Heritage Beasts

Today is #heritagebeasts day on Twitter, so we have delved into one of our favourite photograph albums, belonging to the Whitmore family. The albums include animals ranging from the domestic, to the farmyard, to warhorses, to the exotic.

Theses pictures are taken from D/DWt Z/8, but there are several albums catalogued under the reference D/Dt3; you can view a list here.

Dogs Reckless and Nipper

1920s turkeys

Chargers Dunmow and Rufus at the end of the First World War

Prize winning bull, Essex Agricultural Show, 1928

And to finish, a couple of mysteries for you:

Can you spot the… well, we’re not 100% sure exactly what it is, but it’s in central Africa


Central Africa, 1928. Any guesses what they are doing? Check the comments box for the answer

New accession: Old Harwich in photographs

The ERO has recently acquired a photograph album which contains some fantastic pictures of Harwich in the 1850s. Here we bring you an exclusive sneak peak at its contents before it is treated in our Conservation Studio and digitised. 

The album, although rather dilapidated, contains 47 rare salt paper prints of Harwich which seem to date from about 1855. Many of the photographs have faded, but despite this the images remain remarkably sharp.


They capture a moment when Harwich was being transformed by the rebuilding of the quay, the arrival of the railway and new developments such as Orwell Terrace. The album seems to have used the new technology of photography to deliberately create a record of these momentous changes.

Harwich was – and is – a busy port on Essex’s north sea coast. In the 1850s, the town’s quays were extended through land reclamation

The railway arrives in Harwich

An Atlas Works locomotive

The album includes images of the High Lighthouse, St Nicholas’s church, Orwell Terrace and Cliff House. They also show the short-lived first station in Harwich and works to reclaim land in Bathside to extend the quays.

Harwich’s short-lived first station

The album may have some personal connection with Robert Bagshaw who was the investor who built Orwell Terrace and Cliff House, and who was instrumental in bringing the railway to Harwich. Unfortunately the album does not have any contemporary indication of ownership. 


Orwell Terrace

Top-hatted men, probably investors in the new developments, in one of the streets of Harwich

The album also includes a photo-montage of many different people, almost exclusively men, who are possibly a mixture of local residents and people involved in the building works. The identification of the faces featured will be a challenge for dedicated enthusiasts!

The album has been catalogued as A13438, and we will now do everything that we can to preserve the images.

The album was purchased for the ERO by the Friends of Historic Essex, and we would like to thank them for this fascinating addition to the ERO’s collections.

Conservation Surgeries

Do you have family photographs stashed away in a shoebox in the attic? Or perhaps letters, diaries, war records or newspaper cuttings relating to your ancestors?

These documents and pictures help to tell your family’s story, and are irreplaceable. Many things, however, can threaten their survival. 

Old photographs, diaries, letters and other documents provide direct windows into your family’s past

Quite apart from the risks of loss and wear and tear, there are the invisible threats that storage in envelopes, boxes and albums can bring. Over time, acid contained within ordinary paper and cardboard will eat away at the documents stored inside.

 The yellowing at the edges of the pages of this self-adhesive album show where acid contained within the paper is seeping out

 This wedding photograph from 1945 has had sellotape applied to it – one of the worst things you can do to an historic photograph or document!

Stored and cared for properly, however, documents like this can last for generations.

To help you keep your documents and photoraphs in the best condition possible the ERO is hosting two Conservation Surgeries. Come along to these free drop-in sessions and bring your documents for expert advice from our Senior Conservator on how best to care for your documents and photographs.


Friday 22 June 2012       10.00am-12.00noon & 1.00pm-4.00pm

At the Saffron Walden Archive Access Point, Saffron Walden Library, King Street, SaffronWalden,CB10 1ES

Thursday 28 June       10.00am-12.30pm & 1.30pm-4.00pm

At the Essex Record Office, Wharf Road, Chelmsford, CM2 6YT


The Robinson photograph and postcard collection

Archivist Allyson Lewis writes about working with the Robinson photograph and postcard collection

This collection consisting of 112 boxes of photograph and postcard albums and slides was compiled by Geoffrey A. Robinson of Thundersley, Essex.  A keen photographer he also collected postcards, chiefly of places in Essex but also all over the country.

One of the 112 boxes of photographs, postcards and prints in the Robinson collection


Just a few of the albums that make up the extensive collection

Mr Robinson had a clear plan when taking his photographs of places in Essex.  He would start with the parish church and take exterior views, then move inside, including any memorials or noteworthy architectural features.  He would then take the churchyard including inscriptions on larger memorials.  Then he would tour the village taking photographs of old buildings, public houses, the school, and any other religious buildings e.g. chapels. He was most active during the 1960s and 1970s and his photographs provide a wonderful window back in time to the quiet lanes of Essex with no cars in sight.

A few of Mr Robinson's photographs of the church at Tilbury-juxta-Clare

One of the more unusual postcards - holes punched in the front of the card allow light to shine through a coloured backing in this night time seaside scene

He put all his photographs and postcards into albums, initially using photograph corners on paper pages but later using the dreaded self-adhesive lift-and-stick plastic pages. These are a particular problem as the adhesive remains sticky and holds the image so firmly to the page that it cannot be removed without damage.  Fortunately, for most of the albums in the Robinson collection the adhesive has dried so much that the photographs and postcards can be removed easily.

Many of the photographs and prints are stuck into damaging self-adhesive albums, and are sometimes very difficult to remove

The images are being been re-stored in inert melinex pockets which will ensure their preservation for years to come.

Postcards and photographs safely re-stored in acid free melinex pockets

Postcards relating to other counties have been sent to the relevant offices (about 40 at the last count!).

One of the mysteries of the collection is the correspondence with a Miss Raverty. The author of the postcards seems to have written to her frequently, and would spread individual messages across several postcards, which were then numbered. We have tried to put the sequences back together, but cannot make much sense of them as yet!

Some of the postcards written to the mysterious Miss Raverty, each containing a fragment of a message


A postcard written to Miss Raverty on 18 November 1902 with a fragment of a message - 'Alfie's place is within thirty yards of this gate of the palace, so he has an excellent view of all the processions & whatever.'

The Robinson photograph and postcard collection is catalogued as Accession A7792 – D/DU 1464