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A New Home For Old Photographs

October 14, 2014
by the gentle author

Photograph by O. Baumgard, 12 Little Alie St

It fills me with dismay to see old family albums for sale. And boxes of loose family photographs, all mixed up together, are one of the saddest sights you could encounter in the market.

Countless times, I have leafed through these books of photographs, often painstakingly captioned, that were once cherished and are now discarded, and I find it hard to resist the urge to buy them all just so that I can keep them safe on behalf of their former owners. I stand and pay my respects to the tender images of the holidays and family celebrations of strangers, as if my close attention might revive the lonely spirits of these lost souls. Yet, as much as I would like to, it is beyond my capacity to become the guardian and collector of all the stray photographs in the world, and so I must pass them by in regret.

So you can imagine my delight when Stefan Dickers, Archivist at the Bishopsgate Institute, told me that he is offering a home to all the unwanted albums and family photographs, where they can be kept safely for perpetuity and take their rightful place in the grand narrative of history. It is to be called the London Family Photo Archive and the beauty of it is that you can also contribute digital copies of photographs if you wish to keep the prints.

“We are looking for family and personal photos of everyday life, no matter if you have lived in London since birth or are a recent arrival to the city,” Stefan explained to me, “We are also looking for photos that depict Londoners on day trips and holidays outside of the city.”

If you might wish to contribute albums or pictures and would like to know more please contact

Stefan Dickers’ grandparents Win & Doug enjoy a drink at Dirty Dicks’ in 1958

Lucy feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Sq in 1981

Stephen with mum & dad, c.1955

Stephen with dad in the backyard at Canning Town, c. 1965

Joan & Bill Naylor celebrate in Bellevue Place in the sixties

Joginder Singh in 1968

Photograph by Oscar Baumgart, The Empire Studio, 118 Commercial Rd

A family Christmas in Elder St 1968 – Neville Turner sits next to his father at the dinner table

John & June getting married in Ealing in 1953

Bob Mazzer & his dad ‘Mott’ in 1950

Michelle at a party in Peckham in 1991

Family portrait at a studio in Vallance Rd, 1980. From left to right – Arful Nessa (mother), Haji Abdul Jalil (father), Hafsa Begum (sister), Rahana Begum (sister), Faruk Miah (cousin), Shiraz Miah (cousin) and Delwar Hussain.

Marie & the girls from McCloskeys on a beano  in Strype St in 1955

Gwen Bullwinkle holds up her daughter Mavis in Hanbury St in 1933

Dolly & pals on a day trip to Brighton, c. 1950

Lesley & Linda Keeper (on left) playing with friends in Cranberry St, c. 1955

Mohammed, Deena & Elizabeth Omar on holiday at Land’s End in 1974

Susana on a day trip to Wimbledon in 2013 by Jorin Buschor

The Gentle Author’s mother Valerie in 1933

Photographs courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

18 Responses leave one →
  1. Pete permalink
    October 14, 2014

    Great idea, somewhere these super pics can be properly ‘rescued’..
    … it’s tragic when collections of family photos get scattered to the four winds as it were, often just thrown out, or split up and cynically put on ebay for a couple of quid.

  2. Matthias permalink
    October 14, 2014

    My dear ‘Gentle Author’,

    I have been reading your stories for years and every morning I can’t wait to read the next one. You do simply a great job, even seen from my place in Saxony, Geremany.
    Actually I only found accidentally. First I was interested in your language because I always try to improve my English for my job (teacher). But the more I read the more I love your neighbourhood. So many good stories and people worth being remembered.
    I wish you good luck in finding more and more stories.
    Thanks a lot. Quite many stories I have already used in my lessons.

    All the best,

    Yours Matthias

  3. Rupert Neil Bumfrey (@rupertbu) permalink
    October 14, 2014

    Marvellous initiative 🙂

  4. October 14, 2014

    Fine idea! I always am unsure myself when finding those photographs on fleamarkets: what can one do? They have deserved such an archive!

    Love & Peace

  5. Philip Marriage permalink
    October 14, 2014

    What a wonderful idea – I just hope Stefan has enough room to store them all. Because of my own interest in photography, about forty years ago I was given a Victorian Photograph Album rescued from a skip. It contains many formal family portraits, carte de visite and some early postcards mostly taken by London photographers. One portrait has a date of 1867 on the back. The album belonged to a family named Jolly, their spinster daughter had just died and the house was in the midst of being cleared when a neighbour spotted it and passed it to me. I’ve cherished the album since but clearly it should have a more appropriate home else it might end up in a skip again. I’d be happy for it to be part of the London Family Photo Archive.

