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  Ilex Camera Works

Ilex Camera Works was the culmination of an ambitious young man’s dream. The year was 1889, and Alfred Charles “A. C.” Jackson had just completed his apprenticeship at R & J Beck, one of London’s leading optical manufacturers. Leaving its Kentish Town plant with only ten pounds in his pocket, Mr. Jackson was determined to start his own business, despite his obvious lack of operating capital. He reduced personal expenses by living with his parents, and invested his meager savings in a lathe, which allowed him to construct various types of equipment.

Starting first with a flash lamp, the enterprising Mr. Jackson traveled to various photographic establishments, peddling his wares. The first six lamps he made quickly sold, and the one-man factory was on his way. His first plant, Crown Works, located at 98A Amhurst Road in Hackney, was little more than a one-room workshop. Hand cameras were quite popular at this time, but were too expensive for amateurs to purchase. Mr. Jackson reasoned that if he could produce a quality product at an affordable price, he could successfully compete with the larger and more lucrative manufacturers. It worked. Soon, Crown Works, was doing a nice hand camera business that soon carved its niche with the distinctive Ilex box camera.

Within a few years, Mr. Jackson’s business outgrew the cramped confines of the single-room Crown Works facility. In 1900, a change in location also necessitated a change in name, to Ilex Camera Works, on Northwold Road, in the London suburb of Stoke Newington. A best seller was Mr. Jackson’s patented wooden falling plate camera, with an f8 lens, spring-powered Ilex metal shutter (that could be adapted to fit to either the back or front of the lens) that used 12, 3 ¼" x 4 ¼” plates encased within an internal falling plate. The camera’s most distinctive characteristics were its two reflecting finders, with the front opening to provide shutter access, and the back and base opened for the loading and unloading of plates. Its inventory grew to include the Polo and Twin-Lens Ilex cameras, the latter proving to be extremely user friendly for the amateur photographer. Ilex Camera Works clearly demonstrated that in the early twentieth century, top quality cameras and accessories could be purchased at reasonable prices. Mr. Jackson also hired the best personnel he could find, most notably Walter Dockree, who oversaw manufacturing operations. He later became a successful camera maker in his own right, selling his own patented “Celsus” reflex camera.

By 1904, Mr. Jackson’s products and reputation were firmly established, and larger companies were taking notice. When G. Houghton & Son, Ltd. was consolidating its business by merging with dealers including Joseph Levi & Co., Spratt Brothers, Holmes Brothers, and Sanderson Camera Works, it made Mr. Jackson the proverbial offer he couldn’t refuse. Ilex Camera Works disappeared within the massive Houghton Ltd. organization, with Mr. Jackson being retained to manage its Hackney plant.

1996 British Camera Makers. An A-Z Guide to Companies and Products by Norman Channing and Mike Dunn (London : Parkland Designs), pp. 54-55, 62.

1910 The British Journal of Photography, Vol. LVII (London: Henry Greenwood & Co.), p. 210.

1904 The British Trade Journal, Vol. XLII (London: British Trade Journal), p. 162.

1902 Chemist & Druggist, Vol. LX (London: The Chemist & Druggist), p. 631.

2010 The Development and Growth of British Photographic Manufacturing and Retailing 1839-1914 by Michael Pritchard (URL:

2018 Falling Plate Camera (Jackson's Patents) (URL:

1899 The Photographic Dealer and D. & P. Trade Review, Vol. VI (London: Photographic Dealer, Ltd.), pp. 123-124.

1900 The Photographic Dealer and D. & P. Trade Review, Vol. VIII (London: Photographic Dealer, Ltd.), p. 32.

1900 The Photographic Dealer and D. & P. Trade Review, Vol. IX (London: Photographic Dealer, Ltd.), p. xxxix.

1916 The Photographic Dealer and D. & P. Trade Review, Vol. XVI (London: Photographic Dealer, Ltd.), pp. 47-48.

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2020-05-02 19:54:49

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