Photographic memories 1893–2018: part V

The White Hart on Chigwell Road, Woodford Bridge (now La Sala), taken by Woodford Photographic Society member William Wastell in 1908The White Hart on Chigwell Road, Woodford Bridge (now La Sala), taken by Woodford Photographic Society member William Wastell in 1908

In the fifth 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.

During the 1950s and 1960s there was a constant turnover of society membership. Some members moved away, others were not able to continue for domestic reasons. The loss of talented members in this way made it difficult for the club to fulfil the hopes of the early members that the society would 'take its place amongst the foremost in the country'. Finances also caused concern at this time, and the society held its first raffle in September 1953, tickets costing 6d and the prize worth approximately 4/6.

The society had 37 members in 1956, and the records of the monochrome print competitions show there were three advanced workers, seven intermediate and five preliminary.

The society began to place greater emphasis on competitions, and with this came the need to establish rules. In 1953, a print panel was established to select prints for competitions and to determine the classes. In 1955, the committee agreed to set up rules for print competitions.

In 1955, the first four-way annual print battle was held involving photographic societies from Ilford, Loughton, Bishops Stortford and Woodford. Several years later, in 1964, the directors of Ilford Ltd in Basildon presented a shield for this contest, which then became known as the Basildon Trophy Battle. Since then, Bishops Stortford has withdrawn and in 1979, the Ilford Photographic Society was dissolved. The two clubs were replaced in the competition by Lea Valley Camera Club and Enfield Camera Club. Woodford Photographic Society ceased taking part in the early 2000s, but in 2018 this competition is still going strong, taking place annually, having become a monochrome print competition between Walthamstow, Chingford, Loughton and Enfield clubs.

After the war, 35mm colour slides became increasingly popular and the programmes were arranged to give an equal balance of colour slides and monochrome prints in competitions, the first colour slide competition being held in 1953. Cameras and equipment were not too expensive, and with slides being commercially processed, the opportunity for photography was open to all. Slide shows became a popular form of entertainment for the general public, both at home and at other society meetings. In 1957, to foster this interest, the society decided to allow both home-processed and trade-processed slides to be entered into competitions.

In 1962, the Wanstead and Woodford Borough Council staged a 'What We Do' exhibition at the Sir James Hawkey Hall as part of its 25th anniversary celebrations. All local organisations were invited to contribute. The Woodford Photographic Society had four panels on display at the exhibition

In 1968, Henry Malby, grandson of the founder of the society, was elected honorary vice-president and life member of the society. After a long period of caretaker strikes in 1967 and 1968, which came without warning so that lecturers, judges and members could not be notified, the society found other premises at Ray Lodge church hall, which also had a storeroom available. The club needed a new projector at this time and members were asked for donations, contributing £10 towards the total cost of £27 14s 9d.

By the end of the 1960s, the content of the programmes had changed. The programme for 1968 shows the club had become more competitive. Of the 42 meetings, 16 were competitions. Some members contributed an evening, including Fred James and Reg Fowkes, but there were also talks and demonstrations by professional companies, including May & Baker, Agfa, Kodak, Minolta, the Camera Centre and the Photographic Alliance.

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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