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West Country Images Old Somerset & Devon

Vintage Somerset image

A print from an old glass negative in our West Country Image archive. This photograph taken near Bampton, Devon

Go to start of unidentified vintage photos gallery

We have more than 600 original and totally unique glass plate negatives dating from 1899 to around 1920. The photographs were taken by a family who lived in the country between the small towns of Wiveliscombe and Dulverton, in the Brendon Hills and Exmoor area of West Somerset. Photography at this time was an expensive and complicated skill to master. However, despite these difficulties, over the course of twenty or so years this Somerset family, their heavy tripod-mounted camera(s), and fragile glass negatives, travelled widely throughout the West Country, recording everything from everyday scenes of local people and farming activities to rather exciting erotica, as well as, the more usual family portraits, day trips and similar excursions to Somerset and Devon towns and local seaside resorts. 

The complete collection of plates was until very recently boxed and stored away for many, many years, in an outbuilding in the same part of West Somerset. We are now bringing these vintage images back to life using traditional darkroom techniques, chemistry, and equipment, and printing each image on archival quality paper. After which each print is scanned and archived electronically. Safeguarding for future generations a collection, which is undoubtedly a fascinating and historically important record of rural life in the west of England at the end of the Victorian era and through to the close of the Edwardian period.

We have displayed a few of the many hundreds of photographs in the archive here as a pictorial introduction to the work of the photographer(s), the area, and as a window into the past. Rather frustratingly the photographer(s) didn't think to label all their negatives, so with some we have neither names or locations! But, with any luck, perhaps, someone, somewhere will be able to help identify some of the locations pictured. Failing that just drop us an email describing what the image conjures up in the mind. How do you imagine the life of the individual(s) pictured? Who do the characters shown remind you of? The most interesting suggestions and descriptions will be kept on record and displayed online and possibly included in a future publication. Any suggestions and communication welcomed concerning either individual images or the complete archive.

Sections of the archive are available as a touring exhibition. Do get in contact if you have a space, which might suit it.

The images displayed here online represent only a tiny fraction of the complete archive. Subjects and themes include:

Victorian and Edwardian Exmoor Devon Somerset Farming Fashion Country Life Social History Women Children Workers Trades People Recreation Sports Hunting Transport Cycling Motorcycles Gardening Fishing Seaside Holidays Shops Housing Gypsies

If you're looking for a particular image drop us a line, we might well have just the photograph for you.

One-off high quality monochrome prints of any of the unique images in our archive available at reasonable cost.

Hi-definition scanned images for publications, writers, publishers, historians, and organisations. Rates on application.

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Old Photos of Exmoor, Devon, Somerset, Dorset

All Rights Reserved © Somerset Photography / West Country Image Archive 1899 - 2009

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