Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Festival fun for all

January 4, 2016

Market Lavington still has a flower and produce show, run in conjunction with that of the Lavington Gardening Club. The village show is open to all and you don’t need to be a green fingered gardener to enter for there are classes for other folks as well. The arts and crafts categories may need a bit of skill but it is easy enough to have a go. You may like to win, but entering really does add to the fun and just maybe you’ll get a prize card or maybe a helpful comment from a judge.

One category ought to be available to almost anybody these days, and that is photography. Virtually all of us have a camera or a mobile phone with a camera as part of it, or a tablet that takes photos. Just about anybody can enter.

Back in (we think) 1993 it was Paul Mehra who won the photographic trophy. He was selected by the local paper for a photo with an article about the show.

Festival Fun at Market Lavington

Festival Fun at Market Lavington

1993 may sound like yesterday to many of us, but for those under 25 it is earlier than the things they remember. As far as photography is concerned it is a different world. Back then cameras used these strange and quite expensive lengths of chemically treated transparent material called film. When a whole film had been ‘exposed’ the pictures on it had to be developed and fixed using more chemicals. A few people did their own developing and fixing but most either handed films in to the local photographer who did it for you, or sent them off to a film processor. Either way, there was more expense. Photographers didn’t like to waste money so they tended to think about what they’d take much more than we do nowadays. We tend to have a mentality now of ‘take 50 and hope one is good’. And that really has democratised the photographic process. Back in Paul Mehra’s time you had to be good to get the winning shots. It is much more, these days, a case of being lucky.

But back to that news article. It’s interesting to note that local clown, Kooky, took part entertaining children and adults. He’s still around and still clowns, but he is also one of our museum stewards now so if you visit the museum you might be greeted by a clown, albeit a clown in mufti.


The photographer’s shop

April 19, 2015

There was a photographer’s shop in Market Lavington for about 100 years. Originally Alf Burgess and then his sons had premises almost next to the co-op. When Peter and Bessie Francis set up their business it was on Church Street and it is those premises we look at today.

Bessie Francis stands outside the photography shop on Church Street in this 1960s view

Bessie Francis stands outside the photography shop on Church Street in this 1960s view

Here we see the premises some 50 years ago. Bessie stands at the door of quite substantial premises which, apart from the shop contained a portrait studio and the darkroom with all its equipment. Peter and Bessie were, of course, photographers as well as shop keepers. They lived over the premises.

The door between the two windows looks absurdly small which may remind us that people are much taller on average, now, than they were even 100 years ago.

The impression from this photo is of a vibrant and thriving business.

By the time the Francis duo retired and sold the business, the writing was probably on the wall for a shop of this kind in a village and not surprisingly the shop closed down leaving the premises as more of a private house. And so this is the 21st century view of the premises.

Bessie Francis stands outside the photography shop on Church Street - 1960s

The same premises in the 21st century

In truth, it still looks much the same and the windows certainly indicate its former shop status. In some ways the buildings either side which we can see have changed more.

These days, of course we are all happy mass snappers with a multi-purpose phone/camera/music player. We do not need experts to help us process our pictures or a regular supply of photographic film. Oddly, in these days of truly mass photography, shops selling equipment for this near universal hobby have all but vanished. If we want equipment we probably research on the internet to find what we want, or maybe make use of a hypermarket or superstore.

Times, inevitably, change.

Sergeant’s Mess

February 1, 2014

This post is really about Market Lavington photographer, Alf Burgess. Alf was not only a photographer, he was very much a business man and he always had thoughts on what would make money.

The summer camps that territorial regiments held, up on Salisbury Plain, were clearly a chance to make some money for Alf. These camps were like holidays with training for the men. They had left parents, wives and sweethearts back home for a week or a fortnight. They needed to write home and what better than a postcard which showed them or maybe their camp.

Many of Alf’s photos are of Pond Farm Camp which is above Easterton. Today’s photo may not be taken within our parish for it bears a postmark of West Down North. This camp was within spitting distance of the Drummer Boy Post which is in the parish of Market Lavington but the camp itself was just outside.

