Guide to the Letters of Walter Bently Woodbury (as filmed by the AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2019

Collection Summary

Woodbury, Walter Bentley
Letters of Walter Bently Woodbury (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
30 January 1852 - 1 September 1858
Collection Number
18 items
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

Letters written from Australia and Java, to his mother Ellen Woodbury (later Ellen Lloyd). They contain news of life in Australia, gold diggings in Victoria, establishment of photographic business in Melbourne, travels in Java, and photographs of East Indies.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the owner of the original material.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Citation items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Filmed at the Royal Photographic Society, Bath, as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1985 (AJCP Reel: M1952). Original microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

In 2002 the collections of the Royal Photographic Society were purchased by the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television (now National Science and Media Museum). In Spring 2017 the collection was transferred to the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Existence and Location of Originals

Originally held at the Royal Photographic Society, Bath, England.

Now held by the Victoria & Albert Museum. For more information see Victoria & Albert Museum catalogue (

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia []. as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

Copies of the collection of Australian photographs of Walter Woodbury in the Royal Photographic Society are held in the National Library of Australia and the State Library of Victoria.

Finding-aid Notes

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2019. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.

Advisory Statement

Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this Finding Aid contains material and descriptive information which may be considered culturally sensitive and may cause distress, including names and images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now deceased. This Finding Aid contains terms that reflect authors' views or those of the historical period, but which may not be considered appropriate today. While the information may not reflect current understanding, it is provided in an historical context.


Australia; Daguerreotype; Dutch East Indies; Dutch East Indies: photographs; Great Britain; Gold and goldfields: Victoria; Java; Melbourne, Victoria; Photographers; Woodbury, Ellen; Woodbury, Walter


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 508, pp196-197.

Biographical / Historical

Walter Bentley Woodbury (1834-1885). Born in Manchester, brought up by his grandfather, Walter Woodbury, a well-known naturalist. Acquired an interest in mechanical printing at works of James and Sydney Waterlow. Emigrated to Australia on Serampore in 1852 and established his own photographic business in Melbourne in 1855. In 1857 he went to Java and achieved increasing success as a photographer. In 1862 he returned to England and settled in Birmingham. In 1866 he invented the 'Woodbury type', the most beautiful photo-mechanical process ever produced. He was the first photographer granted the privilege of photographing the works of the Old Masters in the art galleries of Europe.

Item Descriptions

Series. Letters of Walter Woodbury to his Mother, 30 January 1852 - 1 September 1858

18 items

Woodbury (Melbourne) to Ellen Woodbury (Manchester), 21 November 1852 (File 1)

Arrival in Australia; work as a teamster, cook and surveyor; plans to visit goldfields.

Woodbury (Melbourne) to Ellen Woodbury, 30 December 1852 (File 2)

High unemployment in Melbourne; appointment as surveyor's labourer; hot weather; Christmas; colonial dress; ship arrivals; death of Duke of Wellington; variable climate of Melbourne. (partly written crosswise)

Woodbury (Melbourne) to Ellen Woodbury, 1852-01-30 [i.e. 1853] (File 3)

Living in tent near beach; photography; wages; description of South Yarra Encampment; the diggings; respectable men working as labourers.

Woodbury (Buninyong) to Ellen Woodbury, 24 April 1853 - 19 May 1853 (File 4)

Journey from Melbourne to Buninyong; slowness of Australian mail steamers; English news; reading Uncle Tom's Cabin; food; camp at Buninyong; race between Marco Polo and Antelope; explosion of powder flask; prices; hints for emigrants.

Woodbury to Ellen Woodbury, [July 1853] (File 5)

Meeting with Indigenous Australians; daily routine of surveying work; Gold Escort held up by bushrangers; English news. (Incomplete fragments, written crosswise, very poor legibility).

Woodbury (Buninyong) to Ellen Woodbury, 10 August 1853 (File 6)

Approach of summer; encounter with black snake; survey of Buninyong; drink the ruling vice of colony; wreck of Serampore. (incomplete)

Woodbury to Ellen Woodbury, [September 1853] (File 7)

Church services; Bible-reading; unrest on goldfields over miners' licences; surveying work; encounter with snakes; description of diggings; future movements. (incomplete, written cross-wise).

Woodbury (Melbourne) to Ellen Woodbury, 6 January 1854 - 16 February 1854 (File 8)

Journey back to Melbourne; meeting with Westall; appointment as draughtsman in Commission of Sewers and Water Supply; plans to photograph Westall's house. (partly written crosswise).

Woodbury (Melbourne) to Ellen Woodbury, 1 September 1854 - 3 September 1854 (File 9)

Despatch of daguerreotypes; thanks for photographs; no plans of marriage; work as draughtsman; refers to Westall, Howitt; photographic work.

Woodbury (Melbourne) to Ellen Woodbury, 30 December 1854 (File 10)

Unemployment; reference given by Commission of Sewers and Water Supply; plans to be photographic artist and tour colony; Eureka uprising.

Woodbury (Melbourne) to Ellen Woodbury, 1 August 1855 - 14 October 1855 (File 11)

Establishment of photographic business at North Melbourne; economic depression; many dying of starvation; Woodbury's lack of success at diggings; income; work for Batchelors, principal daguerreotype establishment in Melbourne; visit of Lola Montez; Ellen Woodbury's intended marriage; earthquake; requests photographs; hopes Henry Woodbury will emigrate to Melbourne. (written crosswise) Also Woodbury's business card.

Woodbury (Melbourne) to Ellen Lloyd, 26 February 1856 (File 12)

Decline of business at North Melbourne; plans to transfer business to Melbourne; marriage of his mother; purchase of goods from England; urges brother Henry to emigrate and join business.

Woodbury (Woolshed Creek) to Ellen Lloyd, 23 August 1856 (File 13)

Lack of success in Melbourne; journey to Ovens Goldfields; photographic establishments at Beechworth and Woolshed Creek; description of house; plans to return to Melbourne and then tour South Sea Islands; dances; prices for photographs.

Woodbury (at sea) to Ellen Lloyd, 14 May 1857 - 9 June 1857 (File 14)

Partnership with Page at Ovens Goldfields; photographic views of Melbourne; voyage to Java on Young American; meals; fears about his health in Batavia; plans to visit China and India; Westall Family; views of Java coast; arrival at Batavia; impressions of town; daily routine; study of Malay language; opening of photographic business. (written crosswise)

Woodbury (Batavia) to Ellen Lloyd, 2 September 1857 - 9 September 1857 (File 15)

Dullness of Batavia; plans to travel in eastern Java; Batavian society; photographic prices; financial situation; sends portrait and stereographic slides; description of houses; daily routine; visit to Buitenzorg; description of landscape.

Woodbury (Sourabaya) to Ellen Lloyd, 2 March 1858 (File 16)

Success of photographic business; income; sends £50 for Henry Woodbury; plans to visit Philippines, China, Siam, Malaya; variety of customers; advantages of speaking Malay; health; order for Punch,Illustrated London News and other journals.

Woodbury (Passausean) to Ellen Lloyd, 15 June 1858 (File 17)

Receipt of portraits; improved financial position since leaving Australia; instructions for Henry Woodbury; sends sketch of Javanese woman; impending 24th birthday; scarcity of letters from England.

Woodbury (Soerakeota) to Ellen Lloyd, 1 September 1858 (File 18)

Decision to return to England and negotiate sale of photographs of East Indies; visit of Henry Woodbury to Java.