Photographers Index

W L H Skeen and Co

Active Dates: 1860 - circa 1920
Active Area: Asia (continent)
Sri Lanka (nation)
Western Province (province)
Colombo (inhabited place)
Central Province (province)
Kandy (inhabited place)
Likenesses: None
Photographs: See list of photographs
Publications: The Royal visit to Ceylon, April 1901 (1901), Colombo. [Album with letterpress and 58 platinum prints by Skeen, Platé and Colombo Apothecaries Company].
Skeen, William (1868), 'The Knuckles, and other poems'. With photographic illustrations by W.L.H. Skeen. Together with The Christmas tree by R. Skeen. Colombo: W.L.H. Skeen.
Skeen, William (1870), 'Adam's peak: legendary, traditional, and historic notices of the Samanala and Srî-páda, with a descriptive account of the pilgrim's route from Colombo, to the sacred foot-print'. Colombo: W.L.H. Skeen and Co.
Related Entries: Birch, James Wheeler Woodford, 1826-1875, resident in Perak
Parting, J, fl 1851-1860, photographer
Platé and Co
Watts and Skeen
W.L.H. Skeen and Co. was a commercial photographic company active in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

William Skeen, father of W.L.H. Skeen, was the first official Ceylon Government Printer from 1849 to 1872. He was the author of 'The Knuckles and other poems' and 'Adam's peak'. He purchased the photographic business of J. Parting for his son in 1860.

The business originally traded under the name of S. Slinn and Co. and was managed by S. Slinn Skeen and John Edward Wilshaw. The firm had premises in the Fort district, Colombo. S. Slinn Skeen had arrived in Ceylon aboard the 'Colombo' in September 1860. He left for England aboard the 'Huguenot' in November 1861. In 1863 the company advertised a new studio at 1 Baille Street, Fort. For many years the firm also sold stationery, jewellery, watches and other items. The firm changed its name to W.L.H. Skeen and Co. by the late 1860s.

William Louis Henry Skeen trained at the London School of Photography. He arrived in Ceylon circa 1862 and married Elizabeth. They had three children: Ellen Margaret, Sydney Louis Ernest, Harold Lewis Spencer. Elizabeth died January 20th 1933 at Clacton-on-Sea.

The company had various studios. It advertised studios at: 40 Chatham Street 1866-68; Cinnamon Gardens 1869; 41 Chatham Street 1871; 14 Chatham Street 1874; 41 Chatham Street 1876-78; 4 Chatham Street 1885-86; 41 Chatham Street 1889; 4 Chatham Street 1891-92; circa 1892 onwards 41 Chatham Street. By 1891 the firm had a Kandy branch at 21 Ward Street. W.L.H. Skeen lived in Kandy and his wife ran a millinery business there.

F.A.E. Skeen arrived in Ceylon in 1878 to assist his brother W.L.H. Skeen. He remained with the company until 1887, when he went to Burma (now Myanmar) to found the firm of Watts and Skeen. F.A.E. Skeen returned to Ceylon after the death of W.L.H. Skeen in 1903. The company changed its name to F. Skeen and Co. F.A.E. Skeen left Ceylon by 1914. After F.A.E. Skeen's departure, the business was managed by E. Koch. It was trading from Union Place in 1919. It ceased trading circa 1920. It's stock was probably taken over by Platé and Co.

During its existence W.L.H. Skeen and Co was the premier firm in Ceylon, producing an extensive documentation of agriculture and industry (particularly tea and spices), landscapes and ethnic groups. The company recorded the construction of the Ceylon railways from the 1860s to the 1890s and the Colombo Breakwater in the 1880s. The company published J.W.W. Birch's photographs of Polonnaruwa circa 1876. The company were photographers by appointment to the Duke of Edinburgh during the tour of 1870 and photographed elephant kraals (also the kraals of 1882). The firm issued a series of Indian views (Bombay, Jaipur, Delhi, Agra, Ramisseram, Darjeeling (now Darjiling), etc.) circa 1890. It also exhibited at major international exhibitions from the 1870s to the 1900s.

Other family members:

Henry Skeen was the brother of William Skeen. He served as Assistant Government Printer from July to December 1852. He died December 26th 1852 and was buried at Galle Face Cemetery, Colombo.

George Justin Athelstan Skeen was born in 1852. He was the Ceylon Government Printer from 1881 to 1906, He was the author of 'Guide to Colombo' (2nd edition, Colombo 1889) and 'A guide to Kandy' (Colombo 1903).
Sources: Ceylon almanacs.
Ceylon Blue Books.
Ceylon Civil Lists.
Falconer, John (1981), 'Nineteenth century photography in Ceylon'. 'The Photographic Collector'. Summer 1981, pp.39-54.
Wright, Arnold (ed.) (1907), 'Twentieth century impressions of Ceylon: its history, people, commerce, industries, and resources', London: Lloyd's Greater Britain Publishing Co.

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