Let’s look first at the back of the card.

Card sent from West Down North Camp in August 1911

Card sent from West Down North Camp in August 1911

It says very little, but we can see the postmark. The card was sent on August 5th 1911.

We can also see that the publisher has credited himself on the card.


The card was published by A Burgess and Sons of Market Lavington

The card was published by A Burgess and Sons of Market Lavington

It is interesting to note that even by 1911 Alf was crediting his sons as part of the business.

And now to the picture which shows a collection of sergeants relaxing on the bleak downland which is Salisbury Plain.

The front of the card shows a group of sergeants

The front of the card shows a group of sergeants

Apart from the chef they all have a cross on their arms, above the stripes. Presumably these could be medical NCOs.


They appear to belong to the Royal Army Medical Corps

They appear to belong to the Royal Army Medical Corps

The cap badges certainly look like those off the Royal Army Medical Corps.

But now let’s think of Alf Burgess, or his sons. Transport for them was the bike. To take the photo the hefty equipment of the day would need to have been lugged up Lavington Hill and then taken some three miles across the rough, rutted tracks to the far reaches of the parish, and then just that bit further. With pictures exposed the whole set of clobber would need to get back down to the Burgess premises on High Street in Market Lavington for the dark room work – developing the exposures into negatives and then printing off each image as a postcard. Perhaps these were then hauled back up to the army camp to effect actual sales. Or, maybe, soldiers were able to escape to purchase their images at the shop and also sample the bright lights of Market Lavington.

It’s a far cry from life 100 years on. These days photos like the one above would have been taken on somebody’s smart phone and almost instantly posted so that friends, family or, indeed, anybody could see it, all over the world.

Photographer’s Negative Wallet

September 8, 2013

The little wallet which came back from the photographer or chemist – the one that held our holiday snaps – has all but vanished. The absolute deluge of photos taken these days are virtually all stored digitally and rapidly shared with one and all via all sorts of networking sites. Even the pleasure of a photograph album is something probably reserved for a wedding day and not much else.

But at least at a museum we can preserve some memories and here is one of our negative (and print) wallets.

Negative wallet - Peter Francis of Market Lavington

Negative wallet – Peter Francis of Market Lavington

The wallet has been produced by Kodak and our local photographer and processor has been able to over-stamp it with his name. So we know that inside were photos processed by Peter Francis. The envelope shows a black and white image of a girl swimming. It probably dates from about 1960.

Inside, the envelope has eight negatives and seven prints. All are of dogs and, it must be said, they do not look well exposed.


The wallet is used for Kodak adverts

The wallet is used for Kodak adverts

Kodak has taken the opportunity to advertise their film and suggest that you might want to get extra prints made. People who have processed black and white film will note that the large format negative shown looks rather on the thin side. It’ll be hard to get a quality print from that.

The film was taken by Mr and Mrs Elisha. They are names that will be well known to regular readers of this blog, both being at the heart of village life in so many ways.

The customers were the Elishas of Market Lavington

The customers were the Elishas of Market Lavington

The price seems very cheap for it is listed as 3/0½ – just over 15p in today’s money. That may be cheap, but these days we tend to regard photography as just about free. And we certainly expect it to be instant.

So the wallet is just a memory of a past time when, perhaps, people thought about what photos they were taking and shared them with just the special friends and family.

Mr Burgess gets a delivery

March 23, 2013

As a photographer, Alf Burgess would have been in frequent need of supplies. He’d have needed, in particular, the chemicals for developing and fixing film and prints. This label tells us that he got supplies from Johnathan Fallowfield of London.

Label on a delivery of photographic materials to Alf Burgess of Market Lavington

Label on a delivery of photographic materials to Alf Burgess of Market Lavington

The label was found in 1981 in the cellar of 13 High Street which was the Burgess home and photographic studio and shop from the 1870s. It is addressed to Mr A Burgess, Market Lavington, Wilts and was carried by the Great Western Railway.

