A Brief history of Peterborough Photographic Society

The first meeting of the Society was held on Friday, the 20th May 1887 at the Bedford Coffee Tavern, Queen Street, Peterborough, where 18 gentlemen were present. In the chair was Dr G Kirkwood, who was elected President, an office which he held until his death in 1916. Meetings were held monthly, and the annual subscription was 2/6. There were 30 members by the end of the first year.

The original minute books survive and here are the minutes of that first meeting:

Minutes of the first meeting, 20 May 1997

Some of the early members were prominent businessmen in the City and included a number of clergymen. The first lady member joined in 1901. She was Miss Ida Keeble of Thorpe Road. The first public exhibition was held at the 'Bedford' in January 1899. There were 350 prints and 174 lantern slides.

The Society was affiliated to the Royal Photographic Society in 1905. In 1907, meetings were held at the Church Institute, Minster Precincts. In 1910, the Society joined the East Anglian Federation of Photographic Societies which had been formed in the previous year. Mr P G Field became the Secretary/Treasurer of the East Anglian Federation in 1912, an office which he held until 1945. In 1917 as only three members turned up for the Annual General Meeting in April, it was decided to postpone all meetings until after the war. Regular meetings commenced again in January 1920, on Mondays.

In 1922, the print portfolio was started, with six members taking part. In 1924, the Society moved to the Westgate Schools, and the meeting night changed from Monday to Friday. In October 1930, there was another move, this time to the Museum, Priestgate, and in 1931, the meeting night was changed to Tuesday.

In December 1936, Mr A W Nichols died at the age of 79. He was the last of the surviving founder members that lived locally. Mr P G Field was elected President of the Photographic Alliance for 1936 - 1938.

In September 1937, the Mayor opened the exhibition, and a Dinner was held at the Angel Hotel to celebrate the Society's Jubilee. 41 attended the Dinner which cost 4/- (20p) each. At the Dinner, one of the guests was Mr W H Marsh, one of the original founder members. Also in the autumn of 1937, Mr W D Varney became the first member to become an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society.

During the Second World War, meetings continued without a break, although films and printing paper were almost unobtainable. At the end of the war, member’s subscriptions were increased to 10/- (50p). This was the first increase in subscriptions since 1887.  The Library was formed in 1946 with books donated by members.

In 1947, a Dinner was held at the Campbell Hotel to celebrate the Society's Diamond Jubilee. The guest of honour was Mr Percy Harris, FRPS, Vice President of the Royal Photographic Society, and Editor of the Miniature Camera Magazine. Mr Harris also judged the exhibition. In 1949, changes were made to the Society's Constitution, and in 1950 the membership exceeded 100 for the first time.

In 1953, Coronation Year, the Annual Exhibition was held in the Maxwell Art Gallery for the first time. There were 194 prints. In the following year, the Society hosted the East Anglian Federation Exhibition, and Mr W D Varney was elected President of the East Anglian Federation for 1954/1955.

In September 1966, the Society moved to the Adult Education Centre, Brook Street, and held meeting on Fridays. In March 1968, The North Anglian Challenge Trophy Competition was held for the first time and was won by the Society. This competition was the forerunner of a number of inter-club annual events.

In October, 1979, there was another move, this time to the Bretton Woods School, and the meeting night was changed from Friday to Tuesday. In 1984, the Society reached the finals of the PAGB/Minolta Slide Championship, and won the Bronze Medal.

In 1985, the Society was affiliated to the North & East Midlands Photographic Federation, whilst retaining affiliation with the East Anglian Federation. The Society again reached the finals of the PAGB/Minolta Slide Championship at Solihull, and was very successful in winning the Silver Medal, as runners up in the championship. Also in 1986, a range of fashion wear was introduced, which incorporated the Society’s logo, were made available to members. 

For the Society's Centenary in 1987, a number of special events were held:

  • A selection of prints from the Society's archive collection were displayed at the Annual Exhibition,
  • A one day Symposium of Colour Photography was held at the Bretton Woods School,
  • The society hosted the 1987 East Anglian Federation Exhibition at the Lady Lodge Arts Centre,
  • A "Get together" evening was held at the Fitzwilliam Arms, Marholm, on the 20th May,
  • The year culminated with and Dinner at the Great Northern Hotel in December, where the guest of Honour was Heather Angel, MSc, FRPS, FBIPP, FLS.

In January 1988, the Society moved again, this time to the Heltwate School, Bretton, but continued to meet on Tuesdays. Also in 1988, the P.A.G.B. Print Exhibition was displayed at the Lady Lodge Arts Centre. In June, a new Zeiss Ikon Projector with a 150mm lens was purchased, to replace the old AGFA Projector.  Also in 1988, the North Anglian Photographic Association was formed, but it was abandoned after about two years. In autumn, a display was held in the Queensgate Shopping Centre for the first time.

In 1990, the North & East Midlands Federation's Autumn General Meeting was held at the Heltwate School. For the 1991 exhibition, Mr B H D Youngs donated a Silver Salver in memory to his late wife, and the Society purchased a shield to be known as "The Presidents Shield". Also in 1991, a "Panels Day" was held at the Heltwate School in conjunction with the Royal Photographic Society. The speakers were Arthur Downs, Hon FRPS, Tony Wharton, FRPS, and Ian Platt, FRPS. For 1992, the Society organised the Brotherhood Cup Competition following the demise of the Westwood Works Camera Club.

For the 1994 annual exhibition, the "Bretton Shield" was renamed as the "Joan Evans Memorial Shield"  -  (Joan Evans had died 31st May 1993). At the same time, Ken Evans (a member) donated a cup to be known as the "Evans Trophy". In 1994, a "Creative Day" was held in the Heltwate School, again in conjunction with the Royal Photographic Society. The speakers were Bob Elliott, John Chamberlin and John Gray.

Following the display in the Queensgate Shopping Centre in September 1996, contact was made with 'Guildenburgh Reprographics', and as a result members supplied photographs for use in a calendar.

In September 1998, the Society moved once again from the Heltwate School to the British Rail Sports & Social Club in Maskew Avenue, still meeting on Tuesdays.

In the spring of 1999, a one-day event on Digital Imaging was held at the Bretton Woods School, where the speaker was Barry Colquhoun, FRPS.

During 1999 and 2000, members photographed Peterborough’s 'Green Wheel' for the Peterborough Environmental Trust. In May 2000, the East Anglian Federation's Annual Exhibition was held in the Museum. It was opened by Peterborough's M.P. the Rt Hon Dr Brian Mawhinney.

In 2002, a further range of fashion wear Sweat shirts & T shirts were made available, incorporating the Society's logo. Also in 2002, The Civic Society produced a set of postcards from pictures provided by the Society's members. The "Evening Telegraph" gave a shield for the best print in exhibition as judged by them.

In the autumn of 2004, The Society was awarded a grant from the "Awards for All" scheme towards the purchase of Digital Projection Equipment. A grant was also received from Peterborough City Council towards a new Leitz Slide Projector.

For over 120 years, the Society has kept abreast of all the latest developments in the art of photography  -- Long may it continue to do so.

Contributed by Peter Harvey APAGB