital collection of Manchester Libraries, covering everything from those street scenes to buildings and portraits and taken between 1890 and 1920.*

There is also a book of his pictures which sadly is out of print. **

For a long time Mr Coulthurst was just a name I saw in the credit to the photograph I was studying but as more of his images turned up I became interested in him.

He was born in Blackley, described himself variously as a “book buyer” and “stationary buyer" and lived in various parts of Manchester and Salford.   He married Annie Higson in June 1900 and he died in Helsby in 1939.

Samuel Lawrence Coulthurst, 1890
And despite a series of wonderful photographs of the twin cities, I have only been able to turn up a poor quality photograph of the man himself.

But I have high hopes that something better will turn up.

After all he appears to have been well known during the late 19th century, exhibiting at the Royal Photographic Society in 1897 and was a member of the Manchester Amateur Photographic Society which under took the first photographic survey of Manchester and Salford between 1892-1901.

In 1901 232 platinotype prints were handed to the Manchester and Salford Reference Libraries.

A third copy was retained by the Society but over the years a number have gone missing. The photographs are mounted on sheets of card, either singly or groups of 2 or 4 photographs per sheet. Manuscript details are written in ink beneath each image giving a brief description, a number and the photographer’s name. ***

Now there is a lot more I want to know about Mr Coulthurst and I have contacted both Manchester Amateur Photographic Society and the Friends of Salford Museum’s Association.

In the meantime I will leave you with this small piece of his personal life.

In the March of 1922 Samuel and Annie took a cruise to Lisbon, Madeira and the Canary Islands.  I would just love to see any photographs of that trip, but I fear they have been lost forever, which brings me back to those of the digital archive which I will be going back to over the next few months.

Pictures; Rochdale Road and Swan Street, Samuel L Coulthurst, 1900, m41073 and Samuel L Coulthurst, 1890,  m72750, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

*Manchester Local Image Collection,

**The Samuel L Coulthurst Photographs: Victorian Salford and Manchester, 1995, Friends of Salford Museum’s Association

***National Archives,


  1. Thanks for the article. Great to see photos of Manchester in the very early 20th century. Spending the rest of the day looking at his photos on Manchester Image Library.

  2. A few years ago we displayed large prints that the Lowry had at Sacred Trinity Church which features in his Flat Iron Market photos. Amazing photos and so evocative.

  3. Many thanks for reposting this. I believe Samuel Coulthurst was my great great uncle and I was able to identify him as such partly through your blog. I have one image of him only. Yours is by far the better image. If there were any others which came down through the family, I would love to see them. What an amazing photographer he was.