Gribble Collection of photographs
The Gribble Collection is a collection of about 30,000 photographs. The name is an umbrella term for all the photographs curated by the Drakenstein Heemkring. Although most of the photographs were taken by James Gribble or his son Harold, James Gribble bought up a number of smaller studios, and in so doing, acquired glass negatives of photographs taken by other Paarl photographers. Over the years additional photographs have been added to the collection, photographs that individually are not large enough to make up a separate collection. Hence the generic term the “Gribble Collection”.
James Gribble II was born on 27 January 1863. At the time his parents, James and Jane Gribble, lived in Observatory, Cape Town. In 1879 when James was sixteen years old, he began his apprenticeship with the then famous Cape Town photographer Samuel Bayles Barnard. Barnard had a studio in Bree Street, and later moved the studio to Adderley Street.
In 1885 James Gribble was sent to Paarl to take photographs at a wedding, and decided to move to Paarl where at the age of 22 he became an assistant to James F Goch, and bought the studio in 1888. In is interesting to note that during this period, there were several photographers working in Paarl. Two Cape Town studios also opened branches in Paarl.
Gribble undertook several and sometimes fairly extensive roadtrips to supplement his income as a photographer. One of his first was in undertaken in 1888 when he travelled to Kimberley, and from there through the Free State. During this trip he visited Bultfontein where he took a photograph of President Reitz. Grahamstown, George, Knysna, Heidelberg, Swellendam, Caledon, Wellington and Calvinia also feature in the collection.
Of these trips he wrote: “I was a young man building my future and business and felt quite happy jogging along in my cart at a rate of six miles per hour. There was only one bank ... at Bloemfontein, (there) I would hand over £100 in gold and as my taking increased I would take the gold to a merchant and exchange it for a cheque which I then posted on to my bank in Paarl. This Free State money helped me buy the Market Square property which later became our home and business. I used to ride over roads that were not roads the whole way, just to get to a dorp ... over rocks, through sand, at times one wheel in a three foot furrow, through veld with grass up to the horses’ heads ... (saw) immense herds of springbok, thousands of these animals which sounded like thunder in the distance as they raced on their way.”
James’ personal life was not without tragedy. In 1890 he married Catherine “Kate” Lyon in Victoria West. Kate died in 1900, leaving James with four young children. In 1901 he married Alice Edgeworth who tragically died ten months later in 1902, possibly during childbirth. Two years later he married Rosamund “Rose” Josephine Sara Gribble, a second cousin. 
James Gribble retired in 1925 when his son Harold completed his photographic apprenticeship with J Schultz in Observatory. Harold took over the Gribble Studio, and then passed on the business to his daughter Yvonne in 1973. The Gribble Studio finally closed in 1987.
James Gribble II (1863 - 1943)
Email the Drakenstein Heemkring for more information on the collection, or check the following list of surnames if you are looking for a specific person or family. Once you have placed your order, you can make a payment using this