Series 2: Sarah Acland (1849 – 1930)

Sarah Acland’s main claim to fame was as a pioneer of colour photography which she started to experiment with in 1899. When she was nineteen she met and was influenced by the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. Among the portraits she took was of the Prime Minister William Gladstone when he visited Oxford. Others in the field at the time credited her with inventing colour photography ‘as a process for the travelling amateur’. She had first taken these photographs when she visited Gibraltar in 1903 and 1904. She was also a landscape photographer. One of her best landscapes was Funchal Bay in Madeira which she took in about 1910.

Colour photograph of Funchal Bay, Madeira, by Sarah Acland, c. 1910.

Born on 26th June 1849, she was the daughter of Sir Henry Wentworth Acland (1815-1900) who was Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University and Sarah Acland (nee Cotton, 1815-1878), after whom the Acland Hospital was named. Her father persuaded Queen Victoria to allow women doctors to train.

As a child, Sarah was photographed by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll). John Ruskin taught her art. She also knew some of the Pre-Raphaelites and assisted Dante Gabriel Rossetti when he was painting the murals at the Oxford Union.

She became a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and the Royal Society of the Arts. She was involved in many Oxford charities and worked at the Acland hospital.

She never married and after the death of her father moved from her parents’ house in Broad Street to 10 Park Town where there is now a blue plaque commemorating her.

Her photographs can be seen at the Museum of the History of Science in Broad Street, Oxford.

Further reading

Blue Plaque page:

Speech from Blue Plaque event:

Giles Hudson, Sarah Angelina Acland: First Lady of Colour Photography, 1849-1930 (2012)

Ann Spokes Symonds is an author and local historian who has written a number of books on the history of Oxford.


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