There’s a fine history of the Jonathan Fallowfield company on the web at . From this we know the company moved to the 146 Charing Cross Road address on this label in 1890. Alf died in 1918, so we have a date window for this label.

But the label tells us more. The four stained holes in the corners and the central ones must have had tacks in them, holding the label to a wooden crate. The Burgesses must have kept the crate long enough for it to get woodworm. The very neat round holes in the label certainly have the look of worm holes. At some point the label must have fallen off the box – as rusting tacks failed. And then the label must have remained, down in that cellar, until the 1981 occupants found it.

We had no museum in 1981, but Peggy Gye was the acknowledged village historian and so it was given to her.

It’s only a label, but it tells a tale.

For Mrs Elisha’s Photo Album

January 25, 2012

Back in the summer of 2010 we looked at some photographic negatives we had at Market Lavington Museum. We are returning to these negatives today – they might have been – probably were – used to produce a photo album for Mrs Elisha.

We looked at the outside of a processor’s envelope back then. Today we look at the inside.

Part of a 1929 negative wallet

We can see the negatives peeping

Photograhy has, of course, changed out of all recognition. We are now in the digital era and  enlargements are so easy. Even enlarging the old negatives which we see peeping in the wallet, is relatively straight forward. These are big enough to scan and then software can convert the negative to a positive.

Some of these images were taken at the wedding of May Potter to Bill Elisha in 1929.

Bill Elisha and May Potter married in Market Lavington in 1929

We have Bill and May in the middle here with a couple of young bridesmaids who were May’s nieces. We do not know who the other folks are. Maybe you can help us.

Another photo of Bill and May Elisha's Market Lavington wedding

Do email if you can name any of the people here.

Building the Viaduct – a photo by Alf Burgess.

January 21, 2012

The Market Lavington railway line was a late bit of railway building – being completed in 1900 and opened for passenger trains on 1st October of that year. We have already seen that local photographer, Alf Burgess, was able to record the building of the line and here we see work in hand on the Lavington viaduct which crosses the little stream that divides West from Market Lavington.

Building Lavington Viaduct - a photo by Alf Burgess

We can see that the viaduct is brick built. This provided much income for the local brickworks.

Today we’ll look at the back of the photo for Mr Burgess had pasted an advert onto it.

Burgess of Market Lavington advert on the back of the photo

The simplicity of a late Victorian ad is quite charming. There are no hidden messages suggesting you’ll succeed better in life by spending a bit more at Burgess of High Street, Market Lavington. Instead there is basic information about some services that could be offered.

So who was Alf Burgess?

Alfred was born in Coulston, a few miles to the west of Market Lavington in about 1860. His father, William was a farm labourer. At the time of the 1861 census young Alfred was just 11 months old – the youngest in a line of children which William and wife Mary had had. The oldest was already 17.

Alfred was still in Coulston in 1871. William and Mary had had just one more child who was now aged 8.

But in 1881 Alfred was in London, working as a footman for Lady MacNaughton in Eaton Square, Westminster. Perhaps it was in London that he decided on his future trade.

By 1886, Alfred was back in Wiltshire for it was in that year that he set up his photographic studio in Market Lavington. And the next year, 1887, he married Marion Grey who originally came from Scotland, possibly the Paisley area of Glasgow.

Alfred did not confine his photography to studio shots. He also took local scenes and made and sold them as postcards.

In 1891 at the time of the census Alfred and family lived on High Street, Market Lavington. Apart from wife, Marion, two youngsters had been born, Robert was two and George was aged one.

The census in 1901 shows an increased family of Robert, Alfred (George?), John, Hugh, Allen and Charles.

Alf and Marion Burgess outside their Market Lavington shop

Sadly, the date given on this photo is wrong, for Alfred died in 1918. Wife, Marion, joined him in Market Lavington churchyard in 1935.

Hold it! Flash, bang wallop!

January 15, 2012

What a picture! What a photograph! Our picture today was taken by modern digital technology. If more light was needed, the camera would have made that decision and fired off its electronic flash automatically. How different that is from times past. Many people will remember a time when the local press photographer had some magic powder (magnesium) which he could ignite to create a huge flash – and, probably, a room full of smoke.

