Portrait of an older man, Wiliam Rayson Smith (1840-1932)

A photograph album owned by a family in England has furnished us with digital copies of a small treasure trove of photographs taken in Belleville in 1886.

The photographer was William Rayson Smith, who was born in the Norfolk village of Dickleburgh in 1840. He married Maria Hudson in 1866 and in 1870 the couple moved to Canada. They were living in Toronto at the time of the 1871 census, but by 1873 they were in Belleville.

In the 1879-1880 Hastings County Directory, William was listed as being a clerk for the County Treasurer's office on Church Street and was living on the south side of College Street. The same directory also notes that he was acting as the Secretary and Librarian of the Murchison Scientific Society. Newspaper records also show that he was Secretary of the St. George's Society in the 1880s.

Old photograph of two houses and an institutional building in the background.
CABHC: 2023-114-27 Smith family home on College and Geddes Streets, Belleville

Smith's photographs show significant Belleville buildings such as the Post Office and various churches and grand East Hill houses. He also captured aspects of the local lumber industry, such as log drives and rafts of squared timber. There is a summer-time photograph of a toboggan slide which was located on the cricket grounds on the south side of Dundas Street. Thanks to the albums' owners, Jennifer and David Boxall, you can now view all of these photographs online and in their book about the photographer, which has been donated by them to the archives. 

Ad for a house to let on College and Geddes streets in Belleville.
CABHC: Daily Intelligencer, 13 July 1886 Ad renting out the Smith family home on College and Geddes streets in Belleville.

The photographs are something of a farewell tour, as Smiths left Belleville in the summer of 1886. An advertisement in The Daily Intelligencer  announced that their house on College Street was now to let. The couple took with them an adopted daughter, Winifred Annie Colman. She was born in Port Hope in January 1874 and her birth parents were also from Norfolk.

William Rayson Smith died in October 1932 and was buried in Dickleburgh, his place of birth. Please contact the archives if you have any additional information about this family and we will pass it on to Jennifer and David.