Photographic memories 1893–2018: part III

The Woodford Congregational Church on Broomhill Road, Woodford Green, taken by Woodford Photographic Society member William Wastell in 1910 (now the site of Hawkey Hall)The Woodford Congregational Church on Broomhill Road, Woodford Green, taken by Woodford Photographic Society member William Wastell in 1910 (now the site of Hawkey Hall)

In the third of a series of articles celebrating the Woodford and Wanstead Photographic Society's 125th anniversary year, club member Alan Simpson offers some insight into the group's history, which in turn provides a pictorial record of our changing surroundings.

By 1906, club membership had increased to 104, and five members had received the FRPS distinction from the Royal Photographic Society.

At the Annual General Meeting in 1906, a member suggested that marks should be awarded at the society's monthly lantern slide competitions, with a certificate or other reward to go to the member with the highest number of points at the end of the year. This idea was rejected, the prevailing opinion being that competition was not necessary as an incentive to improvement.

In 1911, Ilford Photographic Society invited Woodford to join in a competition with about 20 other local clubs, but the records do not indicate whether Woodford accepted. The society evidently enjoyed varied social activities at this time. A programme dated January 1912 shows the club held a whist drive and musical evening with entertainment provided by members and their families after an interval for refreshments. At other times, the minutes make references to summer activities, such as rambles and coach outings, with a prize being offered for the best print of a photograph taken on these excursions.

In October 1914, William Wastell organised a public showing of slides in aid of the Belgian Relief Fund and raised the sum of £8 6s 6d. The activities of the club were reduced at this time because of the First World War. Although meetings continued for a time, and the sparse accounts show membership subscriptions and affiliation fees for 1917, 1918 and 1919, there do not appear to have been any formal meetings between the AGMs in 1917 and 1919. Meetings resumed on 16 November 1919, held at the Wilfrid Lawson Hotel, but from January 1920 the society moved to the Woodford Memorial Hall. The postponed 21st annual exhibition was held in April 1921 and, because of post-war difficulties, the society decided not to have an exhibition catalogue. At this exhibition, the names of 16 new exhibitors appear as well as the names of older members.

During its first 25 years, the society had achieved many of its objectives. There had been great changes and developments in materials and techniques, and members had kept abreast of these developments by trial and error, achieving success in competitions and producing a survey of Woodford, which was of historical interest. The First World War broke the sequence and created a shortage of materials, but as the society was able to stage the exhibition in 1921, it is clear the pre-war impetus had survived.

The programme continued in a similar way to the pre-war era with lectures and demonstrations. For example, in November 1922, Bernard Cook, a member and City of London verderer, gave a historical and pictorial presentation on Epping Forest, illuminated by autochrome slides. There were 32 members and 20 visitors present at that meeting.

There were also changes made at this time. At the 23rd annual exhibition in 1923, awards were made to preliminary members for the first time. This exhibition received a 33-inch report in The Woodford Times. The attitude to competition had evidently changed since 1906, when the idea of having competitions was rejected, for another innovation was the arrangement of a print competition in October 1926, with judging by popular vote.

In 1922, the society agreed to admit ladies to membership and Miss GE Powers became the first lady member. But the society was slow to recognise the existence of female members. In the programme for 1924–1925, some of the meetings have an asterisk beside them and there is a note at the bottom which says: "These lectures are illustrated with lantern slides and are suitable evenings on which members might bring their lady friends." A few years later, in 1927, Norah Cross was the first woman to be elected as president for the year.

A History of Woodford and Wanstead Photographic Society was originally written in 1968 by George Hunt and updated in 2002 by Gillian Hutchinson. Alan Simpson has again updated the text for the group's 125th anniversary. Visit

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