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|Sir (John) Benjamin Stone M.P., J.P.|
From Vanity Fair.
|John Benjamin Stone was the son of Benjamin Stone of Aston Manor (Birmingham), a glass manufacturer. He was born on the 9th February 1838, and was educated at King Edward's School (Birmingham Grammar School), New Street. Married in 1867, Jane daughter of Peter Parker, Esq., of Lothersdale, Yorkshire. He entered his father's business, and eventually succeeded him as director, as well as establishing a wide range of other prosperous commercial interests.
A representative of Duddeston Ward on Birmingham Town Council from 1869-1878, and a founder and later President of the Birmingham Conservative Association. Magistrate for Birmingham, Warwickshire, and Sutton Coldfield in turn, he was also associated with many cultural and philanthropic foundations including the Birmingham and Midland Institute, Mason's Orphanage, the Children's Hospital and the Birmingham Blue Coat School - as well as being a member of the Geographical, Royal Geographical, and Linnean Societies. He was elected Councillor for the Wylde Green Ward, and later five times Mayor of Sutton Coldfield, holding the office from 1886 to 1890. He was Sutton Coldfield's first Mayor. As a founder-member of the Primrose League, Stone attracted the attention of the Marquis of Salisbury, on whose recommendation he was knighted in 1892. He was elected Member of Parliament for the East Division of Birmingham in 1895, and held the seat until his retirement, due to ill health, in 1910. Stone took little part in Parliamentary debates, and was much criticised for his frequent absences, even travelling abroad whilst an election was in progress.
Stone's considerable income enabled him to travel extensively in Britain and abroad, at a time when foreign travel was still very much the prerogative of the rich. He was in great demand as a lecturer, and began to collect photographs in order to illustrate his lectures and travel books. Dissatisfied with the quality of many of the commercial prints he purchased, Stone decided to master the art of photography himself, employing two men full-time at his home to develop and print his plates. Stone was one of the first photographers to switch from wet to dry plates, obviating the need to develop the plates 'on the spot' as soon as they had been exposed.
As an early President of the Birmingham Photographic Society, Stone helped to establish the Warwickshire Photographic Survey, which aimed to record for posterity the country's architectural and historical heritage. The initial deposit was presented to the City in 1892. Five years later Stone founded the National Photographic Record Association, intended to fulfil a similar function on a national scale. This flourished until 1910 when the lack of government finance and the growth of local societies led to its demise. By then the collection amounted to several thousand prints, almost half of them by Stone, deposited in the British Museum. His Collection comprises individual and group portraits, street scenes, ancient buildings (particularly churches and manor houses) and Royal and Parliamentary occasions. His position as an M.P. enabled him to gain entry to places normally forbidden to photographers. He made exhaustive surveys of Windsor Castle and Westminster Abbey. His pictures of Windsor Castle proved of considerable value in the wake of a fire on the 20th November 1992 which damaged part of the castle, these included pictures of state and private apartments, the royal chapel and the library, and English Heritage used these as a reference, to help restore the building and the furniture. His crowning honour as an amateur was undoubtedly his appointment in 1910 as official photographer for the Coronation of George V. He left over thirty thousand negatives many are held in the British Museum, others in the Birmingham Public Library.
Stone died at his home, the Grange (now the John Taylor Hospice) in Erdington, Birmingham on the 2nd July 1914. His wife of nearly 50 years died on 5th July, just three days after his death. They were buried together in a double funeral in Sutton Coldfield on the 7th July 1914.
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