Increased interest and media coverage in finding out about your past have encouraged people to think about what they do with their personal photographs. This has resulted in some wonderful collections being made available to ‘Picture the Past’. Some are loaned, some are donated but they are all the result of people wanting to share what they enjoy with others. This is great news for visitors to the website (www.picturethepast.org.uk) as it means getting to see, and enjoy, photos that previously might never have survived and probably would have ended up in the bin at some point.
One of the collections recently donated includes photos by a prominent Matlock photographer by the name of Harry Gill. Harry was a freelance photographer whose work appeared regularly in the Matlock Mercury and Derbyshire Times newspapers. He developed (sorry for the pun!) an interest in cameras and photography at a young age, which was encouraged by his marriage to Clara Sheehan, of Bristol. She was herself a skilled photographer and his daughter Phyllis Higton, believes it was probably her influence which led him to take up photography as a career. Harry was a well known character in the local area and Phyllis remembers well her father’s studio in Matlock Bath, which was opposite to the Pavilion fishpond, particularly as she was often roped in to make the children smile when they had their portraits taken! He was obviously quite the entrepreneur, dashing across the road as soon as the charabancs arrived loaded with tourists, taking their photographs and having them developed and ready to take home at the end of the day.
The collection includes images taken between the 1930’s and 1960’s, depicting life in and around Matlock and the Peak District. They include all manner of shots from carnival queens, royal visits and the Matlock Bath road widening. The collection has been very kindly deposited in the Local Studies Library, at the Derbyshire Record Office by Phyllis (pictured below). Digitised versions of the images will eventually appear on the ‘Picture the Past’ website which can be viewed by going to www.picturethepast.org.uk and we will share some with you over the coming months here.