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One Man’s View – The Fens through the Eyes of a Victorian Photographer

The Museum of Lincolnshire Life have a collection of photographs taken in Lincolnshire at the turn of the century. The collection of about 170 glass negatives was found in a school  in Stevenage and was given to Stevenage Museum. The Curator there realised that the photographs were mostly of the Fens and some had Lincolnshire place names on so generously passed the collection over to the Museum of Lincolnshire Life.

On examination by the Keeper of the Museum of Lincolnshire Life one or two of the photographs proved similar to ones already on display in the Museum. These had come from the collection of Mr. W. E. R. Hallgarth, who previously found the glass slides in a house Pinchbeck.  Mr. Hallgarth was able to provide the photographers name and also the area in which he worked. His name was Thomas William Parkinson of 5a, Pinchbeck Road, Spalding, and had his own business as a builder and undertaker at that address. He took his hobby seriously, perfecting his photographs to such a degree that he won first prize at the Nottingham Photographic Society’s exhibition of 1902.

This is no ordinary collection of posed family photographs, but includes pictures of all aspects of life from genteel afternoon tea parties to children gleaning in the fields, from a tumbled down thatched cottage to Lincoln Cathedral. The interiors of Lincoln Cathedral and other churches are technically superb and could hardly be bettered with all today’s sophisticated photographic equipment.

The earliest dateable picture is of Queen Victoria’s in Jubilee in 1897 and others have dates on of up to 1910, and it seems safe to assume that most of the photographs were taken between those years. There is a close link with the land and ‘tatie planting’ and harvesting are both represented. Some delightful ‘candid’ shots show a boy catching ‘tiddlers’ and a woman and little girl blackberrying. There is also a fascinating series on plover catching, a pastime once common in the Fens but now, fortunately for the plover, illegal.

Apart from Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, another momentous event is represented by a circus procession passing through Spalding in the days when a circus the was a major event in any town’s calendar. Included in the procession are 11 camels, 13 elephants, at least a dozen coaches, one of which is pulled by no less than he 40 horses, quite a feat of driving!

This information was found in a book called “One Man’s View” and forms a supplement to an exhibition of this man’s work. The exhibition and the booklet were financed by the Heritage Panel of Lincolnshire and South Humberside Arts, as part of their 10th Anniversary Celebrations.

Museum of Lincolnshire Life,

July 1974 Burton Road, Lincoln.

Supplement to ONE MAN’S VIEW

Since the printing of this catalogue, much more information about the photographer and his family has come to light.

The photographer was Mr. Frank Parkinson, who was born in 1873, son of William Parkinson, builder, of Spalding, and one of a family of nine children. Frank started work as a bricklayer in his father’s business and when he was first married, lived at 3 Havelock Street, Spalding. He married Kate, who came from the Melton Mowbray area. She was the first woman to own and drive a car in Lincolnshire and was also one of the finest woman rifle shots in the country. Frank and Kate had two children, Alice, born in 1896, and a son, Lennox, who died in infancy.

In 1910 Frank Parkinson moved to Cherry Holt House, Cherry Holt Lane, Pinchbeck where he became a horticulturalist. Frank died in 1916 and his effects were later sold. It seems likely that the negatives were disposed of at that time and found their way to Stevenage, whence they have now returned to Lincolnshire.

One of his cameras and his projector are now in the possession of Mr. R. Holloway of Spalding.

The Gallery includes the collection in catalogue. Click on the image to enlarge.


I believe the Spalding Gentlemen Society have a collection of glass plates from this period.


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Tiddler Fishing

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