Then came the much handier flash bulb – a thin magnesium ribbon in a bulb. This could be ignited with an electric current and, with a ‘hot shoe’ flash, the camera shutter could be used to complete the circuit to fire the flash. Photography, with these bulbs enabled ordinary folks to get photos in poor light.

But there was a price to pay. Each bulb had a life of one flash – and they weren’t cheap. Photographers used them sparingly because they significantly added to the cost of the photo.

Old photographic flash bulbs bought in about 1971

And here we have a packet of these bulbs – only one of which has been used. The others are still in place and no doubt they could be fired. We can see they cost 50p and that puts them at the end of the flash bulb era. Decimal money came in in 1971. Our curator is sure he bought his electronic flash gun (which still works today) about that time. Of course, 50p sounds almost nothing these days but we are looking at a time when a teacher earned less than £1000 a year. On that basis, using a flash added the equivalent of a  pound or so to the cost of a photo – something we wouldn’t think of doing these days.

The main reason we like these flash bulbs, though, is because they were sold by Peter Francis from his shop on Church Street in Market Lavington.

The bulbs cost 50p and were bought from Peter Francis of Church Street, Market Lavington

Peter’s label reminds us that Market Lavington once had its own telephone exchange although by the 1970s, all phones had four digit numbers.

Peter Francis’s Letter Scales

August 25, 2010

When the Burgess family ceased trading as professional photographers in Market Lavington, Peter Francis took up the challenge of being ‘the’ photographer in the village. In these post Second World War days, many people had their own cameras so Peter not only maintained the tradition of recording events in the village, he also processed photos for other people. In the 1970s, at which time he was trading from premises in Church Street, he even turned his hand to processing colour photographs.

But here we are looking at a more mundane part of business life. Peter would have been posting letters and packages to customers around the world and, no doubt, it made sense to have his own pair of scales to weigh these items and let him know what the postage would cost.

Letter Scales bought by Peter Francis in the 1960s and now at Market Lavington Museum

Peter bought these scales in the 1960s. They cost 19/6 (they still have the price sticker on them), which is 97p or just under £1 in current money. Similar scales are still sold today but they cost more like £30.

The body of the scales is in that efficient looking ‘no frills’ grey plastic which was popular at the time. The scale pan, complete with price label is metal.

Compared with today (now size matters as well as weight) the pricing structure was easy with prices shown for each ounce of weight up to 8oz (ounces) for inland, Commonwealth and overseas letters.

And what prices they were 4d which was four old pence or less than two pence these days could have sent your two ounce letter to anywhere in the United Kingdom. Sending to the favoured Commonwealth was barely more expensive so lightweight letters could be sent to Australia for the same price. The rest of the world, including France was much more expensive to post to.

We can only guess that Salter, the scale makers sold stick on price charts whenever postal prices went up. These scales clearly have the original price scale, pop riveted to the body of the device.

Alf Burgess – Photographer

June 17, 2010

Market Lavington has been really lucky to have a resident professional photographer since the 1880s. Our first was Mr Alf Burgess who set up his premises on The High Street in 1886.

Alf Burgess and his wife Marion outside their High Street, Market Lavington shop

The caption on this photo is wrong, for Alf Burgess died in 1918.

Much of the work of a photographer, in those days, was taking studio portraits, but the Burgess family also got out and about, recording local scenes.

Five Burgess children outside the photographer's shop in about 1895 - a photo at Market Lavington Museum

Here we see his shop front, in about 1895, and we can see that he sold more than just his skills with the camera and the enlarger.

The five children in the photo are his own family. It looks as though Alf and his wife Marion had a market for the toys they sold.

After Alf’s death, the firm became Burgess Brothers in which form it continued until after the Second World War.

If you have interest in this branch of the Market Lavington Burgess Family then do visit the museum which is open from May to the end of October on Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays and Bank Holidays from 2.30 to 4.30 in the afternoon. Please contact the curator if you would like to visit at other times. We have many artefacts which relate to this family of photographers.