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Henry Dixon

Henry Dixon was born on 29 March 1824, the oldest child and only son of Captain William Dixon, Royal Artillery and the Noble Signorina Cecilia Pierina Gironci, of Corfu, in Naples.
He was appointed (i.e.enrolled) at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, on Aug. 19, 1839, aged 15, all set to become an artilleryman like his father. He was examined on Sept. 3, 1840, but failed, and discharged on Sept. 22, 1840. This was a blow, but the young candidate's uncle, the Rev. Henry Dixon of Ferring, recommended him to the East India Company, where he was sponsored by Martin Tucker Smith, one of the company's directors.
The only way you could become an ensign in John Company's Army was to be nominated by a director. Each director had the privilege of nominating two officers and one surgeon per year. Young Henry was examined and passed for officer service (in other words, when a suitable vacancy occurred) on May 24, 1842. His certificate number was 268 and he was assigned to the Madras Infantry.
On May 25, 1842 he left London on the "GENERAL KYD". On June 11 he was officially confirmed as an ensign and on June 29, 1842 was ranked as part of the Number 5 batch of intakes. He arrived in Madras on Oct. 4, 1842, and on Oct. 5 became an ensign within his regiment, the 22nd Regiment Native Infantry, Madras, East India Company, based at Berhampoor and Rassel Kondah, under the command of Richard H. Yates.
On February 12, 1846 Henry became a lieutenant within the same regiment, based in Tenasserim Province, under the command of Col. James Bell.
In 1849 he was placed at the disposal of the Bengal government and appointed commandant of the Khoordah and Balasore Paik Company (a paik was a low-caste Central Provinces Indian foot soldier). Later that year he married Catherine Eliza Cheek.
From February 1854 to March 1855 he was at Mhow with his paiks, as part of the Hyderabad Sub. Force of the 22MNI, still under the command of Col. Bell. On March 30, 1855 Henry was appointed Assistant Executive Engineer with the 2nd Circle of the Department of Public Works, Bengal, Lower Provinces, working with the Cuttack Road Division at Bhubaneshwar, in the province of Orissa.
On November 23, 1856 he was promoted to captain, still with the 22MNI, and still under Col. Bell (who was based at Penang, as Commander of the Pegu Division).
In addition to his soldiering duties, Henry was very involved in the relatively new art form of photography. His shots of temples and caves were exhibited, to critical acclaim, at the Bengal Photographic Society meetings of Jan. 19 and March 24, 1859. His photos were also shown at the Madras Exhibition that year.
By 1860 he was back in England, wrapping up his late father's estate and moving into 8 Park End, Sydenham, Kent, with his wife and children and his manservant Shaik Sillar, and the childrens' ayah, Manoo Bee. On April 29, 1861 his sensitized photographic plate was patented in London. He had been working on this with inventor Thomas Sutton, at Kings College, London. At the London Exhibition of 1862 twenty of his temple photographs were shown.
He was back in Bangalore in 1862, promoted to acting major, HM Indian Army, Madras Establishment. After the Mutiny, in 1858, it had become painfully obvious that John Company could not handle an uprising of that scale, so it ceded its power to the British government, and the four-year dismemberment of the East India Company began. The period 1859-61 saw Company officers being offered a choice - either resign now with no pension, or re-enlist in Her Majesty's Army (i.e. the British Army). Henry re-enlisted.
In 1865 he produced a portfolio of views of Mysore copper inscriptions, which had been commissioned by the Mysore government. One of the patrons of this work was His Highness the Maharajah of Mysore [curiously, and to illustrate what a small world it is, the great grandson of that Maharajah of Mysore was the best man at the 1981 wedding in Chelsea, London, of the great great great grand nephew of Col. Henry Dixon].
On Sept. 12, 1866 Henry was promoted to major, and in 1867 his photographic work was shown at the Paris Exhibition. That year Catherine Eliza and the family returned to England, and set up at Warwick House, in Sydenham Park, Kent. Henry followed in early 1869, having stayed behind in Madras to oversee the publication of his album of 10 photos of temples at Conjeevaram.
In 1870, by now a lieutenant-colonel, he inherited his uncle Henry's estate. He retired on April 18, 1872. By 1875 he was living at 10 Peak Hill Avenue, Sydenham, and by 1878 at 19 Lyndhurst Road, Peckham (now called Lyndhurst Way). Catherine Eliza died in Jan. 1881, and Henry took the family to Italy on vacation. Unfortunately Adelaide Mary died there, on the road to Lucca, and Henry brought the remaining family back to England immediately. Late that year they (Col. Henry, Anne Ida, May and George Smith) moved to 4 Brooklyn Road, Shepherds Bush.
Henry drew up his will on Jan. 28, 1882 and died in 1883.
He left his photographic equipment to his son, as he did the Square Bible (1612) [which is now in the possession of the same great great great grand nephew, in North Carolina].
The children sold 4 Brooklyn Road to Francis Sayles, a dentist. The house became 89 Lime Grove, and it was bombed during World War II, and a small block of flats took its place.
The India Office have hundreds of Col. Henry Dixon's photographs, and displays of them often take place in various places throughout the world.