This photo, of Mrs Patterson and Janet, was taken around the mid-1860s by J. Berra of Manchester. The gowns of the two women point towards middle class respectability, being stylishly restrained but evidently of fine quality. The dress of the younger woman, with its shaped bodice and flounced sleeves, characterises the period, as does the neat hairstyle of the wearer. The dress of Mrs Patterson is slightly less modish than that of her companion (or daughter).
So, who were Mrs Patterson and Janet? An entry in the 1861 census for Stretford, Manchester, might provide the answer for here we find Andrew Patterson, headmaster of the Manchester Deaf & Dumb school. Also included in the entry are his wife Martha, son Colville and daughter Janet aged 14 when this census was taken. The census entry also lists the staff that worked at the school, being a matron and six assistants.
If Mrs Martha Patterson and Janet of the 1861 census are the same people that appear in the photograph, then the question of their identity is solved. Janet looks to be in her mid to late teens, which would date the photo to the mid 1860s, as does the apparel of the two subjects. The rest of Janet’s story is as yet unknown but her father, Andrew, died in 1883, aged about 79. The Manchester Times newspaper of July 21st 1883 carried an obituary of Andrew’s passing and probate records show that he left the tidy sum of £4080:17s:7d to his heirs. If you look closely on the trade card of Mr Berra, who took the photograph, you will see the faint inscription of the words ‘Mrs Patterson & Janet’.