  6. Peter Holford permalink
    October 14, 2014

    Fortunately I started making notes about our old family photos when I was quite a young man. As such I was viewed as a bit eccentric and as members of our family died all the old albums came my way – the last I received from my mum’s cousin would definitely have gone on the tip! But what next? My sons show little interest at this time so I’ve started sending copies of photos to the various archives. Perhaps with computer literacy this will be the destiny of more old photos – let’s hope so. Among my dad’s stuff are great photos of Leman Street Police Station encased in sand bags in 1940, his dad’s activities in the Territorial Army (I think) before the Great War, his uncles stay in a convalescent home, etc. Nobody with a sense of history can throw them away.

  7. Peter permalink
    October 14, 2014

    ………and the best is usually the last;dear Gentle Author you should use that lovely photograph of your Mum on your next Christmas card.
    Three cheers for the “new home”,the skip has a lot to answer for and more so the individuals who use it !

  8. Sarah C permalink
    October 14, 2014

    Was thrilled to see some of my favorite photos from past posts. Also thank you for including the photograph of your mother-

  9. October 14, 2014

    What an excellent idea.

  10. Beryl Happe permalink
    October 14, 2014

    An interesting idea. We have got thousands of photographs, all cherished and I cannot bear to think of them being binned, but storage……… It is easier now there are digital pictures stored on tiny memory cards, but I still couldn’t just hand ours over to a stranger.
    Love the photograph of your mother GA.

  11. Roger Carr permalink
    October 14, 2014

    Family photographs of my grandparents, out for a Sunday afternoon jaunt in the pony trap with the blind housekeeper – it was either them or the workhouse. My mad aunt again with a pony and trap, out delivering milk and gossip door to door, and Mum and her sisters on a motorbike and sidecar, off into town to a dance. The detailed oil paintings on copper of the clippers that my great grandfather sailed on were all snatched up but I got all the photographs, including a lovely British in India album from 1908. I found it odd that nobody else in the family seemed interested in these potted family biographies.

  12. October 14, 2014

    Brilliant idea!

  13. October 14, 2014

    There is something magical about photographs, especially old ones. I am one of those people who buy old photos on eBay, but I do have to limit myself. I have themes, like trying to get one photograph from each of the Victorian photography studios in Brighton . . . there were hundreds of photographers at that time! I have an album that belonged to my gt grandfather, Horace Ransom, whose father Henry was a Mourning Draper in Upper Street, Islington. Sadly there are several photographs in the album of forgotten friends and relatives that I am never likely to name. Perhaps there is one of the wonderfully named Fanny Startup who appears in his birthday book! I too have the urge to “save” all the photographs I see. How nice it is that the London Family Photo Archive has been born. And good luck with the Spitalfields Nippers book, another window into the past (who needs Doctor Who?).

  14. October 14, 2014

    Brilliant idea. Check out “A Richer Dust: Echoes from an Edwardian Album” by Colin Gordon. The author found such a family album at a flea market and set out to discover who they were. I have a project to scan a box of photos from a flea market in Glasgow and post them on Flickr in the hopes that families will recognise them. They are from around the early 1900s.

  15. Hetty Startup permalink
    October 15, 2014

    “I have an album that belonged to my gt grandfather, Horace Ransom, whose father Henry was a Mourning Draper in Upper Street, Islington. Sadly there are several photographs in the album of forgotten friends and relatives that I am never likely to name. Perhaps there is one of the wonderfully named Fanny Startup who appears in his birthday book! ”

    Hmm, Fanny Startup is probably a relative

  16. Elizabeth cornwell permalink
    October 29, 2014

    What a lovely picture of your Mum.I have a huge collection of family photos,some of them taken in Germany in1949 when my father was stationed there.I am sure that across the country there is a huge archive of social history just waiting to be shown!Would be interesting if some could be correlated & available to view.

  17. Daphne Grinberg permalink
    August 15, 2017

    Found this site while looking for information on Oscar Baumgart, who took a photograph of my grandmother somewhere around 1910-1915 – there is no date on it. SO IMPORTANT to keep family photos and to show them to our children and grandchildren, and talk about the family. My husband was Latvian, and when he died my son found, at the back of a cupboard, a box of photos of his family, none of them named, we have no idea who they are. So sad.

  18. April 27, 2018

    Superb, so much to like. The men in their white shirts and ties at Christmas, the working class Dad and his kid in Clapham, the parties etc. Life is beautiful. Family and friends are everything. Best of from NZ.

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